Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Nov. 23

November 23rd, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs and Parx Racing, along with horses to play in mandatory-payout carryovers at Parx and Finger Lakes.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Churchill Downs $2,000 Late Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 4 at Churchill Downs to split a $2,000 daily jackpot.
  • Churchill Downs Let 8 Ride: Each Wednesday through Sunday, place win bets at Churchill Downs for a chance to win your share of a $5,000 weekly jackpot.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in eligible races at Happy Valley (Hong Kong).
  • HKIR Night Bankroll Builder: Wager at least $100 a day at selected Hong Kong tracks and receive a $5 daily bonus to bet on Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) night on Dec. 11 at Sha Tin. Wager $1,000 or more across the five selected days to double your total bonus from $25 to $50.

Picks and Plays

Parx Racing: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 2:40 p.m. ET)

Trainer John Servis has gone 3-for-7 (43%) debuting two-year-old fillies at Parx this year, an impressive stat pointing toward the unraced Servis fillies #3 Old Head (12-1) and #8 Equistar (8-1) as key contenders in this maiden dash for juvenile fillies.

Of the pair, we’ll favor Equistar. The daughter of Smarty Jones is a full-sibling to Triple Bend H. (G1) winner Centralinteligence, Pennsylvania Nursery S. winner Nasa, and Blitzen S. winner Dreams Untold. The latter two runners secured their signature victories at Parx under the care of Servis.

Equistar breezed a quick half-mile from the Parx starting gate in :48 1/5 earlier this month and has hot jockey Frankie Pennington (a 22% winner at Parx) named to ride, so we’ll bet the bay filly to win and single her to start a double wager.

  • $20 to win on #8 Equistar
  • $10 Double: 8 with 1
    Total: $30

Parx Racing: Race 7: Let’s Give Thanks S. (6 1/2 furlongs, 3:07 p.m. ET)

#1 Beren boasts an excellent 13-5-4-0 lifetime record at Parx, including a gate-to-wire victory in the seven-furlong Jump Start S. last month. In the Jump Start, Beren drew off down the homestretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths with a career-best 102 Brisnet Speed rating.

The Parx rail post produces an impressive 20% winners in 6 1/2-furlong dirt sprints, and Frankie Pennington is set to ride Beren on behalf of hot trainer Robert E. Reid Jr., so we’ll bet Beren to win and single him to conclude our double wager.

  • $20 to win on #1 Beren

Churchill Downs: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 4:01 p.m. ET)

The OXO Equine colorbearer #2 Exhibit Hall (6-1) sold for $1.6 million earlier this year and has since trained with promise under the care of Paulo Lobo at The Thoroughbred Center. Certainly Exhibit Hall’s times have been flashier than those posted by her $450,000 stablemate Bromley, an OXO Equine/Lobo juvenile who sprung a 23-1 upset in a Churchill Downs maiden special weight last Saturday.

Lobo wins at a respectable 14% rate with debuting runners, and Exhibit Hall is a daughter of Munnings, a capable sprinter/miler who sires a lofty 16% winners from first-time starters. At 6-1, Exhibit Hall is worth betting to win and keying over #1 Baby Got Backspin (3-1) and #4 Malibu Toast (6-1) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #2 Exhibit Hall
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 1,4 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Finger Lakes, Race 6: $10,040 Pick 6 mandatory payout (1:13 p.m. ET)

Wednesday is closing day of the 2022 racing year at Finger Lakes, which means a $10,040 Pick 6 carryover is slated for mandatory payout.

The Finger Lakes Pick 6 is a 20-cent wager that normally pays out the jackpot carryover only in the event that a unique winning ticket is sold. But on Wednesday, the carryover will be dispersed equally among all winning ticketholders.

A competitive sequence is on tap, and one of the most intriguing races is the opening leg of the Pick 6.  Race 3, a six-furlong allowance for horses who have never won two races, has drawn a seven-horse field. #5 Persistent Danger (5-1) is the fourth choice on the morning line, but the three-year-old gelding looms as a live longshot worth supporting.

Persistent Danger hasn’t missed the board in his last eight starts, including three recent runs over this track and class level. On Nov. 8, Persistent Danger rallied to finish second with a career-best 82 Brisnet Speed rating, which stacks up well against Wednesday’s field.

Persistent Danger has recently defeated three of his six Wednesday rivals and is already faster than morning line favorite #3 Waralo (5-2) from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective. Persistent Danger might not be a lock to win, but he has the credentials to outrun expectations and quite possibly start the Pick 6 on a lucrative note.

Parx Racing, Race 6: $383,026 Pick 5 mandatory payout (2:40 p.m. ET)

Parx Racing is celebrating Thanksgiving one day early with the mandatory payout of a $383,026 carryover in the “Philly Big 5,” a 50-cent Pick 5 that ordinarily operates as a jackpot wager.

The first leg of the Philly Big 5 is Race 6, the above-mentioned maiden special weight in which we like #8 Equistar (8-1) as a live longshot. She probably isn’t quite single material—#3 Old Head (12-1), #9 Tipsy Girl (9-2), and #12 Mary Q (7-2) also offer appeal for Pick 5 purposes—but an 8-1 winner would be a nice way to start the Pick 5.

If there is a single in the Pick 5 sequence, it’s probably #1 Beren (8-5) in the Let’s Give Thanks (Race 7), for reasons outlined earlier. Singling Beren in an 11-horse field is a good way to cut down ticket costs and cover more horses in other races.

Good luck!