Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of July 26

July 26th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, July 26 at Delaware Park and Saratoga, along with a horse to single in the mandatory-payout $417,683 Pick 5 carryover at Parx Racing.

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.

Picks and Plays

Delaware Park: Race 1: $25,000 Maiden Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 12:30 p.m. ET)

The experienced runners in this field don’t appear overly formidable. Morning line favorites #4 Ritz On Broadway (9-5) and #3 Princess Peanut (5-2) have both placed over this track and class level, but both were beaten by wide margins, and neither have posted a Brisnet Speed rating close to the par winning number (72) for Wednesday’s conditions.

Therefore, we’ll try to beat the favorites with the first-time starter #5 Bobbi Two Steps (6-1). Hot trainer Andrew Simoff (a 25% winner at Delaware Park this meet) wins at a lofty 34% rate with first-time starters, which includes a 33% success rate with horses debuting in maiden claimers. Those encouraging stats suggest Bobbi Two Steps will be ready for a winning run on debut.


  • #5 Bobbi Two Steps (6-1)
  • #4 Ritz On Broadway (9-5)
  • #3 Princess Peanut (5-2)


  • $20 to win on #5 Bobbi Two Steps (6-1)
  • $5 Exacta: 5 with 3,4 ($10)
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 2:19 p.m. ET)

#7 Gram (2-1) debuted against males in a five-furlong dirt contest at Belmont Park and finished fifth behind next-out Bashford Manor S. winner The Wine Steward. She subsequently switched to turf for a five-furlong maiden special weight at Belmont and rallied fast after early trouble to finish second by one length.

If Gram gets a clean trip while sticking to the same class level, she can deliver victory for trainer Christophe Clement, who strikes at a 31% rate with horses running on turf for the second time. That’s why we’ll bet Gram to win and single her to start a double wager.


  • #7 Gram (2-1)
  • #1 Beautiful Thief (8-1)
  • #5 Follow Your Arrow (8-1)


  • $15 to win on #7 Gram
  • $15 Double: 7 with 1
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 4: Honorable Miss H. (G2, six furlongs, 2:52 p.m. ET)

#1 Echo Zulu (4-5), the champion two-year-old filly of 2021, has won seven of her nine career starts. Runner-up in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), Echo Zulu kicked off 2023 with a 5 3/4-length romp in the six-furlong Winning Colors (G3) at Churchill Downs, suggesting this speedy four-year-old will be tough to beat while facing only three rivals in the Honorable Miss. Don’t forget, she’s 2-for-2 at Saratoga.

Let’s single Echo Zulu to conclude our double wager, then bet her over #3 Maryquitecontrary (9-2) and #2 Frank’s Rockette (8-5) in a cold trifecta.


  • #1 Echo Zulu (4-5)
  • #3 Maryquitecontrary (9-2)
  • #2 Frank’s Rockette (8-5)


  • $15 Trifecta: 1 with 3 with 2

Carryover Watch

Parx Racing: Race 8: $417,683 Pick 5 carryover (3:53 p.m. ET)

Have you heard the news? A mandatory payout of the “Philly BIG 5” jackpot is scheduled for Wednesday at Parx Racing. The carryover for the 50-cent Pick 5 wager has climbed to $417,683, and while a unique winning ticket is normally required to win the jackpot, on Wednesday the carryover will be split among all bettors who select the highest number of winners.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of betting value to chase. But winning a share of the jackpot won’t be easy. Wednesday’s Pick 5 sequence includes 57 horses (averaging 11.4 per race) and 145,152 possible outcomes before scratches. Even if you remove the also-eligible entrants from consideration, there are 49 horses (averaging 9.8 per race) and 81,648 possible outcomes. Playing a strong ticket on a modest budget won’t be easy.

Wouldn’t it be nice to find a trustworthy single to build tickets around? A single can sharply decrease ticket costs. That’s why it’s exciting to see #6 Ebben (9-5) entered in Race 9, because Ebben is in red-hot form and looks like a viable Pick 5 single.

Race 9 is a $25,000 starter optional claimer taking place over seven furlongs on dirt, and those conditions should suit Ebben just fine. The eight-year-old gelding has won five straight races and is 3-for-3 this year, winning $15,000, $25,000, and $40,000 claimers at Parx Racing. Ascending the class ladder clearly hasn’t bothered Ebben, who dominated that $40,000 claimer (a seven-furlong contest) by half a dozen lengths.

With Brisnet Speed ratings of 100, 97, 90, and 94 from his last four starts, Ebben is the fastest horse in Wednesday’s field and surely the horse to beat. He routinely sets or tracks the pace, so he has the speed to stay out of trouble in this nine-horse field. For good measure, he’ll be ridden by jockey Abner Adorno, who has gone 2-for-5 (40%) teaming up with trainer Ernesto Padilla-Preciado over the last two months. A typical performance from Ebben should result in a short-priced victory, likely to the satisfaction of many Pick 5 bettors.

Good luck!