Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for April 8

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 8th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, April 8 at Keeneland and Oaklawn Park, along with horses to single in the $3,852 Pick 5 carryover at Penn National.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 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 Aqueduct. 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 Aby (SWE), Charlottenlund (SWE), Ostersund (SWE), or Romme (SWE).
  • $15,000 Australian Autumn Carnival Leaderboard: Place $10+ win bets at a selected Australian track (this week, Randwick) for a chance to win your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot. Promotion runs every Friday from March 4 through April 8.
  • $15,000 Place Jackpot at Keeneland: Place at least six winning $10+ place bets at Keeneland to win your share of a daily $1,000 jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Keeneland: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 1:00 p.m. ET)

The 2021 Keeneland Spring Meet kicks off with a 4 1/2-furlong dash for two-year-olds, one of those early-season juvenile sprints Keeneland is known for hosting.

Trainer Wesley Ward has enjoyed phenomenal success in races like these. In 2021, Ward went 8-for-15 (53%) debuting juveniles during the Keeneland Spring Meet, which is even more remarkable when you consider how Ward often starts multiple horses in the same race.

Ward will be represented on Friday by #4 Dominicana (5-2) and #7 Insanity It Seems (3-1), and while both are eligible to first strong shots, Dominicana is the one we’ll play on top. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is named to ride the beautifully bred daughter of Uncle Mo, and the fact Dominicana sold for $300,000 as a yearling suggests she comes to her debut with high expectations.

Dominicana has turned in a trio of three-furlong workouts at Keeneland and figures to come out running, so we’ll bet her to win and key her on top of Insanity It Seems and #9 King Adrock (6-1) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #4 Dominicana
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 7,9 ($10)
    Total: $30

Oaklawn Park: Race 2: Allowance (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:29 p.m. ET)

#4 Stratofortress (9-5) has cracked the trifecta in four straight sprints at Oaklawn Park while putting up consistent (and competitive) Brisnet Speed ratings in the 87-89 range. He’s kept good company, too — after breaking his maiden by a neck over next-out winner Life Is Hard, Stratofortress stepped up to finish second in an allowance, beaten only a neck by next-out winner Ernie Banker.

Stratofortress has tactical speed coupled with tractability, so he figures to enjoy a favorable trip in Friday’s heat. We’ll bet him to win and key him on top of promising Oaklawn maiden winner #5 Stayed In for Half (2-1) in a cold exacta.

  • $20 to win on #4 Stratofortress
  • $10 Exacta: 4 with 5
    Total: $30

Keeneland: Race 9: Ashland S. (G1, 1 1/16 miles, 5:16 p.m. ET)

Runner-up in the Adirondack S. (G2) as a juvenile at Saratoga, #2 Interstatedaydream (5-2) recently returned from a long layoff to smash a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Oaklawn Park. Making her first start around two turns, the Brad Cox trainee tracked a modest pace before finishing fast to trounce her rivals by 8 1/4 lengths.

This effort produced a solid 93 Brisnet Speed rating and an excellent 106 Brisnet Late Pace rating, suggesting Interstatedaydream has lots of upside. Throw in the fact Cox wins at a 33% rate with horses running long for the second time, and Interstatedaydream has a live chance to outkick Demoiselle S. (G2) winner #4 Nest (2-1) in the drive to the finish line.

  • $20 to win on #2 Interstatedaydream
  • $10 Exacta: 2 with 4
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Penn National: Race 4: $3,852 Pick 5 carryover (7:22 p.m. ET)

Looking for a little non-jackpot carryover action to purse on Friday? Then you’re advised to check out the evening card at Penn National, where the $1 Pick 5 boasts a $3,852 carryover.

With only 32 entries in the sequence before scratches, the Pick 5 appears winnable on a small budget. There are only 10,080 possible outcomes to consider before scratches.

Even better, you can reduce the number of possibilities to a mere 280 if you’re willing to single the following two horses in Race 5 and Race 8.

Race 5: $25,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs): #2 Dixie Cannonball (7-5)

It’s easy to see why Dixie Cannonball is a clear favorite to win this $25,000 maiden claiming dash. The four-year-old gelding has cracked the trifecta in all three of his starts over this track and class level, putting up consistent Brisnet Speed ratings in the 69-73 range while finishing no more than one length behind the winner on each occasion.

Dixie Cannonball was especially sharp in a six-furlong sprint on March 16, carving out the pace before weakening to finish second by a nose. He’s already defeated four of the five rivals he’ll face on Friday, and hot jockey Ricardo Chiappe is retaining the mount for trainer Kathleen Demasi, who has compiled a terrific 38% win rate at Penn National this meet. Together, Demasi and Chiappe have gone 3-for-5 (60%) over the last two months.

In short, what’s not to like? Dixie Cannonball looks like a viable single.

Race 8: $7,500 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs): #3 Asluckwouldhavit (3-1)

Asluckwouldhavit isn’t the morning line favorite to win this maiden sprint for three-year-olds. That honor belongs to #6 Victory Is Ours (2-1), runner-up in a $10,000 maiden claiming sprint seven furlongs at Parx Racing last month.

But in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, Asluckwouldhavit is easily the fastest horse in Friday’s field. Whereas none of his rivals have posted a figure higher than 61, Asluckwouldhavit threw down a 71 when finishing second over this track, distance, and class level on March 22.

Asluckwouldhavit has tactical speed and retains the services of hot jockey Manuel Aguilar, a 21% winner at Penn National and a 21% winner when teaming up with trainer Bruce Kravets. If Asluckwouldhavit repeats his last performance, he’ll be tough to beat under the same conditions on Friday.

Good luck!