Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 7

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April 7th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $70 worth of picks and plays for Thursday, April 7 at Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park, along with live longshots in the $8,412 Pick 6 carryover at Sam Houston.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Oaklawn Park.
  • Exacta Insurance: Receive refunds on exacta bets (up to $10) if your two selected horses finish in the first three home (but not in the winning order) at Remington Park. Offer applies to straight exacta bets only.
  • Scandinavian Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Umaker (SWE), Gavle (SWE), or Orebro (SWE).

Picks and Plays

Gulfstream Park: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 1:33 p.m. ET)

The first juvenile race of the year at Gulfstream Park has drawn a field of seven first-time starters. Of the lot, #7 Keanu (8-5) looks like the horse to beat.

Owner/breeder Arindel tends to have sharp juveniles ready to roll early in the season, and Keanu is shaping up to be a prime example. The son of Brethren has already posted eight timed workouts, including a trio of half-mile moves. Last Saturday, he clocked the distance in a solid :48 3/5 at Palm Meadows.

Trainer Carlos David wins at a 15% rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, and he compiled a solid 3-1-0-2 (33% wins, 100% in the money) record with juveniles debuting during the first five months of Gulfstream’s 2021 season. For all these reasons, Keanu is an appealing win choice.

#5 Cajun Hope (5-2) can complete the exacta. Sire Cajun Breeze is responsible for 18% winners from first-time starters, and Cajun Hope worked a bullet three furlongs in :35 1/5 last Friday at Gulfstream.

  • $20 win: #7 Keanu
  • $10 Exacta: 7 with 5
    Total: $30

Oaklawn Park: Race 5: $62,500 Maiden Claiming (one mile, 4:03 p.m. ET)

#9 Major Contender (2-1) has shown respectable form against maiden special weight company. In his debut sprinting six furlongs at Fair Grounds, he finished fifth behind a trio of next-out winners, including future Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up Zozos. Major Contender subsequently ran third in an identical race at Fair Grounds before finishing fifth in a one-mile heat at Oaklawn.

Dropping into the maiden claiming ranks should make Major Contender formidable. The Triple Crown nominee is conditioned by Brad Cox, who strikes at a 32% rate with horses making this class drop. Cox also strikes at a 33% rate with horses running long for the second time, so expect Major Contender to step forward in his second start over one mile.

#3 Wildwood Z (9-2) can complete the exacta. He showed pacesetting speed when finishing second in his debut for a $30,000 tag over 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn, beaten only by next-out starter allowance winner Clancy’s Pistol. Wildwood Z is stepping up in class, but the 74 Brisnet Speed rating he posted on debut is solid, and he figures to secure an easy lead in this largely paceless field.

Taking advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Major Contender before keying him over Wildwood Z in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #9 Major Contender
  • $10 Exacta: 9 with 3
    Total: $20

Oaklawn Park: Race 9: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 6:10 p.m. ET)

#8 Little Mombo (3-1) might be 0-for-3, but all three of those defeats were on-the-board efforts over this track, distance, and class level. She’s actually finished second in her last two starts, earning Brisnet Speed ratings of 87 and 86 that top Thursday’s field.

Little Mombo has tactical speed and doesn’t appear to be facing the toughest group of rivals. She’s already defeated morning line favorite #7 Ari Oakley (5-2) and can do so again if she produces her typical performance. A fast half-mile workout in :47 2/5 last Friday adds to the appeal.

Continuing our pursuit of the Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Little Mombo. Then we’ll key her over Ari Oakley in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #8 Little Mombo
  • $10 Exacta: 8 with 7
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Sam Houston: Race 4: $8,412 Pick 6 carryover (6:15 p.m. ET)

The Thursday card at Sam Houston is highlighted by an $8,412 carryover in the Space City Pick 6, a 50-cent non-jackpot wager featuring a low 12% takeout rate.

A competitive sequence is on top for the Pick 6, so let’s dive in and highlight a couple of midrange longshots with winning potential:

Race 4: $50,000 Maiden Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs): #4 L G Girl (8-1)

#7 Soul Set Free (2-1) and #2 Barleygirl (5-2) are logical favorites while dropping in class out of maiden special weights. But both are pacesetters in a field packed with speed on paper, so we’ll hope to beat them with #4 L G Girl.

In terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, L G Girl ran similarly fast to Soul Set Free and Barleygirl when rallying to finish third in a $50,000 maiden claimer over seven furlongs at Sam Houston last month. Cutting back for a fast-paced 5 1/2-furlong sprint figures to sharpen L G Girl’s stretch kick, and the presence of hot jockey Ry Eikleberry (a 25% winner at Sam Houston) is another significant positive.

L G Girl might not be the type to single, but she does appear set for a competitive effort, making her 8-1 morning line odds highly enticing.

Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs): #9 Moro Legend (6-1)

It’s tempting to single #4 Rush the Colors (1-1), who consistently puts up competitive Brisnet Speed ratings. The four-year-old gelding has hit the board in all five of his starts sprinting over this track and class level, which includes a trio of runner-up efforts last year. But Rush the Colors hasn’t been quite as effective since returning from a long layoff in January, and his 9-0-5-1 career résumé hints he might be content to settle for a minor award.

If you wish to oppose Rush the Colors, #9 Moro Legend offers some appeal. He’s cracked the trifecta in two recent starts over this track and class level, unleashing late rallies to finish second in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint and third in a one-mile heat.

Moro Legend hasn’t run as fast on the Brisnet Speed rating scale as Rush the Colors, but his stretch-running style positions him to take advantage if Rush the Colors falters late, as the frontrunning favorite is prone to do. If Moro Legend springs a surprise, we’ll be well on our way to cashing a solid Pick 6 payoff.

Good luck!