Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Sept. 2

September 2nd, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, Sept. 2 at Delaware Park, Del Mar, and Saratoga, along with horses to play in the $4,882 Pick 5 carryover at Penn National.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Saratoga Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Saratoga.
  • 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).

Picks and Plays

Delaware Park: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

#2 Fabulous Candy (3-2) rallied boldly to finish second in her debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over this track and class level, gaining 3 3/4 lengths in the final furlong alone to finish a neck behind the winner.

This encouraging effort produced a 73 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Friday’s field. Fabulous Candy has come back to work a solid half-mile at Delaware and looks ready to outsprint the class-jumping #6 Bossyness (9-5) and the first-time starter #3 La Traviesa (8-1) to the winner’s circle.

  • $22 Exacta: 2 with 6
  • $8 Exacta: 2 with 3
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 9: Prioress S. (G2, six furlongs, 5:39 p.m. ET)

Graded stakes winners #2 Hot Peppers (7-2) and #1 Wicked Halo (5-1) have both run well at Saratoga, with Hot Peppers finishing second in the Test S. (G1) and Wicked Halo winning the 2021 Adirondack S. (G2). But in terms of Brisnet speed ratings, the fastest filly in Friday’s field is #9 Smash Ticket (4-1).

Smash Ticket ran third in the Sorrento S. (G2) as a juvenile and is 2-for-2 since returning to action as a sophomore. Most recently, the Rob Atras trainee led all the way to win a $62,500 allowance optional claimer sprinting six furlongs against older rivals at Saratoga, earning a career-best 100 Brisnet Speed rating.

Smash Ticket has a chance to exceed expectations while squaring off against fellow three-year-olds for her third run of the season. Taking advantage of the Saratoga Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Smash Ticket, then key her over Hot Peppers and Wicked Halo in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #9 Smash Ticket
  • $5 Exacta: 9 with 1,2 ($10)
    Total: $20

Del Mar: Race 6: $25,000 Claiming (five furlongs on turf, 8:32 p.m. ET)

It’s been a long time since #6 Texas Wedge (4-1) last visited the winner’s circle, but the former graded stakes winner recently ran okay off a layoff in an $80,000 allowance optional claimer sprinting five furlongs over the Del Mar turf, finishing sixth by 3 1/4 lengths after rallying into contention.

Descending to the $25,000 claiming level should put Texas Wedge in the hunt for victory. We’ll bet him to win and box him in a small exacta with #8 Chaos Theory (4-1), who is likewise dropping in class after finishing a slow-starting seventh in a $32,000 claimer over this course and distance.

  • $14 to win on #6 Texas Wedge
  • $3 Exacta box: 6,8 ($6)
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Penn National, Race 4: $4,882 Pick 5 carryover (7:22 p.m. ET)

Friday’s $1 Pick 5 at Penn National features a $4,882 carryover, and although the sequence initially appears straightforward with only 32 entries and 10,584 possible outcomes, the fields are competitive, and winning a share of the carryover might be tricky.

If there’s a reliable single in this challenging sequence, it might be #5 Scary Larry (9-5) in Race 8, the final leg of the Pick 5. The race in question is a $5,000 claimer for horses who have never won two races, and the distance is six furlongs on dirt.

These conditions should suit Scary Larry just fine. The four-year-old gelding has been competing against tougher competition at Penn National, most recently finishing fourth by 6 1/2 lengths in a $10,000 claimer for non-winners of two races.

Scary Larry is squaring off against only six rivals and figures to be formidable while dropping in class for high-percentage trainer Timothy Kreiser, a 27% winner at Penn National and a 36% winner with horses dropping two or more levels down the class ladder. Throw in jockey Manuel Aguilar (a 40% winner teaming up with Kreiser over the last two months), and Scary Larry looks like viable single material.

On the other end of the spectrum, a live “longshot” worth considering is #6 Esta Chuck (4-1) in Race 7, a $5,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won three races. Granted, 4-1 isn’t a giant price, but Esta Chuck is the third choice in a small six-horse field and should boost the Pick 5 payoff if she wins this six-furlong dirt dash.

Esta Chuck has been running long lately and hasn’t hit the board in two starts sprinting, but there are a couple of reasons to believe she can factor while cutting back in distance. This isn’t the toughest field on paper, and Esta Chuck’s sprint defeats have come at higher claiming levels. The lowest tag she’s ever competed for was $6,250, when she won a one-mile heat at Delaware Park by two lengths, so the class drop might put Esta Chuck in the hunt for victory at a nice price.

Good luck!