Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 14

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April 14th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, April 14 at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland, along with horses to single in the $45,509 Pick 6 carryover at Aqueduct.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Keeneland.
  • 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) at Remington Park. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Scandinavian Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at select Swedish tracks.
  • $15,000 Place Jackpot at Keeneland: Place at least six winning $10+ place bets at Keeneland to win your share of a daily $1,000 jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Keeneland: Race 4: $10,000 Starter Allowance (six furlongs, 2:36 p.m. ET)

Malibu S. (G1) runner-up #5 Baby Yoda (1-1) is the heavy favorite while dropping from the stakes ranks into a $10,000 starter allowance. But the former claimer has lost four straight races dating back to October and was defeated at 3-5 in the Pelican S. at Tampa Bay Downs to kick off 2022, suggesting Baby Yoda isn’t necessarily unbeatable at a short price.

#1 One for Richie (5-2) is a logical alternative. The six-year-old veteran has been in hot form at Oaklawn Park this year, sandwiching a pair of decisive $10,000 starter allowance wins around a runner-up effort in a $16,000 starter allowance. In the $16,000 event, One for Richie was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths by Greeley and Ben, a three-time stakes winner victorious in 12 of his last 14 starts.

Let’s bet One for Richie to win, then key him over Baby Yoda in a cold exacta.

  • $20 to win on #1 One for Richie
  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 5
    Total: $30

Keeneland: Race 8: Allowance (1 1/16 miles on turf, 4:44 p.m. ET)

#7 Fluffy Socks (2-1) has competed with aplomb against stakes competition for nine straight starts. Along the way, she’s won the 1 1/8-mile Sands Point S. (G2) and one-mile Jimmy Durante S. (G3), in addition to placing third in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) and American Oaks (G1).

Fluffy Socks has been freshened since December and should be tough to beat while dropping in class for a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance at Keeneland. It’s worth noting trainer Chad Brown has gone 26-for-92 (28%) saddling fillies and mares over the Keeneland lawn since 2017.

Taking advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Fluffy Socks. Then we’ll key her over the in-form #3 Pass the Plate (6-1) and the up-and-coming Turf Paradise stakes winner #5 Norma Jean B. (5-2).

  • $10 to win on #7 Fluffy Socks
  • $5 Exacta: 7 with 3,5 ($10)
    Total: $20

Gulfstream Park: Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (about 5 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 4:51 p.m. ET)

#8 Queen Macha (9-2) isn’t exactly a winning machine, but she’s hit the board in all seven of her starts to date, including a quartet over the synthetic Tapeta track at Gulfstream Park. Six of her starts have come running longer than one mile, and her shortest race to date was a 7 1/2-furlong turf test.

Queen Macha is eligible to produce an improved performance while cutting back sharply in distance to 5 1/2 furlongs. Queen Macha is a stretch-running type, and the presumably fast pace of Thursday’s test stands to sharpen her late kick. The fact hot trainer Jose D’Angelo has gone 11-for-29 (38%) saddling sprinters over the Gulfstream Tapeta adds to the appeal.

We’ll bet Queen Macha to win, then key her over logical favorites #5 Fulton Market (5-2) and #7 Sadie Bear (3-1) in the exacta and trifecta.

  • $20 to win on #8 Queen Macha
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 5,7 ($10)
  • $2.50 Trifecta: 8 with 5,7 with 5,7 ($5)
    Total: $35

Carryover Watch

Aqueduct, Race 4: $45,509 Pick 6 carryover (2:54 p.m. ET)

The racing week at Aqueduct begins on an exciting note with a $45,509 non-jackpot carryover up for grabs in the $1 Pick 6.

A challenging sequence is on tap, but we’ve analyzed the entries and identified a pair of possible singles to build tickets around:

Race 4: $40,000 Maiden Claiming (1 1/16 miles on turf): #8 Investment Income (1-2)

There’s a reason why Investment Income is the 1-2 morning line favorite to win this maiden claimer for fillies and mares. Actually, there are several reasons, starting with the fact Investment Income is dropping down in class.

All five of Investment Income’s races have come at the maiden special weight level, and she even ran third in a 1 1/8-mile turf heat at Aqueduct last fall. Her lone run since then wasn’t as inspiring, producing a last-of-six finish at Gulfstream Park, but that race took place over a synthetic Tapeta track. Returning to turf should help Investment Income rebound.

There are other factors in her favor as well. Trainer Chad Brown has gone 14-for-57 (25%) saddling fillies and mares in turf routes at Aqueduct since 2019, and jockey Manny Franco (a 41% winner teaming up with Brown over the last two months) is named to ride.

All things considered, Investment Income looms as a logical single to kick off the Pick 6.

Race 7: $62,500 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile): #1 Default Protection (5-2)

Only five fillies and mares will face the starter in this one-mile heat, and although Default Protection isn’t the morning line favorite, she looks like a formidable win threat for Chad Brown.

Default Protection rallied mildly to finish third in her debut sprinting at Aqueduct late last year, beaten 6 3/4 lengths by next-out winner Violent Vixen. But then Default Protection stretched out over one mile and obliterated a maiden special weight at Aqueduct, tracking the pace before finishing fast under a hand ride to prevail by 12 1/2 lengths.

Default Protection followed up with a sharp allowance win racing one mile at Aqueduct, again tracking the pace before kicking away to score by 2 1/2 lengths. Her 2-for-2 record over the track and distance of Thursday’s test is enticing, as is the fact jockey Eric Cancel (a 43% winner teaming up with Brown over the last two months) is named to ride.

The Grade 1-placed #2 Make Mischief (9-5) is the morning line favorite, but she’s returning from a five-and-a-half-month layoff and has been defeated in her last six starts, albeit while facing tougher company. If Make Mischief needs a race off the break, then the red-hot form of Default Protection can win the day.

Good luck!