Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of Aug. 4

August 4th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Aug. 4 at Ellis Park, Colonial Downs, and Saratoga, including a horse to single in Colonial’s $9,819 Pick 6 carryover.

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, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 6 at Saratoga.
  • Colonial Downs $2,500 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 on Friday at Colonial Downs to earn your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Ellis Park: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 1:43 p.m. ET)

#7 Isle of Hope (3-1) finished midfield when debuting in a one-mile maiden special weight over the Ellis Park turf course last month. As a half-sibling to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner New Year’s Day, four-time Grade 2 winner Mohaymen, and Lecomte (G3) hero Enforceable, Isle of Hope is bred to shine while transitioning to dirt for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, who wins at a 30% rate with horses running long for the second time.

Adding blinkers and picking up red-hot jockey Florent Geroux are other positives in Isle of Hope’s corner, so let’s bet her to win and key her over #3 Vino Veloce (7-2) and #1 Indy Label (12-1) in the exacta.


  • #7 Isle of Hope (3-1)
  • #3 Vino Veloce (7-2)
  • #1 Indy Label (12-1)


  • $20 to win on #7 Isle of Hope
  • $7 Exacta: 7 with 3
  • $3 Exacta: 7 with 1
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 8: National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2, one mile on turf, 5:08 p.m. ET)

There are many viable contenders in this competitive grass contest for three-year-olds, but we’ll throw our support behind #10 Carl Spackler (9-2). True, he misfired in an ultra-tough renewal of the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs last time out, finishing eighth by 4 1/2 lengths. But he’s been freshened since then and his previous form was strong.

Indeed, two starts back, Carl Spackler smashed a one-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park by 8 3/4 lengths, earning a flashy 102 Brisnet Speed rating. And in his debut racing 1 1/16 miles over the Gulfstream lawn, Carl Spackler was beaten only a head by future Belmont Derby (G1) winner Far Bridge.

Thanks to the Saratoga $10 Money Back promotion, we can bet Carl Spackler to win and receive a refund (maximum $10) if he finishes second or third. We’ll make our win bet a $20 variety and settle for half a refund if he snatches a placing instead of victory. Then we’ll key Carl Spackler on top of a bold exacta using longshots #8 Mysterious Night (10-1) and #5 Mischievous Angel (10-1) for second place.


  • #10 Carl Spackler (9-2)
  • #8 Mysterious Night (10-1)
  • #5 Mischievous Angel (10-1)


  • $20 to win on #10 Carl Spackler
  • $5 Exacta: 10 with 5,8 ($10)
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs on turf, 7:00 p.m. ET)

#2 Chi Chi (6-1) has put together an impressive series of fast workouts for trainer Herman Wilensky, a 21% winner this year. Her last two workouts at Del Mar have been particularly sharp: half a mile in :47 2/5 and a bullet half-mile from the starting gate in :46 4/5.

A half-sister to early-maturing Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Simplification, Chi Chi looks like a promising prospect with a chance to outrun her odds on debut. We’ll bet her to win and add an exacta using #8 Mysticism (5-2) and #5 She’s My Niece (3-1) for second place.


  • #2 Chi Chi (6-1)
  • #8 Mysticism (5-2)
  • #5 She’s My Niece (3-1)


  • $20 to win on #2 Chi Chi
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 5,8 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Colonial Downs: Race 4: $9,819 Pick 6 carryover (3:08 p.m. ET)

It’s been weeks since anyone managed to assemble a winning ticket in the “Old Dominion 6” at Colonial Downs. The $1 Pick 6 was last hit on July 15; it went unsolved from July 20-22, befuddled bettors again on July 27, sat around through a couple of cancellations last week, and remained elusive when racing returned on Thursday.

Thus, a $9,819 carryover has accumulated for Friday’s card. The carryover adds value to the wager’s modest 15% takeout rate, so any bettor who believes they can find the winning combination from among Friday’s 2,900,040 possible outcomes is bound to catch a nice payoff. (You read that right—before scratches, there are nearly three million possible outcomes. That’s what happens when every race contains 10 or more horses.)

Looking for a single to build tickets around? We recommend checking out Race 4, a maiden special weight for two-year-old fillies racing 1 1/16 miles on turf. With “only” 10 entries, Race 4 features the smallest field in the Pick 6 sequence, so mathematically it’s the soundest spot to seek a single.

#4 The Myth (3-1) isn’t the morning line favorite in Race 4; that honor goes to #10 Yatta (5-2), runner-up in a five-furlong grass maiden special weight at Delaware Park last month. But The Myth has run basically as fast on the Brisnet Speed rating scale and is exiting a tougher race.

Indeed, The Myth debuted in the Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies S. sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream Park turf course and rallied from midfield to finish third behind Crimson Advocate, who came back to win the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot.

The Myth figures to find the competition a bit easier at Colonial Downs, where Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse has gone 3-for-12 (25%) this meet. She’s posted three recent workouts over the Colonial Downs turf course, including a bullet half-mile in :51 3/5, so the fact she hasn’t run since May shouldn’t be a concern. Under hot jockey Antonio Gallardo (a 22% winner this meet), The Myth is a compelling choice to deliver victory as a nice-priced single.

Good luck!