Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 19
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Monday, April 19 at Indiana Grand, Parx, and Turf Paradise, including thoughts on a pair of vulnerable favorites in Turf Paradise’s $225,649 Pick 6 carryover.
Picks and plays
Indiana Grand’s signature races, the Indiana Derby (G3) and Indiana Oaks (G3), are slated to take place July 7, as part of an action-packed card. In anticipation of this exciting day of racing, TwinSpires has put together a special promotion — bet at least $1,000 at Indiana Grand in April, May, or June, and you’ll receive $30 to wager on Indiana Derby Day at Indiana Grand. Bet at least $1,000 at Indiana Grand in all three months, and you’ll receive $150.
There are some nuances involved (show bets don’t count toward the $1,000), but if you were already planning to play the Indiana Grand meet, this offer is well worth pursuing. We’ll start the ball rolling with $35 in plays for Monday’s fifth race, a low-level claiming sprint.
According to stats from Brisnet, 45% of five-furlong sprints at Indiana Grand are won in gate-to-wire fashion, so we’ll place our faith in #9 Artegon (7-2).
Whereas morning line favorite #8 Olson (7-5) has employed stretch-running tactics in recent starts (with his best efforts coming on turf and synthetic), Artegon is a pure frontrunner and has been victorious in his last three starts on dirt. Olson is coming out of tougher races, but Artegon has posted similar Brisnet Speed ratings and will be tough to catch if he brings his "A" game to his 2021 debut.
$25 to win on #9 Artegon
$10 exacta: 9 with 8
#6 Ashaab (7-2) ran a solid race when he was favored in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Penn National, where he rallied to finish third, for a 82 Brisnet Speed rating. The strength of the race was reiterated, when the top two finishers returned to win their next starts.
As a son of Tapit, out of the multiple stakes-winning miler Wasseema, Ashaab figures to appreciate the stretch out to seven furlongs in his second start. A quick, half-mile workout April 2 suggests he is still in good form, and trainer Jorge Maymo wins at a 22% rate with horses beaten as the favorite in their previous start.
We’ll bet Ashaab to win, then play him over #8 Kodapendent (4-1) and #10 Mean Machine (9-2) in the exacta and trifecta.
$15 to win on #6 Ashaab
$5 exacta: 6 with 8,10 ($10)
$2.50 trifecta: 6 with 8,10 with 8,10 ($5)
In a small field, without a ton of speed, #2 J J’s Crown (4-1) looms as the fastest runner from a Brisnet E1 and E2 pace rating perspective.
He faltered after he dueled for the lead through fast fractions in an allowance last time out, but a drop in class, with an easier lead, can help J J’s Crown turn things around at a fair price.
#5 Warriors Hero (5-2) and #1 Willtobelucky (2-1) are the logical favorites worth using in exacta and trifecta wagers.
$15 to win on #2 J J’s Crown
$5 exacta: 2 with 1,5 ($10)
$2.50 trifecta: 2 with 1,5 with 1,5 ($5)
Less than two weeks remain in the current Turf Paradise meet, which is slated to conclude May 1. Will anyone hit the Grand Canyon Pick 6 jackpot before closing day? Or will the carryover for the 20-cent wager continue to grow until a mandatory payout day?
If Monday’s card is any indication, the jackpot has a strong chance to survive. Monday’s Pick 6 sequence features just 49 entries (8.2 per race) before scratches, including a trio of seven-horse fields. It’s a solid day of racing but probably not the type to trigger a unique winning ticket.
On Thursday at Turf Paradise, every winner in the Pick 6 started at 6-1 or less, including five winners under 3-1. But only one betting favorite reached the winner’s circle, and the 20-cent payoff was $4,371.51.
We’ve gone through Monday’s Pick 6 sequence and highlighted a couple favorites that appear vulnerable. If we can take down multiple favorites, perhaps we can catch a four-figure payoff.
The opening leg of the Pick 6 a perfect spot for Joe Jackson, who will drop in class after he squared off against tougher company in four starts at Turf Paradise this year.
But Joe Jackson regressed sharply in his most recent run, when he faded to finish seventh for a $4,000 claiming tag, and he can’t afford to bring his "B" game against Monday’s competitive field.
Many of his rivals have been posting similar or faster Brisnet Speed ratings, so even a peak effort from Joe Jackson isn’t guaranteed to produce a victory.
The stretch-running My First Pearl ran well in a race similar to this at Turf Paradise last month, when she rallied down the stretch to finish second by just a neck.
But closers are typically at a disadvantage in six-furlong sprints at Turf Paradise, and My First Pearl is far from a standout on the Brisnet Speed rating scale. Many of her rivals have posted similar or faster figures, including #11 Tiz Tenacious (5-1), who finished just 1 1/4 lengths behind My First Pearl last month. #6 Gemstone Gal (7-2) ran significantly faster than My First Pearl when she finished second by a head in the March 12 Arizona Oaks.
My First Pearl is certainly a logical contender, but she doesn’t appear unstoppable, and beating her with a better-priced alternative will help boost the Pick 6 payoff.