Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of May 26

May 26th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, May 26 at Gulfstream Park and Churchill Downs, along with tickets and horses to play in non-jackpot carryovers at Churchill and Pimlico.

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 Eagle Farm (AUS).

Picks and Plays

Gulfstream Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs on Tapeta, 12:50 p.m. ET)

Trainer Jose D’Angelo has compiled a 3-for-7 (43%) record debuting two-year-olds in Tapeta sprints at Gulfstream Park. This bodes well for #7 Zingales King (6-1), a first-time starter from D’Angelo’s barn. Zingales King turned in a couple of decent half-mile workouts at Palm Meadows last month and is a son of Munnings, who sires a lofty 16% winners from first-time starters.

At 6-1, Zingales King is worth betting to win and keying over #1 Praiseworthy (20-1) and #10 Titan (9-2) in the exacta.


  • #7 Zingales King (6-1)
  • #1 Praiseworthy (20-1)
  • #10 Titan (9-2)


  • $20 to win on #7 Zingales King (6-1)
  • $5 Exacta: 7 with 1,10 ($10)
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 1:43 p.m. ET)

#2 What’s Crackin (8-1) has put together an encouraging work tab in preparation for her debut, highlighted by a couple of sharp half-mile workouts at Keeneland. Sire McCraken and dam Kell Paso were both stakes winners who won on debut at age two, and Kell Paso has already foaled a juvenile winner, so What’s Crackin has the pedigree to excel from an early age.

Let’s bet What’s Crackin to win and key her over #3 Hockey (6-1) and #7 Crystal Symphony (8-1) in the exacta.


  • #2 What’s Crackin (8-1)
  • #3 Hockey (6-1)
  • #7 Crystal Symphony (8-1)


  • $20 to win on #2 What’s Crackin
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 3,7 ($10)
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 6: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (one mile, 3:18 p.m. ET)

#4 Absolute Courage (8-5) recently returned from a layoff with a decent sixth-place finish in a $50,000 maiden claimer at Churchill Downs. Facing a large field, Absolute Courage tracked the pace from third place, advanced to challenge around the far turn, and then weakened in the final furlong.

Dropping down to the $30,000 maiden claiming level can send Absolute Courage to the winner’s circle under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, one of the leading riders at Churchill Downs this meet. We’ll bet Absolute Courage to win and play him over longshots #7 I Run (8-1) and #3 Cote d’Ivoire (15-1) in the exacta.


  • #4 Absolute Courage (8-5)
  • #7 I Run (8-1)
  • #3 Cote d’Ivoire (15-1)


  • $22 to win on #4 Absolute Courage
  • $4 Exacta: 4 with 3,7 ($8)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs: Race 3: $4,978 Super High 5 carryover (1:43 p.m. ET)

There’s a $4,978 carryover up for grabs in the $1 Super High 5 on Friday at Churchill Downs. Fortunately for us, the prize pool is available to chase in Race 3, the above-mentioned maiden special weight in which we’re keen to back #2 What’s Crackin (8-1) as a live longshot.

What if we take a stand and key What’s Crackin on top in the Super High 5? We’ll be looking at an enticing payoff if What’s Crackin takes home top honors.

Underneath, #3 Hockey (6-1) and #7 Crystal Symphony (8-1) are logical contenders. Both are first-time starters conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. Hockey is a daughter of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist, who sires an excellent 15% winners from first-time starters, while Crystal Symphony has put together a sharp work tab highlighted by half a mile in :47 4/5 at Churchill Downs. We’ll count on one to finish second and the other to finish in the top five.

  • $1 Super High 5: 2 with 3,7 with 3,7 with 1,6,8 with 1,5,6,8 ($18)
  • $1 Super High 5: 2 with 3,7 with 1,6,8 with 3,7 with 1,5,6,8 ($18)
  • $1 Super High 5: 2 with 3,7 with 1,6,8 with 1,5,6,8 with 3,7 ($18)
    Total: $54

Pimlico: Race 5: $36,279 Pick 5 carryover (2:26 p.m. ET)

One of the most enticing Friday carryovers is up for grabs at Pimlico, where the 50-cent Late Pick 5 features a $36,279 prize pool.

If you’re looking for a single to build tickets around, check out Race 7, a maiden special weight for juveniles sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs on dirt.  At first glance, morning line favorite #1 Under the Overpass (5-2) is a compelling choice; the son of Malibu Moon is conditioned by red-hot trainer Brittany Russell, a 24% winner with first-time starters who has gone 13-for-29 (45%) at Pimlico this meet.

But we actually prefer the chances of #6 Wysoquiet (3-1). Trainer John Robb wins at a 23% rate with first-time starters and a 31% rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, two positive angles in Wysoquiet’s favor. But more importantly, Robb is a frequent winner when debuting juveniles early in the season at Pimlico; since 2018 he’s gone 3-for-6 (50%) saddling such horses during the month of May.

Wysoquiet enters off a bullet three-furlong workout at Laurel Park and has hot jockey Xavier Perez named to ride, so we’ll take a stand and single Wysoquiet in the Pick 5.

Good luck!