Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of Aug. 25

August 25th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Aug. 25 at Saratoga and Charles Town, along with horses to single in the mandatory-payout $54,491 Pick 6 carryover at Charles Town and the $1,412 Pick 6 carryover at Colonial Downs.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Colonial Downs $2,500 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 at Colonial Downs to earn your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.
  • 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

Saratoga: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles on turf, 1:10 p.m. ET)

Since 2021, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has gone 4-for-10 (40%) debuting juveniles in turf routes at Saratoga. This bodes well for #2 The Hero Code (8-1), a half-brother to five turf winners including Flower Bowl (G1) winner Civil Union. The Hero Code is bred to shine on grass and has breezed over the Saratoga training track turf course, so his 8-1 morning line odds are enticing.

We’ll bet The Hero Code to win and key him over #4 Feltrinelli (5-1) and #5 Walley World (4-1) in the exacta.


  • #2 The Hero Code (8-1)
  • #4 Feltrinelli (5-1)
  • #5 Walley World (4-1)


  • $20 to win on #2 The Hero Code
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 4,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 4:00 p.m. ET)

Since 2019, trainer Christophe Clement has compiled a stellar 7-for-19 (37%) record debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Saratoga. Therefore, we’ll take a shot betting Clement’s unraced two-year-old #3 Apollo Ten (8-1) to win this deep maiden special weight.

Apollo Ten is a son of juvenile Grade 1 winner Violence, who sires a lofty 18% winners from first-time starters. Apollo Ten has put together a respectable work tab, and jockey Manny Franco (a 25% winner teaming up with Clement over the last two months) is named to ride, so let’s bet Apollo Ten to win and key him over #1 Air of Defiance (5-2), #4 Wajda (5-1), and #6 Fierceness (2-1) in the exacta.


  • #3 Apollo Ten (8-1)
  • #1 Air of Defiance (5-2)
  • #6 Fierceness (2-1)


  • $15 to win on #3 Apollo Ten
  • $5 Exacta: 3 with 1,4,6 ($15)
    Total: $30

Charles Town: Race 5: Last Enchantment S. (4 1/2 furlongs, 7:02 p.m. ET)

#4 Little Roo Roo (6-5) has won six of his last seven starts at Charles Town and is 3-for-3 over this track and distance. He enters off three consecutive stakes wins (including a couple over 4 1/2 furlongs) and should be tough to beat while sticking to his preferred conditions.

#2 Penguin Power (7-2), defending winner of the Last Enchantment, can complete the exacta.


  • #4 Little Roo Roo (6-5)
  • #2 Penguin Power (7-2)
  • #3 Golden Key (6-1)


  • $20 Exacta: 4 with 2

Carryover Watch

Colonial Downs: Race 4: $1,412 Pick 6 carryover (2:54 p.m. ET)

Looking for a single to build tickets around in Friday’s $1,412 Pick 6 carryover at Colonial Downs? Look no further than #1 Linzer (7-5) in Race 4, the opening leg of the $1 wager.

Race 4 is a maiden special weight for juveniles sprinting seven furlongs on dirt. The par winning Brisnet Speed rating is 80, and Linzer nearly reached that number when debuting in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Delaware Park last month. After dueling for the lead through a respectable pace, Linzer stayed on to finish second with a 79 Brisnet Speed rating. None of his Friday rivals have posted a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 70.

Linzer has posted two bullet workouts since his debut, stamping the Godolphin homebred as the horse to beat while sticking to the same class level at Colonial Downs. The fact he’ll be ridden by Antonio Gallardo (a 24% winner at Colonial this meet) adds to the appeal.

Charles Town: Race 8: $54,491 Pick 6 mandatory payout (8:32 p.m. ET)

Friday is Charles Town Classic (G2) night at Charles Town, an exciting night of stakes racing made even more enticing by the mandatory payout of a $54,491 carryover in the 20-cent Pick 6.

A remarkably challenging sequence is on tap. Every race contains at least nine horses, and before scratches there are 2,378,376 possible outcomes to analyze.

We’ll try to simplify the sequence (and save on ticket costs) by singling #10 Ryvit (9-5) in Race 9, the Robert Hilton Memorial S. for three-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs around two turns. Ryvit misfired in the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga last time out, finishing last of five, but he stumbled at the start and wound up chasing an incredibly fast pace from third place.

Ryvit had previously won five consecutive races by a minimum of 1 3/4 lengths, including the Bachelor S. at Oaklawn Park, the Chick Lang (G3) at Pimlico, and the Maxfield S. at Churchill Downs. Ryvit’s win streak saw him handle a variety of tracks while posting consistent Brisnet Speed ratings in the 90-95 range, so dropping down in class (and hopefully catching an easier pace scenario) might be all he needs to rebound with a winning run.

Good luck!