Thursday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Casse juvenile can shine

May 23rd, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Thursday, May 23 at Gulfstream Park and Churchill Downs, including horses to play in a pair of Super High 5 carryovers.

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 May to win your share of a $1,000 daily prize pool.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Gulfstream Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (five furlongs on Tapeta, 12:55 p.m. ET)

When trainer Mark Casse debuts a juvenile at Gulfstream Park during the first five months of the year, watch out. They’re frequently ready to roll. Since 2021, Casse has gone 7-for-17 (41%) with such runners, which includes a 3-for-10 (30%) record this year alone.

Casse has a couple of fillies debuting in this Tapeta contest, including morning line favorite #7 Stubold (9-5). A daughter of Sky Mesa (who sires a healthy 12% winners from first-time starters), Stubold breezed a bullet half-mile in :48 4/5 earlier this month and looks ready to roll under jockey Miguel Vasquez, who has gone 2-for-9 (22%) teaming up with Casse over the last two months.

A large win bet is in order.


  • #7 Stubold (9-5)
  • #3 Cheese (8-1)
  • #1 Overnight Express (20-1)


  • $30 to win on #7 Stubold

Churchill Downs: Race 2: $50,000 Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 5:58 p.m. ET)

#2 Altered Shot (5-2) is the fastest horse in this field from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, and he appears well-spotted for victory. At Churchill Downs last fall, he led all the way to win a six-furlong $62,500 claimer by 1 1/2 lengths with an 87 Brisnet Speed rating, a number higher than any his five Thursday rivals have ever posted.

Altered Shot has put up even higher numbers on several occasions in the past, including an 88 when surviving a duel to win a $50,000 allowance optional claimer at Ellis Park last summer. He hasn’t run since December, but trainer Greg Foley wins at a lofty 24% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and a bullet half-mile workout in :47 2/5 at Churchill Downs earlier this month suggests Altered Shot is ready for a winning run.

Let’s bet Altered Shot to win and play him over #4 Center Stage (3-1) in a small exacta.


  • #2 Altered Shot (5-2)
  • #4 Center Stage (3-1)
  • #3 Coexist (7-2)


  • $25 to win on #2 Altered Shot
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 4
    Total: $30

Churchill Downs: Race 7: $30,000 Claiming (1 1/8 miles, 7:54 p.m. ET)

#2 Washington’s Union (5-1) didn’t have a fair chance to win his 2024 debut in a $30,000 starter allowance racing 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. The sloppy track strongly favored speed horses, so Washington’s Union—racing in sixth position early on—was compromised by the bias. Plus, he had to check in traffic around the first turn, so we’ll forgive his eighth-place finish.

Washington’s Union wrapped up 2023 with a neck defeat in a $30,000 starter allowance racing 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs, which yielded a career-best 86 Brisnet Speed rating that stacks up well against Thursday’s field. Returning to Churchill (where the track will presumably be fair) for a $30,000 claimer can help Washington’s Union bounce back to peak form.

The thought of getting 5-1 odds is enticing, so we’ll place a win bet on Washington’s Union.


  • #2 Washington’s Union (5-1)
  • #3 J T’s Imagination (5-2)
  • #6 York Tavern (7-2)


  • $20 to win on #2 Washington’s Union

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs: Race 1: $4,940 Super High 5 carryover (7:35 p.m. ET)

Bettors hoping to win a share of Thursday’s $4,940 Super High 5 carryover at Churchill Downs will have to decipher Race 1, a $50,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares who have never won two races. The one-mile dirt contest has drawn a small seven-horse field, so there are only 2,520 possible Super High 5 outcomes to analyze.

The field hasn’t come up especially deep, and there isn’t a ton of pace on paper, so we’re drawn to the chances of #3 Mitole’s Legacy (4-1). Two starts back, the daughter of champion sprinter Mitole led all the way to dominate a $30,000 maiden claimer sprinting six furlongs at Oaklawn Park by 4 1/4 lengths, earning a respectable 75 Brisnet Speed rating.

Mitole’s Legacy followed up with a fine runner-up finish in a $40,000 claimer sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs, in which she tracked the early pace from third place before rallying to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner. That effort yielded a 74 Brisnet Speed rating.

Mitole’s Legacy was claimed out of her last race by trainer George Bush, who wins at a 33% rate with horses running back for the first time following a claim. If Mitole’s Legacy shakes loose on an easy lead while stretching out over a one-turn mile, she can wire this field at nice odds. We recommend taking a stand and keying her on top in the Super High 5.

Gulfstream Park: Race 8: $4,589 Super High 5 carryover (4:20 p.m. ET)

There’s also a $4,589 Super High 5 carryover up for grabs at Gulfstream Park, but mathematically speaking it looks a lot harder to hit than the Churchill carryover. The prize pool is on the table in Race 8, a $35,000 maiden claimer for three-year-olds racing one mile on turf, and assuming a dozen horses start (15 are entered, including three also-eligibles) there will be 95,040 possible Super High 5 outcomes to analyze.

Despite the large field, there isn’t a ton of speed in the entries, so #9 Whiting Field (6-1) looks like a nice-priced contender to build tickets around. He’s set or pressed the pace in each of his last six starts and hasn’t missed the board in any of them. Last time out, he finished second by a neck in a $35,000 maiden claimer racing 1 1/16 miles over the Gulfstream turf.

We anticipate that Whiting Field will snatch a top-three finish on Thursday, and counting on him to do so is a good start toward assembling Super High 5 tickets.

Good luck!