Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of July 21

July 21st, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, July 21 at Saratoga and Ellis Park, including tickets for the $1,368 Super High 5 carryover at Ellis.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Ellis Park Let 8 Ride: Place win bets at Ellis Park on Friday through Sunday for a chance to win your share of a $5,000 weekly jackpot. Since no player went 3-for-3 in Week 1, the jackpot for this week is up to $10,000.
  • Summer International Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any eligible race at Rosehill (AUS).
  • 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.
  • $5,000 Coast to Coast Daily Challenge: Place winning $10+ win bets on selected races at Saratoga and Del Mar to earn your share of a $5,000 daily prize.

Picks and Plays

Saratoga: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 1:10 p.m. ET)

Whether this race stays on grass or gets rained off the turf, #6 Reverend Moon (5-1) looks like a viable win contender for trainer Christophe Clement, who has gone 8-for-29 (28%) debuting juveniles in sprints at Saratoga since 2018. That includes a 5-for-18 (28%) record on dirt and a 3-for-11 (27%) record on turf.

A son of three-time Grade 1 winner and hot young sire Omaha Beach, Reverend Moon enters off an encouraging work tab (including a bullet half-mile at Belmont Park) and has the pedigree to win from an early age.

Let’s bet Reverend Moon to win and single him to start a double wager.


  • #6 Reverend Moon (5-1)
  • #9 Foxhole (5-2)
  • #10 Sam’s Treasure (2-1)
  • #7 Same Old Fears (5-2)


  • $20 to win on #6 Reverend Moon
  • $10 Double: 6 with 1
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 2: $80,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (six furlongs, 1:44 p.m. ET)

#1 Braganza (2-1) has been in red-hot form for trainer Eddie Kenneally, smashing a pair of allowances at Keeneland and Churchill Downs by 7 1/4 lengths and 6 3/4 lengths. Those victories yielded sharp Brisnet Speed ratings of 96 and 94.

Kenneally has gone 3-for-11 (27%) in Saratoga dirt races since 2019, so Braganza is likely well-spotted for a competitive effort. Let’s bet him to win, key him over #3 Rosebug (9-5) in the exacta, and single him to conclude our double wager.


  • #1 Braganza (2-1)
  • #3 Rosebug (9-5)
  • #6 Headland (7-2)


  • $14 to win on #1 Braganza
  • $6 Exacta: 1 with 3
    Total: $20

Ellis Park: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (seven furlongs, 3:18 p.m. ET)

Trainer John Ortiz knows what it takes to prepare a two-year-old to challenge on debut at Ellis Park, particularly in early summer. During the month of July 2022, Ortiz debuted five juveniles at Ellis and came away with two wins, one second, and two thirds. On dirt specifically, Ortiz went 2-for-2.

That’s why we’re willing to bet Ortiz’s unraced two-year-old #3 Dutch Mills (15-1) can outrun his odds in this five-furlong dirt dash. The son of champion sprinter Runhappy enters off a pair of quick five-furlong workouts at Ellis and is slated to be ridden by hot jockey Francisco Arrieta, a 21% winner this meet.

A win bet on Dutch Mills will be our primary play, along with an exacta using #7 Timberlake (3-1) and #6 Can Group (5-2) for second place.


  • #3 Dutch Mills (15-1)
  • #7 Timberlake (3-1)
  • #6 Can Group (5-2)


  • $20 to win on #3 Dutch Mills
  • $5 Exacta: 3 with 6,7 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Ellis Park: Race 3: $1,368 Super High 5 carryover (1:43 p.m. ET)

The Friday card at Ellis Park brings a $1,368 carryover in the $1 Super High 5, and if you want to win a share, you’ll have to decipher a tricky race.

The prize pool is up for grabs in Race 3, a maiden special weight for two-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs on dirt. Mathematically speaking, there are 15,120 possible Super High 5 outcomes, so it’s not an impossible wager to decipher. But with eight of the entrants having either one start or zero starts to their credit, there isn’t much form to analyze.

Ultimately, we have to bank on #4 Mena (5-2) taking home top honors. The son of Grade 1-winning sprinter and Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Hard Spun was produced by Pangburn, a stakes winner who placed in the Pocahontas (G2) at age two. Pangburn won her debut at Ellis Park and is the dam of Smarty Jones S. winner and Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up Caddo River, so there’s a lot of class and potential in Mena’s pedigree.

Mena is conditioned by high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, who has gone 5-for-13 (33%) at the current Ellis Park meet. Cox wins at a 20% rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, and it’s encouraging to note Mena will be ridden by red-hot jockey Florent Geroux, who has gone 4-for-8 (50%) at Ellis this meet. Geroux has won at a 34% rate teaming up with Cox over the last two months, so there are plenty of positive trainer and jockey stats in Mena’s corner.

Who should we use underneath Mena? Definitely #7 Hey Joe Joe (7-2), a Kenny McPeek trainee who rallied after a slow start to finish third in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Ellis Park last month. McPeek doesn’t typically crank his juveniles to win on debut, so Hey Joe Joe is eligible to move forward in his second start.

We’ll also count on #2 Phreddie Mac (6-1) to finish in the top four. The son of Hard Spun rallied late to finish fifth in his debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over this track and class level. He has upside for improvement in his second start for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Cristian Torres and Steve Asmussen, who have gone 5-for-13 (38%) teaming up together over the last two months.

  • $1 Super High 5: 4 with 7 with 2 with 3,5,6 with 1,3,5,6,8,9 ($15)
  • $1 Super High 5: 4 with 2 with 7 with 3,5,6 with 1,3,5,6,8,9 ($15)
  • $1 Super High 5: 4 with 7 with 3,5,6 with 2 with 1,3,5,6,8,9 ($15)
  • $1 Super High 5: 4 with 3,5,6 with 7 with 2 with 1,3,5,6,8,9 ($15)
    Total: $60

Good luck!