Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of May 12

May 12th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, May 12 at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park, along with tickets for the $11,963 Super High 5 carryover at Santa Anita.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Rest of the World $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Doomben (AUS).
  • Churchill Downs $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races at Churchill Downs.

Picks and Plays

Churchill Downs: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 12:45 p.m. ET)

#4 Liam’s Message (5-2) suffered a troubled start in her debut sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland, but recovered to rally wide and finish sixth. The win percentage of trainer Fausto Gutierrez jumps from 5% with first-time starters to 13% with second-time starters, so Liam’s Message is eligible to move forward in a big way if she breaks cleanly on Friday.

We’ll place a $15 win bet on Liam’s Message, then key her over #1 Stuck On You (9-5) and #6 Boomin’ Belle (4-1) in the exacta.


  • #4 Liam’s Message (5-2)
  • #1 Stuck On You (9-5)
  • #6 Boomin’ Belle (4-1)


  • $15 to win on #4 Liam’s Message
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 1,6 ($10)
    Total: $25

Belmont Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

#3 Mischief Joke (8-5) showed promise in his debut sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland, rallying from seventh place to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths. That performance came against non-state-restricted competition, so Mischief Joke should have every chance to win while tackling the New York-bred ranks and stretching out another sixteenth of a mile in distance.

#5 Whatchatalkinabout (6-5), a first-time starter from the high-percentage barn of Wesley Ward, can complete the exacta.


  • #3 Mischief Joke (8-5)
  • #5 Whatchatalkinabout (6-5)
  • #1 Subscribed (5-1)


  • $20 Exacta: 3 with 5

Belmont Park: Race 8: Gold Fever S. (six furlongs, 4:40 p.m. ET)

#2 Squire Creek (7-5) is 2-for-2, dominating his debut sprinting six furlongs at Fair Grounds before wiring a $100,000 allowance optional claimer over the same distance at Keeneland. The son of Uncle Mo breezed a bullet five furlongs in :59 1/5 last week and looks like a possible star sprinter in the making for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox.

We’ll bet Squire Creek on top of exacta and trifecta tickets using #6 Drew’s Gold (3-1) and #1 Joey Freshwater (4-1) underneath.


  • #2 Squire Creek (7-5)
  • #6 Drew’s Gold (3-1)
  • #1 Joey Freshwater (4-1)


  • $10 Exacta: 2 with 1,6 ($20)
  • $5 Trifecta: 2 with 1,6 with 1,6 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Santa Anita: Race 1: $11,963 Super High 5 carryover (4:00 p.m. ET)

Race 1 on Friday at Santa Anita features an $11,963 carryover in the $1 Super High 5. If you want to win a share of the non-jackpot prize pool, you’ll have to decipher a maiden special weight for three-year-olds, four-year-olds, and five-year-olds racing one mile on turf.

There are nine horses in the entries, which equates to 15,120 possible Super High 5 outcomes. While not an unmanageable number, the race looks tricky to handicap in part because none of the entrants have run particularly well over this class level in the past.

Take morning line favorite #3 Classically (3-1), a four-year-old son of acclaimed sire Into Mischief. Classically contested a race over this course, distance, and class level on March 25 and faded to finish fifth after tracking and pressing the pace. Santa Anita’s leading jockey Juan Hernandez has the mount for hot trainer Phil D’Amato, but Classically may need a step forward to challenge for top honors, and there’s no guarantee he’ll make that move in his fourth career start.

#1 Adventuresome (6-1) is an intriguing alternative. The Peter Miller trainee finished a decent fifth in his debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs over this course and class level. As a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Arrogate out of Boodles (previously the dam of two stakes-winning route racers), Adventuresome is bred to relish stretching out over one mile, and the fact he’s three years old leaves him with plenty of upside to improve with maturity. Throw in the fact Miller wins at a lofty 29% rate with second-time starters, and there are many reasons to believe Adventuresome can spring a mild upset on Friday.

#2 Nashoba’s Joy (7-2), who finished half a length ahead of Classically when fourth in the March 25 maiden heat, is another logical contender. We must also respect the improving #9 Precision Strike (7-2) and the consistent #8 Maltese Falcon (6-1), a pair of three-year-olds with room for improvement.

Here’s how we’ll bet the Super High 5:

  • $1 Super High 5: 1 with 9 with 2,3,8 with 2,3,8 with 2,3,4,5,8 ($18)
  • $1 Super High 5: 1 with 2,3,8 with 9 with 2,3,8 with 2,3,4,5,8 ($18)
    Total: $36

Good luck!