Homeracing

Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 14

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 14th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Wednesday, April 14 at Keeneland and Will Rogers Downs.

Three $10 win bets, capitalizing on the Midweek Bet Back promotion, are first on the agenda, followed by a look at Keeneland’s $53,696 non-jackpot Pick 6 carryover. Yes, you read that right — the whole pot is up for grabs Wednesday!

Picks and plays

Keeneland, Race 4: Maiden special weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Trainer Wesley Ward has historically excelled in Keeneland’s spring sprints for juveniles, with close to 50% winners. On Wednesday, he’ll be expected to pick up another victory, with #6 Happy Soul (9-5), who looms as a deserving favorite, after she blazed a bullet half-mile workout from the Keeneland starting gate in :46 4/5 April 6.

But Happy Soul isn’t necessarily bred to be an early maturing filly. Her sire, Runhappy, is responsible for just 4% winners from first-time starters, while dam Lucky Cowgirl has produced just two juvenile winners from eight starters.

If Happy Soul needs a little more time to grow up, #8 San Costantino (4-1) can steal the show. A son of Violence (who sires 17% debut winners), San Costantino has turned in a pair of fast half-mile workouts from the Keeneland starting gate, including a bullet :47 1/5 move April 8.

Trainer Timothy Hamm has compiled a 1-0-1 record from three juvenile races at Keeneland over the last five years.

$10 to win on #8 San Costantino
$5 exacta: 8 with 6,10 ($10)
Total: $20

Will Rogers Downs, Race 7: $7,500 claiming (one mile, 4:48 p.m. ET)

#3 Town Drunk (9-5) has shipped in from Oaklawn Park and is bound to be a popular play, but the chestnut gelding hasn’t finished better than seventh in two starts this season, and his recent Brisnet Speed ratings suggest he isn’t a lock to win against easier competition at Will Rogers Downs.

#2 Mayfair Heights (2-1) is a logical alternative for trainer Karl Craddock, who has won four races from 15 starts (27%) at Will Rogers this meet. In a race over this track, distance, and class level on March 30, Mayfair Heights carved out the pace and finished second, beaten a neck but 8 1/2 lengths clear of the rest.

That effort produced a 77 Brisnet Speed rating, and hot jockey Leandro Goncalves (a 22% winner at Will Rogers) has retained the mount. Mayfair Heights will be the subject of our win bet, and we’ll also play him over Town Drunk in the exacta.

$10 to win on #2 Mayfair Heights
$5 exacta: 2 with 3
Total: $15

Will Rogers Downs, Race 9: $7,500 claiming (six furlongs, 5:44 p.m. ET)

#2 Im Justa Bachelor (5-2) brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the table for hot trainer Austin Gustafson.

The bay gelding didn’t bring his "A" game when he was beaten by 11 3/4 lengths over this track and class level April 6, but Im Justa Bachelor was attempting to stretch out over one mile, and he figures to rebound on the cut back to six furlongs.

Three starts back, he was beaten just a half-length over this distance in a $5,000 claiming event at Sam Houston, and a return to this level of form can send Im Justa Bachelor back to the winner’s circle.

#5 Catch This Star (5-1), who will also cut back in distance, off a disappointing effort running long, can round out the exacta.

$10 to win on #2 Im Justa Bachelor
$5 exacta: 2 with 5
Total: $15

Carryover watch

Keeneland, Race 3: $53,969 Pick 6

Most Pick 6 carryovers these days are of the jackpot variety, which requires bettors to construct a unique winning ticket to take down the whole pool.

But Keeneland is a holdout, and its traditional Pick 6 features an enticing carryover of $53,696 for Wednesday’s card. Construct a winning ticket, and you’ll split the carryover with all other successful bettors.

But this opportunity comes at a literal price. The minimum bet amount is $1, which makes Keeneland’s Pick 6 five times more expensive to play than the 20-cent jackpot varieties found at many other tracks. A ticket that costs $24 at Mahoning Valley costs $120 to play at Keeneland, so finding a logical single (or two) is critical to keep costs down.

Let’s take a quick race-by-race look at the sequence, then put together a ticket on a $72 budget.

Race 3: $50,000 claiming

Trainer Todd Pletcher has been on fire at Keeneland, with a 7-1-2 record from 12 starts, so don’t sleep on the chances of #5 Mubarmaj (5-2).

The son of Curlin recently returned from a 15-month layoff to finish sixth in a tough, one-mile allowance at Gulfstream Park, where he was beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Kentucky Derby (G1) alumnus Attachment Rate.

With hot jockey Luis Saez (a 33% winner at Keeneland) in the saddle, Mubarmaj looms as a potential single.

Race 4: Maiden special weight

We previously highlighted #6 Happy Soul (9-5) and #8 San Costantino (4-1) as the logical favorites in this maiden sprint for two-year-olds, and we suggest using both for the Pick 6.

Race 5: Allowance

This 1 1/8-mile grass allowance has come up tough, and spreading with a few horses may be necessary. #4 Talking Book (9-2), #5 Linny Kate (3-1), and #11 Lake Lucerne (6-1) are the logical players for high-profile connections.

Race 6: $50,000 maiden claiming

Pletcher’s second and final runner of the day is #5 Deemed Essential (2-1), who has hit the board in three of her four starts against maiden special weight company. The daughter of Upstart brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings and figures to relish the drop to the maiden claiming ranks, a winning move 35% of the time for Pletcher.

If you’re looking for another single, Deemed Essential might be the one, though #3 Take Charge Patti (8-1) offers some appeal in her return to dirt for the first time since a runner-up effort against maiden special weight company at Keeneland last fall.

Race 7: Allowance

This is a competitive turf test, with plenty of logical contenders. Spreading — with #2 Stunning Sky (2-1), #4 Joy Epifora (3-1), and #7 Temple City Terror (3-1) — might be necessary to survive.

Race 8: $20,000 claiming

#3 Verified (5-2) has been running well against $30,000 claiming company and looms as a logical favorite on a drop down the class ladder.

But don’t overlook the Triple Crown nominee #7 Inspector Frost (9-2), who broke his maiden by two lengths against maiden special weight company at Keeneland last fall. Although he has disappointed in his last three starts, the son of Frosted has faced much tougher company and is eligible to bounce back against easy competition for trainer Brad Cox.

$1 Pick 6: 5 with 6,8 with 4,5,11 with 3,5 with 2,4,7 with 3,7 ($72)

Good luck!

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