Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Feb. 8
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Gulfstream Park and Mahoning Valley, along with horses to play in lucrative carryovers at Turfway Park and Charles Town.
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Picks and Plays
Gulfstream Park: Race 2: $25,000 Maiden Claiming (five furlongs on Tapeta, 12:39 p.m. ET)
#2 No Deliberation (5-2) enters off encouraging performances over this class level at Gulfstream. In a seven-furlong dirt dash on Nov. 26, No Deliberation carved out the pace before weakening late to finish third by 1 1/2 lengths. Then on Dec. 10, No Deliberation employed pace-tracking tactics to finish third in a six-furlong dirt sprint, earning a career-best 74 Brisnet Speed rating.
No Deliberation was claimed out of the latter contest by high-percentage trainer Jorge Delgado, who wins at a 29% rate with horses running back for the first time following a claim. Switching to Tapeta offers potential for improvement from No Deliberation, especially since Delgado has gone 27-for-130 (21%) over the Gulfstream Tapeta since the track opened.
#5 Darkdeserthighway (2-1), runner-up in a $16,000 maiden claimer over this track last month, can battle with #6 Raka Raka Cruz (7-2) for exacta honors.
- #2 No Deliberation (5-2)
- #5 Darkdeserthighway (2-1)
- #6 Raka Raka Cruz (7-2)
- $16 to win on #2 No Deliberation
- $7 Exacta: 2 with 5,6 ($14)
Gulfstream Park: Race 6: $20,000 Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 2:38 p.m. ET)
#8 Tempora (5-2) has run well in a couple of recent one-mile contests against tougher competition over the Gulfstream turf course. She set the pace on her way to third place (beaten half a length) in a $35,000 claimer on Dec. 9, and she employed pressing tactics to finish sixth (by 2 1/2 lengths) in a $50,000 claimer on Jan. 18.
Descending to the $20,000 level might be all Tempora needs to visit the winner’s circle, considering trainer Ralph Nicks wins at a 25% rate with horses dropping multiple levels down the class ladder. But the fact Tempora broke her maiden in a $35,000 maiden claimer sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over the Gulfstream Tapeta adds to the appeal, since she’s returning to that track and distance on Wednesday.
We’ll bet Tempora to win and key her over #5 Walks Like a Lady (4-1) and #7 Noble Dreamer (3-1) in the exacta.
- #8 Tempora (5-2)
- #5 Walks Like a Lady (4-1)
- #7 Noble Dreamer (3-1)
- $16 to win on #8 Tempora
- $7 Exacta: 8 with 5,7 ($14)
Mahoning Valley: Race 6: Allowance (one mile, 3:05 p.m. ET)
#1 Star Hawk (5-2) has won six of his last seven starts, including two in a row at Mahoning Valley. He dominated an $8,000 starter allowance on Nov. 10 by 7 3/4 lengths, then trounced a $5,000 starter allowance on Dec. 5 by 2 3/4 lengths.
Those efforts produced sharp Brisnet Speed ratings of 94 and 96, with the latter ranking as Star Hawk’s career-best number. He looks ready to extend his hot streak on Wednesday, with #6 Outlier (3-1) and #5 John’s Rock (6-1) looming as logical candidates to round out the exacta.
- #1 Star Hawk (5-2)
- #6 Outlier (3-1)
- #5 John’s Rock (6-1)
- $15 Exacta: 1 with 5,6 ($30)
Turfway Park, Race 4: $41,720 Pick 5 carryover (7:25 p.m. ET)
Arguably the most enticing carryover up for grabs on Wednesday can be found at Turfway Park, where the 50-cent Late Pick 5 boasts a non-jackpot $41,720 prize pool.
Winning a share won’t be easy, but we can simplify the process of ticket construction by singling #6 Decree of Love (5-2) in Race 4, a $5,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won two races. The distance is one mile on Tapeta, and those conditions should prove a perfect fit for #6 Decree of Love (5-2).
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Decree of Love misfired in a $15,000 claimer sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Turfway last month, fading to finish ninth after pressing the early pace, but we’ll forgive that effort since Decree of Love has done her best work running long. Two starts back, she finished third in a $15,000 claimer racing one mile at Turfway, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths after leading with a furlong remaining. She also ran second in $20,000 and $30,000 claimers racing one mile over the Horseshoe Indianapolis turf course last fall.
Trainer Mike Maker wins at a 25% rate with horses dropping multiple levels down the class ladder, and Decree of Love has posted Brisnet Speed ratings in the 72-77 range in four of her last five starts, so in terms of recent Speed ratings she’s clearly the fastest filly in Wednesday’s field. If Decree of Love prevails as a 5-2 single, we’ll be off to a nice start in the Pick 5.
Charles Town, Race 4: $23,538 Pick 5 carryover (8:25 p.m. ET)
If you miss out on hitting the Pick 5 at Turfway Park, no worries—Charles Town also has a hefty Pick 5 carryover on the table. The prize pool for Wednesday’s sequence at the bullring oval stands at $23,538.
Looking for a single to build tickets around? Look no further than #4 Sir Alfred James (1-1) in Race 6, a 6 1/2-furlong allowance. Sir Alfred James kicked off 2023 with a sharp pace-tracking victory in a six-furlong allowance at Laurel Park, prevailing by 2 1/4 lengths with an excellent 98 Brisnet Speed rating.
Sir Alfred James has already shown an affinity for the tight-turning track at Charles Town, charging from off the pace to win the seven-furlong Russell Road S. last August with a 95 Brisnet Speed rating. Returning to Charles Town for an allowance stamps Sir Alfred James as an obvious choice to take home top honors as a short-priced Pick 5 single.
Turfway Park, Race 8: $7,585 Super High 5 carryover (9:25 p.m. ET)
The Pick 5 carryover isn’t the only non-jackpot prize pool up for grabs on Wednesday at Turfway. There’s also a $7,585 carryover in the $1 Super High 5.
The wager is available to play in Race 8, a $7,500 maiden claimer taking place over one mile on Tapeta. You can make a case for many of the participants, but if forced to choose one horse to key on top, we would side with #3 Weather Prayer (4-1).
Granted, Weather Prayer hasn’t cracked the trifecta in nine starts. But he’s fired off several decent efforts against tougher competition. In December 2021 and January 2022, Weather Prayer ran fourth in $30,000 and $40,000 maiden claimers racing one mile at Turfway.
Weather Prayer recently returned from a long layoff to finish seventh in a $15,000 maiden claimer sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Turfway. He’s since breezed a bullet half-mile in :49 3/5 over this track, so dropping down in class and stretching out in distance may be a recipe for success.