Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of Aug. 23

August 22nd, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Aug. 23 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Saratoga, along with a horse to single in the $3,019 Pick 6 carryover at Finger Lakes.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Hoosier Park $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any eligible race at Hoosier Park.
  • Saratoga $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races Wednesday through Sunday at Saratoga.

Picks and Plays

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs on turf, 11:30 a.m. ET)

The unraced two-year-old filly #9 Gogo Bobbyjo (15-1) looks like a live longshot for trainer Aaron West, a 20% winner with first-time starters who has gone 1-for-4 (25%) debuting horses on turf over the past few years. A daughter of Not This Time (who sires 17% winners on turf), Gogo Bobbyjo has put together a solid work tab and is slated to be ridden by jockey Samuel Bermudez, a 40% winner teaming up with West over the last two months.

In short, there’s a lot to like about Gogo Bobbyjo. We’ll bet her to win and key her over #1 Margaret’s Lady (4-1) and #4 Cold But Fast (6-1) in the exacta.


  • #9 Gogo Bobbyjo (15-1)
  • #1 Margaret’s Lady (4-1)
  • #4 Cold But Fast (6-1)


  • $20 to win on #9 Gogo Bobbyjo
  • $5 Exacta: 9 with 1,4 ($10)
    Total: $30

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 8: Peony H. (1 1/16 miles on turf, 1:30 p.m. ET)

#3 Louder Than Words (8-1) finished second by less than one length in the 2022 edition of this race. She hasn’t missed the trifecta in five starts over the Horseshoe Indianapolis turf course, but is also effective on dirt and enters the 2023 Peony off three consecutive victories over the Horseshoe Indianapolis main track.

The red-hot form of Louder Than Words stamps this four-year-old filly as a live longshot worth supporting. A win bet is in order, along with an exacta using #4 Timeless Rose (3-1) for second place.


  • #3 Louder Than Words (8-1)
  • #4 Timeless Rose (3-1)
  • #7 Corningstone (9-2)


  • $20 to win on #3 Louder Than Words (8-1)
  • $10 Exacta: 3 with 4
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 7: John’s Call S. (1 5/8 miles on turf, 4:34 p.m. ET)

#4 Pioneering Spirit (5-2) lost his first 12 starts, but he’s been unstoppable since switching to turf under the care of trainer Linda Rice, rattling off four consecutive victories by daylight margins. Last time out, Pioneering Spirit rallied strongly to dominate a $62,500 allowance optional claimer racing 1 3/8 miles on grass at Saratoga, beating nine rivals by 3 3/4 lengths.

We’ll count on Pioneering Spirit to keep his momentum going on Wednesday, betting him to win and keying him over #5 British Royalty (7-2) and #3 Burning Bright (12-1) in the exacta.


  • #4 Pioneering Spirit (5-2)
  • #5 British Royalty (7-2)
  • #3 Burning Bright (12-1)


  • $20 to win on #4 Pioneering Spirit
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 3,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Finger Lakes: Race 3: $3,019 Pick 6 carryover (2:13 p.m. ET)

Want to win a share of Wednesday’s $3,019 Pick 6 carryover at Finger Lakes? You’ll have to decipher a tricky sequence.

The $1 wager looks imposing on paper. There are 49 horses in the entries (averaging nearly 8.2 per race) before scratches, which works out to 266,112 possible outcomes. A couple of races drew fewer than eight horses, but even the smaller fields are shaping up as competitive contests, so finding a single to build tickets around isn’t easy.

That said, we’ll give it a shot in Race 4, a $5,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won two races. This 5 1/2-furlong dirt dash has drawn only six horses, so all else being equal we have a 17% chance of picking the winner at random.

Speed is dominant over this track and distance, with pacesetters winning at a 45% rate and horses with the Brisnet “E” (Early) running style winning 51% of these races. The two “E” types in Wednesday’s field are #1 Empress Palpatine (6-1) and #4 Regal Rebel (2-1), and we prefer the latter to take home top honors.

Empress Palpatine consistently shows speed, but she hasn’t finished better than third in her last five starts over this track and class level, weakening down the homestretch every time. She may set the pace on Wednesday, but that should set the stage for Regal Rebel to sit a perfect tracking trip. Two starts back, Regal Rebel wired an $11,000 maiden claimer at Finger Lakes by five lengths, earning a sharp 72 Brisnet Speed rating that ranks as the highest number belonging to any horse in Wednesday’s field.

Regal Rebel misfired in her most recent start, finishing last of eight in an $11,000 claimer for non-winners of two races, but she didn’t get off to the best start and wound up racing wide from fourth position. Assuming she breaks more alertly while dropping down the class ladder, Regal Rebel can track Empress Palpatine, take over in the homestretch, and cruise to victory under hot jockey Keiber Coa. For all these reasons, we’ll make Regal Rebel a Pick 6 single.

Good luck!