Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of June 1

June 1st, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, June 1 at Horseshoe Indianapolis, Belmont Park, and Churchill Downs, including tickets for Churchill’s $6,719 Super High 5 carryover.

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.
  • Churchill Downs Twilight Thursday Leaderboard: Place $10+ win bets at Churchill Downs to play for your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 1: $5,000 Claiming (six furlongs, 2:10 p.m. ET)

The Horseshoe Indianapolis opener appears fairly straightforward to handicap. #6 Noble Jon (6-5) is a logical favorite after winning a $15,000 claimer sprinting six furlongs at Turfway Park, and dropping to the $5,000 level for hot trainer Genaro Garcia (a 24% winner this meet) should offset any concerns about the switch from Tapeta to dirt.

#3 Jackson Strong (9-2) is a logical choice to round out the exacta after finishing second in a pair of recent $8,000 claimers sprinting at Tampa Bay Downs, while #5 Lake Tahoe (4-1)—runner-up in a $5,000 claimer at Horseshoe Indianapolis last month—can complete the trifecta.


  • #6 Noble Jon (6-5)
  • #3 Jackson Strong (9-2)
  • #5 Lake Tahoe (4-1)


  • $24 Exacta: 6 with 3
  • $6 Trifecta: 6 with 3 with 5
    Total: $30

Belmont Park: Race 8: $80,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (six furlongs on turf, 6:45 p.m. ET)

Hot trainer David Jacobson has gone 5-for-16 (31%) at Belmont Park this meet, and he can keep his momentum rolling with coupled entrymates #1 Mid Day Image (2-1) and/or #1A Cees Get Degrees (2-1). Both are slated to be ridden by four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, so it’s possible one will scratch. But that’s fine, because both enter off sharp allowance optional claiming victories in Maryland and boast the Brisnet Speed ratings to factor at Belmont.

Let’s bet the Jacobson entry over the stretch-running Kentucky raider #3 Mischievous Rogue (7-2) and the multiple stakes-placed #6 Heaven Street (7-2) in the exacta.


  • #1 Mid Day Image (2-1)
  • #1A Cees Get Degrees (2-1)
  • #3 Mischievous Rogue (7-2)
  • #6 Heaven Street (7-2)


  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 3,6 ($20)

Churchill Downs: Race 7: $100,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 7:54 p.m. ET)

#5 Tulane Tryst (6-1) faced tough competition in two starts during the winter at Fair Grounds. After finishing seventh behind multiple stakes winners Surveillance and Bango in the Richard R. Scherer Memorial, Tulane Tryst came home third in an $80,000 allowance optional claimer, beaten only by the talented Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) runner-up Strobe and Saratoga Special (G2) runner-up Therideofalifetime.

Tulane Tryst has been freshened since January by trainer Cherie DeVaux, who wins at a lofty 21% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more. Tulane Tryst has placed at the graded stakes level in the past, so if he brings his A-game off the break, he can outrun his 6-1 morning line odds and vie for victory.

Let’s bet Tulane Tryst to win and key him over #4 Pro Oxidant (8-1) and #3 Chasing Time (8-1) in the exacta.


  • #5 Tulane Tryst (6-1)
  • #4 Pro Oxidant (8-1)
  • #3 Chasing Time (8-1)


  • $12 to win on #5 Tulane Tryst
  • $4 Exacta: 5 with 3,4 ($8)
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs: Race 1: $6,719 Super High 5 carryover (5:00 p.m. ET)

The racing week at Churchill Downs gets underway on Thursday with a $6,719 carryover up for grabs in the $1 Super High 5.

The prize pool is available to chase right off the bat in Race 1, a maiden special weight for juveniles sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over the main track. With nine entries (including four first-time starters), there are 15,120 possible outcomes.

Among the experienced runners, #5 Sonofaship (7-2) is an obvious contender. The Mike Maker trainee is adding blinkers after finishing second in each of his first two starts at this class level. In both of those races, Sonofaship lost by less than one length while earning encouraging Brisnet Speed ratings of 80 and 79, the two highest numbers in Thursday’s field.

But the first-time starters look formidable. #7 Higgins Boat (3-1), from the first crop of foals sired by hot young sire Omaha Beach, sold for $325,000 as a yearling and enters off sharp workouts. On April 26, he clocked a bullet half-mile in :48 1/5 at Keeneland, and he followed up with three more half-miles in :48 4/5, :47 3/5, and :47 4/5 from the starting gate, with the latter exercise ranking as a bullet. A five-furlong gate breeze at Churchill last Thursday cements Higgins Boat as a formidable win threat for trainer Tom Amoss, who has gone 10-for-26 (38%) debuting juveniles at Churchill since 2021.

Nor can we dismiss the unraced Steve Asmussen trainees #6 Card Trick (8-1) and #8 Hailstorm (5-1). Asmussen has gone 3-for-6 (50%) debuting two-year-olds at Churchill Downs this meet, and one of the losers finished second by a neck.

At first glance, Card Trick is the more appealing play based off a pair of fast half-mile workouts from the Keeneland starting gate, including a bullet exercise in :47 1/5 on May 23. But Asmussen’s three winning juveniles this meet all wrapped up their pre-race training at Churchill Downs, where Hailstorm has been training since April. Hailstorm is a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred son of acclaimed young sire Gun Runner, so there’s a lot to like about his chances.

The final first-time starter is #3 Call Me Andy (5-1) hailing from the barn of Brendan Walsh. Walsh’s 9% win rate saddling debut runners isn’t especially eye-catching, but it includes a 1-for-2 (50%) record since 2021 when debuting juveniles in dirt sprints between January and June at Churchill Downs. Call Me Andy is a half-sibling to a pair of stakes winners and enters off a fast half-mile workout from the Churchill starting gate in :47 4/5, so when you throw in the fact he’ll be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione (a 33% winner teaming up with Walsh over the last two months), there’s a lot to like about Call Me Andy.

So how should we bet the Super High 5? We’re going to take an aggressive strategy, counting on at least three of the first-time starters to finish in the top five while relying on Higgins Boat to crack the exacta. We’ll also mix in Sonofaship and Kentucky Juvenile S. runner-up #2 Lou’s Legacy (8-1).

  • $1 Super High 5: 7 with 3,6,8 with 3,5,6,8 with 3,5,6,8 with 2,3,5,6,8 ($36)
  • $1 Super High 5: 6,8 with 7 with 3,5,6,8 with 3,5,6,8 with 2,3,5,6,8 ($24)
    Total: $60

Good luck!