Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Sept. 16

September 16th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Sept. 16 at Churchill Downs and Belmont at the Big A, including tickets for Churchill’s $2,986 Super High 5 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Churchill Downs Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Churchill Downs.
  • $3,000 Los Alamitos Leaderboard: Place $10+ win bets at Los Alamitos to climb a weekly leaderboard and earn your share of a $3,000 jackpot.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in eligible races at Randwick (Australia).
  • Exacta Insurance: Receive refunds on exacta bets (up to $10) if your two selected horses finish in the first three home (but not in the winning order) in select races at Pimlico. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.

Picks and Plays

Belmont at the Big A: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

#3 Unknown Agenda (9-5) looks primed to win on debut for hot trainer Todd Pletcher, a 24% winner this year and a 20% winner with first-time starters. As a son of Munnings out of a mare by Scat Daddy, Unknown Agenda is bred to win from an early age; both his sire and dam sire are responsible for 16% winners from first-time starters.

Unknown Agenda has put together a solid work tab at Saratoga, including a bullet half-mile from the starting gate in :47 3/5, so we know he has some talent. Throw in three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (a 26% winner teaming up with Pletcher over the last two months), and Unknown Agenda is a logical choice to beat fellow first-time starters #4 Signator (4-1) and #6 Quick Hammer (5-2).

  • $20 to win on #3 Unknown Agenda
  • $5 Exacta: 3 with 4,6 ($10)
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 2:45 p.m. ET)

#2 Recker Point (3-1) ran well in his debut over this distance and class level at Ellis Park, tracking the early pace before staying on to finish third with a 76 Brisnet Speed rating that tops Friday’s field.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas rarely saddles winning first-time starters, but his success rate increases significantly to 10% with second-time starters, so Recker Point is eligible to improve in his second run under colors. We’ll play him in the exacta with #3 Solomon Vandy (9-2) and #1 Wadsworth (4-1).

  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 1,3 ($10)
  • $5 Exacta: 1,3 with 2 ($10)
    Total: $20

Churchill Downs: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 3:50 p.m. ET)

#8 Zeitlos (8-1) lost her jockey at the start of her Aug. 13 debut sprinting six furlongs at Churchill Downs, but she’s come back to post three workouts at Churchill (including a quick five furlongs in 1:00 3/5) and looks ready to factor in her second run under colors.

As a daughter of Curlin out of a mare by Redoute’s Choice, Zeitlos has the pedigree to shine while stretching out over one mile. Jockey Ricardo Santana has gone 3-for-5 (60%) teaming up with trainer Steve Asmussen over the lost two months, so all signs suggest Zeitlos is ready for a competitive effort.

#5 Magical Lute (4-1) and #9 Batucada (7-2) can battle for exacta honors.

  • $20 to win on #8 Zeitlos
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 5,9 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs, Race 10: $2,986 Super High 5 carryover (5:26 p.m. ET)

It didn’t take the Churchill Downs September meet very long to toss up a non-jackpot carryover. The second day of the meet brings a $2,986 prize pool in the $1 wager.

Unfortunately, winning a share of the carryover won’t be easy. At all. The Super High 5 is available to bet in Race 10, a $30,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won two races. The distance is 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt, and there are 13 horses (including one also-eligible) in the entries. Assuming a dozen runners start, there are 95,040 possible outcomes. Yikes!

Since $1 Super High 5 wagers can quickly grow expensive to play, we’ll have to take a stand somewhere. And by “somewhere,” we mean on top of our tickets, where we’ll key #2 Zmuda (6-1) to win.

A three-year-old daughter of Violence, Zmuda has been facing arguably tougher competition than she’ll encounter on Friday. Last time out, she closed ground over a sloppy track at Ellis Park to finish fifth in an allowance for non-winners of two races. And two starts back, she rallied strongly to finish second by a head in an unrestricted $50,000 claimer at Churchill Downs.

In both of those races, Zmuda was competing against fellow three-year-old fillies, so the fact she’s stepping outside her age group for Friday’s race is a question mark. But most of her rivals are also three years old, and Zmuda ran third over this precise track, distance, and class level during the Churchill Downs spring meet, so tackling older rivals might not be as challenging as it first appears.

Underneath Zmuda, we’ll favor a few runners. #5 Zing (4-1) has never run shorter than one mile, but she’s competed well against allowance company at Horseshoe Indianapolis and may appreciate dropping down in class and distance. #8 Believing (8-1) was beaten a head sprinting over this track and class level back in June, and two subsequent defeats can be chalked up to facing tougher competition and running long. #10 Jumakan Bourbon (5-1) won a $50,000 maiden claimer at Churchill during the spring and is eligible to challenge while dropping in class out of four straight allowances.

  • $1 Super High 5: 2 with 8,10 with 5,8,10 with 4,5,8,10,11 with 1,4,5,6,8,9,10,11 ($60)

Good luck!