Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays for April 1

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April 1st, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson is ready to start April on a winning note with picks and plays for Thursday, April 1 at Gulfstream Park and Sam Houston.

Promotional offers from TwinSpires include the Winter Midweek Bet Back (receive a refund, up to $10, on win bets in select races, if your horse finishes second) and Trifecta Thursdays (receive a 15% bonus, up to $25, on winning trifecta tickets).

In addition to capitalizing on these TwinSpires promotions, Keeler is keen to chase a $33,117 Super High 5 jackpot carryover at Sam Houston.

Picks and plays

Gulfstream Park, Race 1: $16,000 Maiden claiming (1 1/16 miles on turf, 1 p.m. ET)

The majority of the fillies and mares in this field have tasted defeat on multiple occasions. The lone exception is #7 Miss Ghislaine (3-1), a second-time starter who may have more upside than her rivals.

Trained by Christophe Clement (a 20% winner overall and a 19% winner in turf races), Miss Ghislaine didn’t run badly in her Jan. 27 debut over the Gulfstream turf course. In a one-mile, $20,000 maiden claiming race, Miss Ghislaine fought her rider significantly near the back of the pack, raced wide on both turns, and ultimately unleashed a belated rally to finish fifth, just two lengths behind the winner.

If Miss Ghislaine relaxes better Thursday, she can produce a winning effort. If she saves more ground, she can produce a winning effort. Combine the two, and the daughter of Noble Mission could be unstoppable. She is dropping down to the $16,000 claiming level and picking up jockey Joe Bravo, a 29% winner with Clement over the last two months.

A $10 win bet will be our first order of business, followed by a small trifecta, with Miss Ghislaine over #9 Tami’s Orchard (5-2) and a bevy of others.

$10 to win on #7 Miss Ghislaine
$1 trifecta: 7 with 9 with 1,3,4,5,6 ($5)
$1 trifecta: 7 with 1,3,4,5,6 with 9 ($5)
Total: $20

Gulfstream Park, Race 3: $25,000 Maiden claiming (1 1/16 miles on turf, 2:07 p.m. ET)

One of the key contenders in this competitive turf route is #3 Alonzo Mosely (7-2), who finished third for a $35,000 claiming tag over this course and distance Feb. 19. But if you like Alonzo Mosely on the class drop, why not consider #4 Fear the Deer (20-1), who finished just two lengths behind Alonzo Mosely in sixth place?

Fear the Deer made his debut for trainer Dale Romans (who wins at just a 6% rate with first-time starters on turf). He didn’t run badly in the scheme of things and finished just 5 3/4 lengths behind the winner. The race featured a steady pace and quick finishing fractions, so Fear the Deer figures to appreciate the drop in class for Thursday’s test.

Fear the Deer has also moved to the barn of trainer Larry Bates, who has enlisted hot jockey Edwin Gonzalez (a 31% winner this year) to ride. As a son of Declaration of War, out of a Rock Hard Ten mare, Fear the Deer has the pedigree to improve with maturity, so let’s place a $10 win bet on Fear the Deer and see if we can get him home on top at a big price.

$10 to win on #4 Fear the Deer

Sam Houston, Race 9: Allowance (5 1/2 furlongs, 8:46 p.m. ET)

Pacesetters win 40% of 5 1/2-furlong sprints at Sam Houston, which suggests the speedy #1 Missiszippy Bling (12-1) will be a danger from the rail under high-percentage jockey Ry Eikleberry.

The filly ran a big race to break her maiden for a $25,000 claiming tag at Sam Houston last month. In her return from a 7 1/2-month layoff, Missiszippy Bling dashed to the lead, widened at the top of the stretch, and cruised home in front by two lengths.

Missiszippy Bling brings encouraging Brisnet Speed ratings to the table for trainer Robertino Diodoro, a 26% winner with horses running back for the second time following a layoff.

Missiszippy Bling figures to come out running from the rail draw, and if she makes the lead, she can vie for victory at a big price.

$10 to win on #1 Missizippy Bling

Carryover watch

Sam Houston, Race 5: Allowance (six furlongs, 3:53 p.m. ET)

Many tracks offer jackpot-style Pick 6 wagers, but only a handful offer Super Hi-5 jackpots. One such track is Sam Houston, which offers the “Houston Hi-5” twice per day.

As of Thursday, the jackpot stands at $33,117, with Race 5 the first opportunity to nab the prize. Though the field looks evenly matched at first glance, #10 Gone Baby Gone (8-5) may have a slight edge.

Never out of the trifecta in three starts, Gone Baby Gone broke her maiden for a $25,000 claiming tag in January at Sam Houston, then stepped up to allowance company March 4 and ran evenly to finish third, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner. The strength of the race was demonstrated when first- and second-place finishers Happy Sailor and Mostly Distorted came back to run first and second again in the Bara Lass S. at Sam Houston.

With back-to-back 72 Brisnet Speed ratings, Gone Baby Gone is fast enough to vie for victory in her second start against allowance company. She also has tactical speed, which is a major asset, since Brisnet running style stats indicate speed horses win 84% of six-furlong sprints at Sam Houston. As a result, we’ll key Gone Baby Gone on top of our tickets.

Underneath, we’ll strongly emphasize #7 Sweet Linda (7-2), who has finished second in five of her six starts on dirt. Her consistency and competitive speed figures make Sweet Linda an appealing runner to use for second and third place.

If we toss out longshots #8 Take Charge Woman (15-1) and #9 Two More Barbo (15-1), who have questions to answer as far as distance preferences and speed figures are concerned, then we can afford to box the rest and still keep ticket costs reasonable.

20-cent Houston Hi-5: 10 with 7 with 2,3,4,5,6 with 2,3,4,5,6 with 2,3,4,5,6 ($12)
20-cent Houston Hi-5: 10 with 2,3,4,5,6 with 7 with 2,3,4,5,6 with 2,3,4,5,6 ($12)
Total: $24

Good luck!