Thursday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: $1.2 million juvenile debuts

June 27th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Thursday, June 27 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Churchill Downs, including horses to play in Churchill’s $2,817 Super High 5 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Churchill Downs $2,500 Thursday Leaderboard: Place $10+ win wagers at Churchill Downs on Thursday to accumulate points and compete for your share of $2,500 in prizes.
  • 10x Points on Harness Racing: Receive 10x reward points on all harness racing wagers (excluding show bets) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
  • Hoosier Park $1,000 Late Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 4 at Hoosier Park on any Thursday in June to win your share of a $1,000 daily prize pool.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Horseshoe Indianapolis: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on turf, 4:45 p.m. ET)

#2 Special Justice (3-1) dueled for the lead through hot fractions in his debut sprinting six furlongs over the Horseshoe Indianapolis dirt. He ultimately faded to finish fifth in a large field, but was in contention until the eighth pole.

Stretching out over one mile should allow Special Justice to be part of an easier pace, and switching to turf shouldn’t be an issue since his sire—Triple Crown winner Justify—is proving to be an excellent source of grass prowess. Throw in the fact trainer Brad Cox wins at a 29% rate with horses running long for the first time, and Special Justice is a compelling win choice.


  • #2 Special Justice (3-1)
  • #5 Vincita (7-2)
  • #4 Hot Wings (9-2)


  • $30 to win on #2 Special Justice

Churchill Downs: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 5:58 p.m. ET)

#12 Sandman (6-1) is a son of three-time leading North American sire Tapit out of Distorted Music, who previously foaled four-time stakes winner She Can’t Sing, winner of the Chilukki (G3) at Churchill Downs. This classy pedigree is surely one reason why Sandman sold for $1.2 million earlier this year.

Sandman has since put together a sharp work tab for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, twice clocking half a mile at Churchill Downs in :47 1/5. He appears to have talent, and his 6-1 odds are enticing, so let’s try a win bet on this promising colt.


  • #12 Sandman (6-1)
  • #6 Normandy Coast (6-1)
  • #5 Exuberant Mischief (10-1)


  • $25 to win on #12 Sandman

Churchill Downs: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 6:56 p.m. ET)

#4 Trouble’s Roaring (4-1) has finished second in five straight maiden special weights on dirt and Tapeta, losing four of them by a neck or less. Perhaps switching to turf can trigger the improvement he needs to win.

After all, Trouble’s Roaring is a son of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up World of Trouble (who sires 20% winners on turf) out of Franderella, the dam of turf stakes winner Tizsfranderella. Throw in the fact Trouble’s Roaring is adding blinkers, and a solid case can be made for Trouble’s Roaring to improve meaningfully on Thursday.

A win bet is the way we’ll play.


  • #4 Trouble’s Roaring (4-1)
  • #9 Send Cash (3-1)
  • #3 Beer Run (5-2)


  • $20 to win on #4 Trouble’s Roaring

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs: Race 1: $2,817 Super High 5 carryover (5:00 p.m. ET)

The opening race on Thursday’s evening card at Churchill Downs features a $2,817 carryover in the $1 Super High 5. It’s an enticing way to kick off the night.

Race 1 is a $50,000 maiden claimer for three-year-olds and older horses racing 1 1/16 miles on dirt. The par winning Brisnet Speed rating for these conditions at Churchill is 84, but none of the eight entrants have posted a number higher than 82, so this doesn’t look like the strongest field on paper.

Consider morning line favorite #7 Bricklayer (5-2), a three-year-old colt who earned that field-topping 82 Brisnet Speed rating when finishing third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Keeneland during the spring. The problem is, Bricklayer was recently beaten to second place in a $30,000 maiden claimer racing one mile at Churchill, earning a 75 Speed rating. He’s a logical contender to finish in the money on Thursday, and perhaps even win, but we can’t recommend keying him on top while ascending the class ladder.

#2 Seven Taylors (7-2) is another logical contender after finishing third in a $50,000 maiden claimer racing one mile at Churchill last time out, earning a 77 Speed rating. A top-three finish is surely within reach, and so is victory. But his form lines aren’t solid enough to warrant keying on top.

That’s why midrange longshot #8 Tapitoro (5-1) is an intriguing horse to consider playing in first place (and in other slots, too). Last year, he finished sixth and ninth in his first two starts against maiden special weight company on turf before switching to Tapeta to finish fifth over the same class level.

Those three efforts weren’t anything to write home about, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Tapitoro can move forward on Thursday:

  • He’s switching surfaces.
  • He’s dropping in class.
  • He’s making his first start as a gelding.
  • He’s adding Lasix.
  • He’s running for the first time since November.
  • He’s switching to the barn of trainer Norm Casse, a 38% winner with horses running for the first time under his care.
  • He’s picking up Tyler Gaffalione, the leading jockey at Churchill Downs this meet.

If we count on Bricklayer and Seven Taylors to both finish in the top three, and use Tapitoro across many slots (including on top), we should have a fair chance to catch a nice-paying Super High 5 payoff.

Good luck!