Keeler Johnson's picks and plays April 21

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 21st, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, April 21 at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, and Keeneland, including horses to single in Keeneland’s $41,273 Pick 6 carryover.

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 Aqueduct. 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 Jagersro (SWE), Gavle (SWE), or Umaker (SWE).
  • $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

Gulfstream Park: Race 1: $20,000 Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 1:05 p.m. ET)

#1 Prefect (2-1) appears well-spotted for victory in this $20,000 claimer for non-winners of three races. In a one-mile turf test over this course and class level on March 24, Prefect tracked the early tempo before staying on to finish second, earning a solid 88 Brisnet Speed rating.

This marked Prefect’s first grass run since nabbing a $30,000 claimer for non-winners of two races at Belmont Park last fall. Prefect was claimed out of the March 24 heat by trainer Aubrey Maragh (a 27% winner with new claiming acquisitions), so Prefect figures to fire another strong shot while sticking to the same course and class level. Plus, drawing the rail sets the stage for a ground-saving trip.

#2 Al Hilal (8-1), third behind Prefect on March 24, can complete the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #1 Prefect
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 2
    Total: $25

Keeneland: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 4:12 p.m. ET)

#9 Falconet (8-5) ran strongly in her debut sprinting seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park last month. After tracking the early pace, Falconet closed ground gamely to finish second, beaten only a head while posting an excellent 90 Brisnet Speed rating.

As a daughter of Uncle Mo out of the stakes-winning Summer Bird mare Birdatthewire, Falconet figures to appreciate stretching out around two turns. Trainer Todd Pletcher wins at a 24% rate with horses running long for the first time, and hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione is named to ride, so let’s take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer and place a $10 win bet on Falconet.

#8 Friendship Road (9-2) can round out the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #9 Falconet
  • $10 Exacta: 9 with 8
    Total: $20

Aqueduct: Race 7: $80,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (six furlongs, 4:38 p.m. ET)

#2 Jaxon Traveler (2-1) is dropping in class after competing in 12 straight stakes, winning three. The speedy son of Munnings has placed a couple of times against graded stakes company and rarely runs a bad race. He even showed an affinity for Aqueduct when finishing second in the six-furlong Gravesend S. three starts back.

Descending into the allowance ranks should make Jaxon Traveler formidable for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Jaxon Traveler can lead the way home over recent Aqueduct allowance winner #1 Mr Phil (4-1).

In addition to a win bet on Jason Traveler, we’ll play a cold $10 exacta capitalizing on the Exacta Insurance promotion.

  • $20 to win on #2 Jaxon Traveler
  • $10 Exacta: 2 with 1
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Keeneland, Race 4: $41,273 Pick 6 carryover (2:36 p.m. ET)

One of the most enticing Thursday carryovers is on the table at Keeneland, where the $1 non-jackpot Pick 6 has tossed up a $41,273 prize pool.

The fields are deep and competitive, and finding singles won’t be easy. But after analyzing the sequence, we’ve identified a couple of potential standouts to build tickets around:

Race 6: $50,000 Starter Allowance (one mile on turf): #2 Eyes On Target (5-2)

After competing without much success in four straight allowance and allowance optional claimers on the New York circuit, Eyes On Target produced a big effort in a $50,000 claimer on Dec. 17 at Gulfstream Park. Racing 1 1/16 miles over the turf course, Eyes On Target settled in last place through the opening half-mile before rallying boldly between rivals to win by three-quarters of a length.

Eyes On Target was claimed out of that race by trainer Mike Maker, who has not infrequently claimed turf horses and turned them into stakes stars. Eyes On Target hasn’t run since, but he’s trained nicely for his return (even breezing a bullet five furlongs at Keeneland last month), and Maker wins at a respectable 18% rate with horses running back off long layoffs. Throw in the presence of three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz (a 44% winner teaming up with Maker over the last 60 days), and Eyes On Target looms as the horse to beat at Keeneland.

Race 9: $20,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs): #9 Hot Anna (4-1)

Hot Anna might not be the morning line favorite in this maiden claiming dash for fillies and mares, but her credentials are promising. Last summer, the Kenny McPeek trainee unleashed late rallies to finish fourth and third in her first two starts against $50,000 maiden claiming company at Churchill Downs and Saratoga, earning solid Brisnet Speed ratings of 70 and 74.

Two months ago, Hot Anna returned from a long layoff to rally and finish fifth in a $40,000 maiden optional claimer sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream Park turf course, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths. There’s a fair amount of early speed in Thursday’s field, so returning to dirt and dropping in class can trigger a rebound in Hot Anna’s second start of the season. Keep in mind, McPeek wins at a 19% rate with horses transitioning from turf to dirt.

Good luck!