Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 11

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April 11th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $100 worth of picks and plays for Monday, April 11 at Will Rogers Downs, plus price horses to play in the $6,322 Pick 5 carryover at Turf Paradise.

Picks and Plays

Will Rogers Downs: Race 1: $15,000 Claiming (one mile, 2:00 p.m. ET)

#5 Vivo (8-5) was last seen finishing second by a nose in a $25,000 claimer for Minnesota-breds racing one mile at Canterbury Park. This narrow defeat produced a career-best 74 Brisnet Speed rating, and while that race took place in August, it’s worth noting trainer Francisco Bravo wins at a solid 18% rate with horses returning from long layoffs.

According to data from Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances, pacesetters tend to struggle racing one mile at Will Rogers Downs, and horses breaking from posts 4-7 have an advantage. Since Vivo is a stretch runner breaking from post 5, his profile should suit this race. Bravo has been hot at Will Rogers Downs, winning at a 24% rate, and hot apprentice jockey Kylee Jordan (winning at a 35% rate) is named to ride, which means Vivo will benefit from a five-pound weight allowance.

In short, Vivo looks like a solid win choice. #1 Champs Success (2-1) can round out the exacta after finishing third in a six-furlong sprint over this track and class level last month.

  • $25 to win on #5 Vivo
  • $10 Exacta: 5 with 1
    Total: $35

Will Rogers Downs: Race 6: Allowance (six furlongs, 4:20 p.m. ET)

#2 Justaboutright (7-2) boasts an excellent 8-3-3-1 record at Will Rogers Downs and has shown promising form against quality competition, even winning the Oklahoma Classics Filly and Mare Starter Stakes at Remington Park last fall.

Justaboutright was last seen finishing second in a $15,000 starter optional claimer on Dec. 16 at Remington, but the winner (Lady Ave) returned to win her next three starts and finished second in a stakes, so the caliber of competition was high. Trainer Alan Williams wins at a solid 22% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and Justaboutright has been turning in fast workouts at Will Rogers Downs, so all signs suggest Justaboutright can fire a winning shot in her 2022 debut.

#1 Distorted Flash (5-2), #3 Catechism (9-5), and #5 Juliard Honor (3-1) can battle for places in the exacta and trifecta.

  • $15 to win on #2 Justaboutright
  • $6 Exacta: 2 with 1,3 ($12)
  • $2 Trifecta: 2 with 1,3 with 1,3,5 ($8)
    Total: $35

Will Rogers Downs: Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 5:16 p.m. ET)

#2 Nordic Queen (9-5) didn’t run badly in her debut against maiden special weight company at Sam Houston last month, passing a couple of rivals to finish fifth in a six-furlong sprint. The 80 Brisnet Speed rating she posted tops the competition at Will Rogers Downs.

Nordic Queen has come back to post a pair of workouts, including a half-mile from the Will Rogers Downs starting gate in :49 3/5. Her off-the-pace running style should be advantageous while stretching out over one mile, and the five-pound weight allowance provided by jockey Kylee Jordan is another positive.

We’ll key Nordic Queen on top of exacta and trifecta tickets.

  • $10 Exacta: 2 with 3,5 ($20)
  • $2.50 Trifecta: 2 with 3,5 with 3,5,6 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Turf Paradise, Race 4: $6,322 Pick 5 carryover (5:48 p.m. ET)

The racing week at Turf Paradise kicks off with an enticing $6,322 carryover up for grabs in the 50-cent Pick 5.

The non-jackpot wager is stacked with competitive fields, so we’ve gone through the entries and identified a pair of non-favored runners with opportunities to outrun expectations.

Race 4: $10,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile on turf): #2 Sly (4-1)

It’s been a while since Sly last competed on turf. The six-year-old gelding has spent his recent starts competing on dirt, smashing a $20,000-$15,000 allowance optional claimer racing one mile at Turf Paradise before coming home ninth against tougher competition in the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Park H. at Sunland Park.

But Sly is eligible to fire a strong shot while switching to grass. His 2-for-12 record over the surface isn’t overly eye-catching, but all 12 of those runs came against tougher competition on the Southern California circuit. Sly broke his maiden for a $40,000 claiming tag racing one mile over the Santa Anita lawn and later won a $25,000 claimer over the same course and distance.

On Monday, Sly will make his second start since being claimed by high-percentage trainer Martin Valdez-Cabral, who strikes at a 50% rate (from a 12-horse sample size) with horses running back for the second time following a claim. Throw in hot jockey Harry Hernandez (a 25% winner on turf), and Sly offers a lot of appeal.

Race 6: $30,000 Maiden Optional Claiming (six furlongs) #8 Stubborn Love (10-1)

There are some capable experienced runners in this six-furlong sprint for three-year-old fillies, but the best of them have all been defeated on multiple occasions while posting Brisnet Speed ratings lower than par for this track, distance, and class level. Perhaps this race is ripe for an upset from a first-time starter.

Stubborn Love might be the one. The daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati hails from the barn of trainer Craig Smith, who is 1-for-1 at Turf Paradise this meet. Smith wins at a lofty 21% rate overall with first-time starters and has gone 5-2-1-1 (40% wins, 80% in the money) saddling first-time starters at Turf Paradise since 2020.

These stats suggest Stubborn Love will be ready to roll on debut, and she’s certainly shown promise in the mornings, most recently clocking a swift five furlongs from the Turf Paradise starting gate in :59 4/5. If Stubborn Love wins at anything close to her 10-1 morning line odds, we’ll be well on our way to cashing a lucrative payoff.

Good luck!