Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Sept. 4

September 4th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares Labor Day picks and plays for Saratoga and Del Mar, along with horses to use in carryovers at Golden Gate Fields and Louisiana Downs.

Picks and Plays

Saratoga: Race 3: Bernard Baruch S. (1 1/16 miles on turf, 1:48 p.m. ET)

#5 Emaraaty (3-1) wired the 2022 Bernard Baruch by 3 1/2 lengths over multiple graded stakes winner City Man, who came back to win three consecutive stakes. Emaraaty’s Bernard Baruch victory followed a rallying triumph in an $80,000 allowance optional claimer over the Saratoga grass.

Emaraaty is 4-for-5 racing on turf at Saratoga and 1-for-13 over all other turf courses, so we’ll excuse his sixth-place finish in a deep edition of the Poker (G3) at Belmont Park to kick off 2023. There isn’t much pace in this year’s Bernard Baruch field, so if Emaraaty switches back to pacesetting tactics in his return to Saratoga, he can defend his title for hot trainer Chad Brown.

The multiple Grade 1-placed #4 Wit (7-5) is a logical choice for the exacta.


  • #5 Emaraaty (3-1)
  • #4 Wit (7-5)
  • #2 Pioneering Spirit (7-2)


  • $20 to win on #5 Emaraaty
  • $10 Exacta: 5 with 4
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 5: Tranquility Lake S. (one mile, 6:38 p.m. ET)

La Brea (G1) winner #5 Fun to Dream (4-5) is the heavy favorite while dropping in class, but all four of her stakes wins have come in sprints, and she finished last when returning from a layoff in the 1 1/16-mile Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar last month.

#3 Micro Share (5-2) can steal the show. The improving Richard Mandella trainee won a $40,000 allowance optional claimer over this track and distance last month by 2 1/4 lengths, a performance flattered when runner-up #1 Trouville (15-1) came right back to win a similar race.

Mandella has been hot at Del Mar this meet, so let’s bank on Micro Share to deliver an upset victory over Fun to Dream and recent $80,000 allowance optional claiming winner #4 Yuki (7-2).


  • #3 Micro Share (5-2)
  • #4 Yuki (7-2)
  • #5 Fun to Dream (4-5)


  • $18 to win on #3 Micro Share
  • $7 Trifecta: 3 with 5 with 4
  • $5 Trifecta: 3 with 4 with 5
    Total: $30

Del Mar: Race 10: Generous Portion S. (six furlongs, 9:10 p.m. ET)

#1 Crazy Hot (8-5) posted a flashy 94 Brisnet Speed rating when dominating her debut at Santa Anita by 10 3/4 lengths. She’s since placed in a pair of stakes, earning back-to-back 78 Brisnet Speed ratings that stack up well against the Generous Portion field.

But Crazy Hot is facing a talented rival in #2 Blevys Tiger (5-2). A shipper from Golden Gate Fields, Blevys Tiger ran second in her debut (beaten only by next-out stakes winner Grand Slam Smile), then comfortably won a maiden special weight over a next-out Del Mar maiden winner.

Let’s box Crazy Hot and Blevys Tiger in a large exacta.


  • #1 Crazy Hot (8-5)
  • #2 Blevys Tiger (5-2)
  • #6 Prancingthruparis (6-1)


  • $15 Exacta: box 1,2 ($30)

Carryover Watch

Golden Gate Fields: Race 1: $2,467 Super High 5 carryover (4:45 p.m. ET)

The opening race on the Labor Day card at Golden Gate Fields features a non-jackpot carryover worth $2,467 in the $1 Super High 5.

Race 1 is a $12,500 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won two races. It’s a tricky race to handicap because only #8 Little Liliana (3-1) has won on turf, nabbing a five-furlong maiden special weight at Del Mar two years ago. Unfortunately, she’s only run once since then, finishing last of six in a $25,000 claimer on dirt at Los Alamitos 2 1/2 months ago.

Returning to turf and dropping further down the class ladder can potentially trigger a rebound; Little Liliana’s maiden victory is certainly good enough to win this $12,500 claimer. But the fact she showed little to nothing in her return from a 22-month layoff makes her tough to trust. She could win on Monday, or she could finish last.

Regardless of whether you use or exclude Little Liliana, #2 Cry Me a Runner (6-1) is worth playing at enticing odds. She hasn’t missed the board in her last six starts for $12,500 and $10,000 claiming tags, so she fits well at this class level.

Cry Me a Runner has competed primarily on synthetic and dirt, but on Aug. 6 she gave turf a try in a $12,500 claimer at Santa Rosa and showed pace-pressing speed to finish second by a nose. The 75 Brisnet Speed rating she received stacks up well against Monday’s field, suggesting Cry Me a Runner is a win threat under red-hot jockey Alejandro Gomez.

Louisiana Downs: Race 3: $2,962 Pick 5 carryover (6:01 p.m. ET)

At Louisiana Downs, there’s a non-jackpot carryover worth $2,962 on the table in the 50-cent Pick 5.

Finding a single isn’t easy, but #3 Taps Mistress (2-1) in Race 5 is a possibility. The race in question is a maiden special weight for two-year-old fillies traveling 7 1/2 furlongs on turf, and for the most part the experienced runners bring uninspiring form to the mix.

Taps Mistress is an exception. She rallied to finish third in her debut on dirt in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for Texas-breds at Lone Star Park, earning a 60 Brisnet Speed rating that tops Monday’s field.

Taps Mistress is a half-sister to a pair of turf winners, so switching surfaces may trigger improvement. Trainer Jayde Gelner has gone 3-for-10 (30%) at Louisiana Downs this meet and 2-for-2 (100%) teaming up with jockey Joel Dominguez over the last two months, so there’s a lot to like about Taps Mistress. In a competitive Pick 5, she’s as logical a single as any.

Good luck!