Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of Aug. 22

August 22nd, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for a trio of stakes on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at Parx Racing, along with tickets for the $1,741 Super High 5 carryover at Mountaineer.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Trifecta Tuesday: Receive a 15% bonus on trifecta winnings excluding stake amount; up to $25 per day.

Picks and Plays

Parx Racing: Race 7: Salvatore M. DeBunda Sprint S. (6 1/2 furlongs, 3:28 p.m. ET)

#5 Awesome Strong (6-1) went 4-for-4 as a juvenile and won a trio of stakes for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park with sharp Brisnet Speed ratings of 95, 99, and 87. He’s 0-for-2 this year, but one defeat came against much tougher competition in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell (G1), and the other was a fifth-place finish against older rivals in a $50,000 allowance optional claimer sprinting six furlongs at Delaware Park.

The latter performance yielded a 91 Brisnet Speed rating that fits very well in the Salvatore M. DeBunda Sprint, which is restricted to three-year-olds. Dropping down in class and distance out of the Haskell can help Awesome Strong produce a winning run in his third start of the season.

Bay Shore (G3) winner #2 Joey Freshwater (3-1) is a logical choice to complete the exacta.


  • #5 Awesome Strong (6-1)
  • #2 Joey Freshwater (3-1)
  • #7 Gordian Knot (5-2)


  • $12 to win on #5 Awesome Strong
  • $8 Exacta: 5 with 2
    Total: $20

Parx Racing: Race 10: Cathryn Sophia S. (one mile and 70 yards, 5:04 p.m. ET)

#6 Southlawn (3-1) exits a couple of misfires against Grade 1 competition. She finished 10th after encountering some early trouble in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), then came home last of five in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) after stumbling sharply at the start and rushing up to track the pace.

A clean trip while descending the class ladder can help Southlawn rebound. Three starts back, she launched a strong stretch rally to win the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) over next-out Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous, so we know Southlawn is a classy filly on her best day.

Let’s bet Southlawn to win and single her to start a double wager.


  • #6 Southlawn (3-1)
  • #5 Foggy Night (4-1)
  • #3 Yesternight (6-1)


  • $20 to win on #6 Southlawn
  • $10 Double: 6 with 2
    Total: $30

Parx Racing: Race 11: Smarty Jones (G3, 1 1/16 miles, 5:36 p.m. ET)

#2 Salute the Stars (3-1) failed to factor in the Haskell (G1) last month, fading to finish seventh. But two starts back, he rallied with determination to win the Pegasus S. by a neck over Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Kingsbarns, earning a sharp 97 Brisnet Speed rating.

A return to that level of form can put Salute the Stars in the hunt for victory in the Smarty Jones, which is shaping up as a much easier spot than the Haskell. We’ll bet him to win and single him to conclude our double wager.


  • #2 Salute the Stars (3-1)
  • #7 Daydreaming Boy (8-1)
  • #3 Army Times (4-1)


  • $20 to win on #2 Salute the Stars

Carryover Watch

Mountaineer: Race 8: $1,741 Super High 5 carryover (9:55 p.m. ET)

A 19-1 upset in the Monday finale at Mountaineer has triggered a $1,741 Super High 5 carryover for Tuesday’s card.

The prize pool is up for grabs in Race 8, a $4,000 claimer for horses who haven’t won a race since Aug. 22, 2022. The distance is five furlongs on dirt, and with eight horses in the entries there are 6,720 possible Super High 5 outcomes.

We’ll start our ticket construction by keying morning line favorite #1 Wizard Willie (4-5) on top. The eight-year-old gelding boasts a solid 69-10-12-10 lifetime resume, and he enters Tuesday’s contest in decent form. He’s finished fourth, fourth, and fifth in his last three starts against $5,000 claiming competition at Thistledown, and in two runs since being claimed by hot trainer Gary Johnson he’s earned Brisnet Speed ratings of 70 and 75.

To put those numbers in perspective, none of Wizard Willie’s Tuesday rivals have earned a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 74 in their last four starts. Johnson has gone 4-for-12 (33%) at Mountaineer this meet, and jockey Angel Diaz has gone 10-for-35 (29%) teaming up with Johnson over the last two months, so Wizard Willie looks ready to visit the winner’s circle while descending to the $4,000 claiming level at Mountaineer.

Who are the other main contenders? #2 Gemo (4-1) warrants respect after cracking the trifecta in three of his last four starts against $4,000 claiming competition at Mountaineer. We’ll count on him to do so again on Tuesday, betting him to finish either second or third behind Wizard Willie.

We’ll round out our tickets with #3 I’m a Lawman (8-1), who placed in a couple of $4,000 claimers over this track and distance last year; #4 Ola Que Tal (12-1), runner-up in a $4,000 claimer sprinting five furlongs at Mountaineer during the spring; #6 My Mae Day (6-1), a competitive $8,000 and $10,000 claimer at Mountaineer last year who is returning from a 13-month layoff; and #8 Imissbaymeadows (20-1), who ran second in a $6,500 claimer at Mountaineer three starts back.

  • $1 Super High 5: 1 with 2 with 3,4,6,8 with 3,4,6,8 with 3,4,6,8 ($24)
  • $1 Super High 5: 1 with 3,4,6,8 with 2 with 3,4,6,8 with 3,4,6,8 ($24)
    Total: $48

Good luck!