Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of May 31

May 31st, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, May 31 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Presque Isle Downs, along with horses to single in the $5,069 Pick 5 carryover at Hawthorne.

Picks and Plays

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 1: $10,000 Maiden Claiming (one mile, 2:30 p.m. ET)

#7 No Joking Matter (3-5) showed pace-pressing speed when finishing fifth in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis earlier this month. Dropping down to the $10,000 maiden claiming level can trigger a winning performance, especially since No Joking Matter looks ready to shake loose on an easy lead under red-hot jockey Declan Cannon.

Let’s single No Joking Matter to start a cold double wager:


  • #7 No Joking Matter (3-5)
  • #2 Lizzsaidno (5-1)
  • #6 Valine (6-1)


  • $30 Double: 7 with 6

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs, 3:01 p.m. ET)

Since 2018, trainer John Ortiz has compiled a stellar 7-for-13 (54%) record debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Horseshoe Indianapolis. This bodes well for Ortiz’s unraced two-year-old #6 Crown Imperial (7-2), a daughter of champion juvenile Classic Empire.

Crown Imperial recently breezed a quick half-mile from the Keeneland starting gate in :48 and is slated to be ridden by McKenna Anderson, who has gone 2-for-5 (40%) teaming up with Ortiz over the last two months.

We’ll bet Crown Imperial to win, single her to conclude our double wager, and key her over #1 April Clover (8-5) in the exacta.


  • #6 Crown Imperial (7-2)
  • #1 April Clover (8-5)
  • #3 Heavenly Dream (2-1)


  • $20 to win on #6 Crown Imperial
  • $10 Exacta: 6 with 1
    Total: $30

Presque Isle Downs: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (4 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 3:27 p.m. ET)

Since 2021, trainer Timothy Hamm has gone 6-for-21 (29%) debuting juveniles in sprints at Presque Isle Downs. That’s why we’ll favor Hamm’s #3 Late Night Living (4-1) in this maiden dash for two-year-olds. The son of Catalina Cruiser brings an encouraging work tab to the table and will be ridden by hot jockey Pablo Morales, a 28% winner to start the Presque Isle meet.

A win bet on Late Night Living will be our primary play, followed by an exacta using #6 Going Up (5-2) for second place.


  • #3 Late Night Living (4-1)
  • #6 Going Up (5-2)
  • #5 A Bit of Captain (3-1)


  • $22 to win on #3 Late Night Living
  • $8 Exacta: 3 with 6
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Hawthorne: Race 1: $5,069 Pick 5 carryover (3:30 p.m. ET)

One of the most enticing carryovers up for grabs on the final day in May can be found at Hawthorne, where the 50-cent Pick 5 has tossed up a non-jackpot prize pool worth $5,069.

Looking for singles to build tickets around? We’ve got a couple to consider in the first two legs of the sequence:

Race 1: $5,000 Claiming (one mile and 70 yards): #4 Behavin Myself (8-5)

Speed has been dominant racing one mile and 70 yards over the Hawthorne dirt. Since the start of the current meet, pacesetters have won at a 42% rate (from a sample size of 62 races), while horses designated with the “E” (Early) running style by Brisnet have won 63% of races.

The only E horse entered in the opening race at Hawthorne is Behavin Myself, and the five-year-old gelding should be tough to catch. In a $5,000 claimer over this track and distance on May 21, Behavin Myself led by daylight at every call to dominate by five lengths, earning a career-best 80 Brisnet Speed rating.

That performance might look like an outlier at first glance, but on May 7 Behavin Myself employed pace-tracking tactics to finish third in a $5,000 claimer over this track and distance, earning a sharp 78 Brisnet Speed rating. He’s in strong form right now and has every chance to secure the lead on Wednesday, setting the stage for a gate-to-wire victory. The fact he campaigns for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Olaf Hernandez and Antonio Meraz (3-for-9, 33% together over the last two months) adds to the appeal.

Race 2: $40,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles on turf): #5 Trail Ridge Road (5-2)

Trail Ridge Road looks like a perfect fit for this contest. She’s 2-for-2 over the Hawthorne turf course, winning her debut by 5 1/4 lengths before returning to this course last fall to win the Illini Princess S. by two lengths.

Trail Ridge Road enters off three straight defeats, but one of those was a third-place finish in the Albert M. Stall Memorial S. at Fair Grounds, and last time out she was beaten only 3 3/4 lengths in a Keeneland allowance. Returning to Hawthorne can trigger a winning performance from Trail Ridge Road, whose trainer—Mickey Goldfine—has compiled a stellar 8-5-2-1 record this meet. That equates to a 63% win rate and a 100% in-the-money rate.

Good luck!