Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Oct. 7

October 7th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Oct. 7 at Delaware Park and Keeneland, along with a horse to single in the $207,748 Pick 6 carryover at Aqueduct.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Keeneland Daily Double Down: Hit at least two double wagers (only applies to minimum $1 base wagers) to unlock a 50% bonus on all winning double wagers at Keeneland for the day, up to $50 daily.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in eligible races at Royal Randwick (Australia).
  • Exacta Insurance: Receive refunds on exacta bets (up to $10) if your two selected horses finish in the first three home (but not in the winning order) in select races at Aqueduct. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • $15,000 Everest Carnival Leaderboard Competition: Place $10+ win bets at a selected Australian track each Friday from Sept. 30 through Oct. 28 to earn points and win your share of prizes worth a total of $15,000.

Picks and Plays

Delaware Park: Race 5: $20,000 Maiden Claiming (one mile, 2:30 p.m. ET)

#8 Ship Master (5-1) finished last by a wide margin when debuting in a one-mile and 70-yard maiden special weight at Del Mar, but there are many reasons to believe he can improve on Friday.

For starters, Ship Master is dropping down in class and distance. For another, he’s adding blinkers, a 43% winning move for high-percentage trainer Anthony Pecoraro. Speaking of Pecoraro, he wins at a 31% rate with second-time starters and boasts a 34% win rate at Delaware Park this meet.

We’ll bet Ship Master to win and play him over #3 Okletsgo (4-1) in a cold exacta.

  • $20 to win: #8 Ship Master
  • $10 Exacta: 8 with 3
    Total: $30

Delaware Park: Race 6: $75,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 3:00 p.m. ET)

#6 Empty Tomb (8-5) isn’t the most consistent horse in training, but his recent misfires have all come against stakes competition. He hasn’t missed the trifecta in a non-stakes race since November 2020.

Empty Tomb hasn’t run since finishing last behind Breeders’ Cup winners Life Is Good and Knicks Go in the Jan. 29 Pegasus World Cup (G1), but he’s put together a steady work tab in preparation for his return and figures to find the competition much easier at Delaware Park. He has the tactical speed to enjoy a perfect trip in this small field and should be capable of outkicking #4 Golden Brown (6-1) to the finish line.

  • $20 to win: #6 Empty Tomb
  • $10 Exacta: 6 with 4
    Total: $30

Keeneland: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 3:40 p.m. ET)

Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox went 3-for-9 (33%) debuting juveniles at Keeneland during the 2021 fall meet, a noteworthy streak of success considering Cox’s overall success rate with first-time starters in 2021 came out to 16%.

Cox is winning at a much higher 26% rate with debuting runners in 2022, so we have to think #1 Golden Bandit (4-1) will fire a strong shot at Keeneland. The two-year-old son of Midnight Lute has been cranking out sharp workouts at Churchill Downs (including a bullet five furlongs in 1:00) and is slated to be ridden by Florent Geroux, a 20% winner teaming up with Cox over the last two months.

#11 Sir (15-1), switching from turf to dirt in his second start for trainer Kenny McPeek, can complete the exacta at a nice price.

  • $20 to win: #1 Golden Bandit
  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 11
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Aqueduct, Race 4: $207,748 Pick 6 carryover (2:12 p.m. ET)

No one has hit the $1 Pick 6 at Aqueduct during the last two racing days, which means a massive double carryover worth $207,748 is on the table for Friday’s card.

Handicapping the sequence in advance is difficult because four of the six races are grass events stuffed with large fields and a number of horses entered for the main track only. The forecast is clear for Friday at Aqueduct, but all of Thursday’s grass races were taken off the turf, and it’s unclear whether turf racing will be scrapped for a second consecutive day.

At least we can handicap the two dirt races with confidence, and one of them—Race 8, an $80,000 allowance optional claimer with a complicated set of eligibility conditions—features a possible single in the form of #5 Baby Yoda (4-5).

Baby Yoda has never run farther than seven furlongs, but he may hold a class edge against this caliber of competition. He’s won three of his last five starts, with his lone defeats being fourth-place efforts against tougher company in the True North S. (G2) and Forego S. (G1). And last winter, Baby Yoda came home second in the Malibu S. (G1) at Santa Anita, beaten only by superstar Flightline.

In terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, Baby Yoda is a standout against Friday’s field. He’s posted multiple triple-digit ratings (peaking with a 105), whereas none of his rivals have earned a figure higher than 98. Two starts back, Baby Yoda demonstrated strong form in a $62,500 allowance optional claimer sprinting seven furlongs at Saratoga, settling in midfield early on before pouncing down the homestretch to win by three lengths with a 102 Brisnet Speed rating.

Baby Yoda has the pedigree to stretch out over a one-turn mile at Aqueduct and figures to enjoy a clean trip while breaking from post 5 in a six-horse field. The stage appears set for Baby Yoda to deliver a comfortable victory under hot jockey Javier Castellano, who has gone 10-for-48 (21%) at Aqueduct so far this meet.

Good luck!