Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 16
Picks and Plays
#7 Exact (2-1) looms as a logical favorite, after she wired a pair of five-furlong sprints at Gulfstream in dominant fashion. The Todd Pletcher-trained filly scored by 4 3/4 lengths in a $16,000 maiden claiming event, then came back to win a $35,000 claiming race by the same margin.
But Exact is set to face several speedy rivals Friday, which could lend an advantage to #1 Running Memories (9-2). The daughter of Bahamian Squall has plenty of tactical speed, as she demonstrated when she wired a $25,000 maiden claiming race at five furlongs over the Gulfstream lawn.
But Running Memories isn’t a need-the-lead type. In the five-furlong Melody of Colors S. at Gulfstream last month, she broke slowly and ran into traffic off the turn, but rallied steadily up the inside to finish fourth, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
I’m optimistic Running Memories will receive a better trip Friday, which sets the stage for a return to the winner’s circle. Underneath, Exact can battle with #3 Headline Hunter (4-1) for the minor awards.
The Dougledogdare has attracted a deep field, with #6 Speech (8-5), #1 Royal Flag (5-2), and #5 Bonny South (3-1) the three morning line favorites.
All three are graded stakes winners, and Speech warrants respect, since she won the 2020 Ashland (G1), over 1 1/16 miles, at Keeneland in track-record time.
But Speech, Royal Flag, and Bonny South are all returning from layoffs. With this in mind, I wonder if #4 Eres Tu (4-1) can steal the show at a fair price.
Eres Tu went undefeated in three 2020 starts and wrapped up her campaign with a victory in the Allaire du Pont S. (G3) at Laurel Park. She wasn’t quite as productive in her 2021 debut, when she finished second by 1 3/4 lengths in the Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park. But Eres Tu arguably ran a winning race. She rallied wide into a hot pace and succumbed in the final furlong to a ground-saving deep closer. According to data from Trakus, Eres Tu ran three lengths farther than the winner.
Let’s take a shot with Eres Tu to win and play her on top in the exotics.
$15 to win on #4 Eres Tu
$10 exacta: 4 with 6
$2.50 trifecta: 4 with 6 with 1,5 ($5)
Pletcher has been on fire at Keeneland this spring, with an 8-1-3 record from 14 starts. He can pick up another winner with #3 Mubtadaa (2-1) in the Friday finale.
A well-bred son of War Front, out of a Tapit mare, Mubtadaa didn’t run poorly in his Jan. 30 debut. In a five-furlong sprint over the Gulfstream turf course, Mubtadaa chased a quick pace from third place and came home fourth, beaten just 2 3/4 lengths by the winner, for a 80 Brisnet Speed rating.
Mubtadaa has the pedigree to stretch out over 1 1/16 miles. Jockey Luis Saez has won 10 of 20 starts riding for Pletcher over the last two months, so let’s bet Mubtadaa to win and key him over #4 Uncle Duke (12-1) and #6 Scarlet Fusion (9-5) in the exacta.
$20 to win on #3 Mubtadaa
$5 exacta: 3 with 4,6 ($10)
The Rainbow Pick 6 carryover at Gulfstream Park has been steadily growing over the past few weeks and has surpassed the half-million mark for Friday’s card. A mandatory dispersal of the jackpot is scheduled for Saturday, when the final pool is projected to reach $3 million.
The jackpot was almost won on the afternoon Gulfstream announced the upcoming mandatory payout. The first two races in Thursday’s Rainbow 6 sequence produced 73-1 and 18-1 upsets, which is often enough to trigger a unique winning ticket. But after favorites won the remaining four races, three winning tickets cashed for $31,240.54 to avoid the dispersal of the jackpot.
Many bettors figure to focus their attention on Saturday’s card and take a pass on Friday’s Rainbow 6. But there is always a chance someone could construct a unique winning ticket Friday and spoil the show, so if you’re interested in playing along, here is a pair of singles to get you started.
The best recent Brisnet Speed ratings in this low-level claimer belong to Excalibur, who has finished second in three of his last four starts at this track and class level. A mid-pack closer, the Jorge Delgado trainee ran particularly well over this one-mile distance March 24, when he charged hard to finish just a neck behind the winner.
Delgado wins at a 22% rate in claiming races, and jockey Edgard Zayas (a 29% winner when he teams up with Delgado) has the mount.
A gate-to-wire maiden winner over this turf course and five-furlong distance back in January, Dr. Duke ran deceptively strong in the five-furlong Texas Glitter S. at Gulfstream last month.
The son of Ghostzapper steadied severely in traffic around the turn and lost a ton of ground and momentum. But he never gave up and re-rallied up the inside to finish fifth, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by the winner, even though he was blocked behind rivals in deep stretch.
With an unencumbered trip on Friday, Dr. Duke will be tough to deny.