Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of Sept. 1

September 1st, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Sept. 1 at Saratoga and Del Mar, along with horses to single in Pick 6 carryovers at Saratoga (where the prize pool is $111,630) and Colonial Downs.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Del Mar Daily Double Down: Receive a 25% bonus (up to $25 per day) on winning daily double wagers on Thursdays and Fridays at Del Mar. Your base wager amount must be minimum $2.
  • Saratoga $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races Wednesday through Sunday at Saratoga.
  • Colonial Downs $2,500 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 at Colonial Downs to earn your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.
  • Summer International Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any eligible race at York (UK).

Picks and Plays

Saratoga: Race 4: Saranac (G3, 1 1/16 miles on turf, 2:52 p.m. ET)

#2 Carl Spackler (4-5) has shown flashes of significant talent on turf. Last time out, the Chad Brown trainee rallied sharply to win the one-mile National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) by 2 1/4 lengths.

A similar performance can land Carl Spackler in the Saranac winner’s circle, so we’ll single him to start a cold double wager and key him over his up-and-coming stablemate #5 Activist Investing (7-2) in an exacta.


  • #2 Carl Spackler (4-5)
  • #5 Activist Investing (7-2)
  • #1 Taking Candy (8-1)


  • $40 Double: 2 with 5
  • $10 Exacta: 2 with 5
    Total: $50

Saratoga: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 3:26 p.m. ET)

#5 Locked (6-5) suffered a troubled start when debuting in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga last month, but the son of Gun Runner rallied steadily to finish third, beaten only 3 1/2 lengths in a fast race.

Locked has the pedigree to stretch out over one mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who wins at a 22% rate with horses running long for the first time. We’ll single Locked to conclude our double wager and bet him over #8 Right to Vote (8-1) and #6 Drum Roll Please (5-1) in the exacta.


  • #5 Locked (6-5)
  • #8 Right to Vote (8-1)
  • #6 Drum Roll Please (5-1)


  • $10 Exacta: 5 with 8

Del Mar: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs on turf, 6:00 p.m. ET)

#1 Persia (7-2) is a beautifully bred daughter of War Front out of Miss Temple City, which is a pedigree geared toward success on turf. She’s conditioned by hot trainer Richard Mandella, a 26% winner at Del Mar this meet who has saddled one winner and three runners-up from six juveniles debuting in turf sprints at Del Mar since 2018.

Persia enters her debut off a promising work tab and has jockey Hector Berrios (a solid 18% winner on turf) slated to ride. Let’s bet her to win and call it a day.


  • #1 Persia (7-2)
  • #9 April Vintage (4-1)
  • #8 Vibez (3-1)


  • $30 to win on #1 Persia

Carryover Watch

Colonial Downs: Race 4: $439 Pick 6 carryover (2:54 p.m. ET)

If you want to win a share of the non-jackpot $439 Pick 6 carryover on the table at Colonial Downs this Friday, you’ll want to find a trustworthy single somewhere in the sequence. Before scratches, the six races contain 57 horses (averaging 9.5 per race), which works out to 594,594 possible outcomes.

Fortunately, a single candidate can be found in Race 8, a $50,000 maiden claimer for two-year-olds racing 1 1/16 miles on turf. Since there are 11 horses in the entries, singling in Race 8 reduces the number of Pick 6 possibilities to consider from 594,594 down to 54,054, an enticing drop.

The horse we’re keen to back is #8 Pirate Radio (5-2). Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse (a 31% winner at Colonial Downs this meet), Pirate Radio has competed twice against maiden special weight competition over the Colonial Downs turf, showing tactical speed on both occasions before weakening to finish sixth and fifth. Dropping down the class ladder and adding blinkers should be all Pirate Radio needs to take home top honors under hot jockey Antonio Gallardo, a 24% winner at Colonial this meet.

Saratoga: Race 5: $111,630 Pick 6 carryover (3:26 p.m. ET)

There’s also a non-jackpot Pick 6 carryover up for grabs at Saratoga this Friday. The prize pool is a massive $111,630, so the potential exists for a big payoff.

Looking for a single to build tickets around? Look no further than the above-mentioned #5 Locked (6-5) in Race 5, a one-mile maiden special weight. True, he’s facing half a dozen promising first-time starters, and some Pick 6 bettors might feel inclined to spread deep and cover the unknowns. But if Locked runs back to his debut, he’ll be tough to beat. Even with the trouble he had at the start, Locked posted a 91 Brisnet Speed rating that ranks seven points higher than the par winning number (84) for Friday’s conditions.

To put it another way, one of the first-time starters would have to run significantly faster than par to match the number Locked posted on debut. And since Locked has upside for improvement with a clean start, he’s a compelling Pick 6 single.

Good luck!