Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of Aug. 24

August 24th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Aug. 24 at Delaware Park and Saratoga, including an exacta in the Ballston Spa (G2).

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Hoosier Park $1,000 Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the late Pick 4 on Thursdays at Hoosier Park to win your share of a $1,000 weekly jackpot.
  • Colonial Downs Thursday Leaderboard: Place $10+ win bets on Thursdays at Colonial Downs to compete for your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.
  • Saratoga $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races Wednesday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 6 at Saratoga.
  • Del Mar Daily Double Down: Receive a 25% bonus (up to $25 per day) on winning daily double wagers on Thursdays and Fridays at Del Mar. Your base wager amount must be minimum $2.
  • Summer International Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any eligible race at York (UK).

Picks and Plays

Delaware Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Trainer Brittany Russell has compiled a strong record debuting juveniles at Delaware Park this meet. From five starters, she’s saddled two winners, two runners-up, and one third-place finisher, good for a 40% win rate and a 100% in-the-money rate.

That’s why we’ll back Russell’s unraced #6 Play Like a Raven (7-2) in this maiden sprint for two-year-olds. The son of Catalina Cruiser has put together a respectable work tab and is slated to be ridden by hot jockey Kevin Gomez, a 21% winner at Delaware this meet who has gone 3-for-4 (75%) teaming up with Russell over the last two months.

#5 Night Out (5-2) and #2 Boy Magic (9-5) are the two we’ll mix in for exacta purposes.


  • #6 Play Like a Raven (7-2)
  • #5 Night Out (5-2)
  • #2 Boy Magic (9-5)


  • $20 to win on #6 Play Like a Raven
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 2,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

Delaware Park: Race 2: $62,500 Allowance Optional Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

#4 Shea D World (8-5) wired his debut sprinting five furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream Park, then ran into a bit of traffic trouble when third in the five-furlong Tyro S. over the Monmouth Park turf course. That performance was flattered when runner-up Ship Cadet returned to win the Skidmore S. at Saratoga.

Shea D World owns the two highest Brisnet Speed ratings in Thursday’s field and should be mighty tough to beat while dropping in class. Let’s bet him in a cold exacta over #6 Mantaketheblesings (5-2), who finished ninth with a troubled start in the Tyro. Then we’ll place a win bet on Shea D World in case we miss the exacta.


  • #4 Shea D World (8-5)
  • #6 Mantaketheblesings (5-2)
  • #3 Insouciant (10-1)


  • $15 to win on #4 Shea D World
  • $15 Exacta: 4 with 6
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 9: Ballston Spa (G2, 1 1/16 miles on turf, 5:44 p.m. ET)

#8 Technical Analysis (9-5) has won four of her five starts on grass at Saratoga. Her four wins have come in stakes, including the 2022 Ballston Spa, and her lone defeat was a runner-up finish in the 2022 Diana (G1).

Technical Analysis remains in strong form, having dominated the one-mile De La Rose S. at Saratoga by 3 1/2 lengths earlier this month. She looks ready to defend her Ballston Spa title, so an exacta playing Technical Analysis over stablemate #4 Fluffy Socks (9-2) and European raider #1 Jumbly (6-1) is the way we’ll play.


  • #8 Technical Analysis (9-5)
  • #1 Jumbly (6-1)
  • #4 Fluffy Socks (9-2)


  • $15 Exacta: 8 with 1,4 ($30)

Good luck!