Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Dec. 29

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 29th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Dec. 29 at Parx Racing and Mahoning Valley, along with a suggested single for the $46,708 Pick 5 carryover at Tampa Bay Downs.

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 Mahoning Valley.
  • Rest of the World Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Sha Tin (Hong Kong).

Picks and Plays

Mahoning Valley: Race 5: $8,000 Claiming (six furlongs, 2:36 p.m. ET)

#6 Overbearing is the logical favorite after winning $8,000 and $10,000 claimers sprinting six furlongs at Mahoning Valley. But the speedy gelding had to work hard on both occasions, and it’s fair to question whether he can produce a third peak effort on short rest, especially while squaring off against fellow in-form speedster #8 Makes Good Sense (7-2).

That’s why we’ll take a shot with #2 Honor Life (8-1). The stretch-running gelding has hit the board in four straight $15,000 allowance optional claimers at Mountaineer while posting sharp Brisnet Speed ratings. His 7-2-2-1 lifetime record at Mahoning is solid, and Honor Life may receive the pace setup he needs to spring a surprise.

Taking advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Honor Life, then bet him on top of Overbearing and Makes Good Sense in the exacta.

  • $10 to win on #2 Honor Life
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 6,8 ($10)
    Total: $20

Parx Racing: Race 8: Parx Futurity (seven furlongs, 3:23 p.m. ET)

#12 Buy the Rent (9-5) has been in sensational form for hot trainer Cathal Lynch. The daughter of Tapiture has rattled off four straight victories, including decisive triumphs in the Smart Halo S. and Gin Talking S. sprinting at Laurel Park.

Buy the Best has some tactical speed, but is versatile in terms of running style, affording her options for working out a favorable trip in the Parx Futurity. If Buy the Best brings her A-game, she can out-kick the Grade 1-experienced #10 Miss Interpret (5-2) and the twice stakes-placed #8 Captainsdaughter (9-2) in the race to the finish line.

  • $20 to win on #12 Buy the Best
  • $5 Exacta: 12 with 8,10 ($10)
    Total: $30

Parx Racing: Race 9: Parx Juvenile S. (seven furlongs, 3:54 p.m. ET)

#6 Speaking (6-1) couldn’t quite hold his own against graded stakes company in the one-mile Nashua S. (G3) at Belmont last month, fading to finish sixth after pressing the pace. But the two-year-old gelding had previously rattled off back-to-back blowout sprint wins at Monmouth Park, including a 3 1/4-length victory in the Smoke Glacken S.

With a pair of 90 Brisnet Speed ratings under his belt, Speaking is fast enough to vie for victory while dropping down in class and distance for the Parx Juvenile. We’ll place a large win bet on Speaking and call it a day.

  • $30 to win on #6 Speaking

Carryover Watch

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 5: $46,708 Pick 5 carryover (2:18 p.m. ET)

If you’re looking for a non-jackpot carryover to pursue this week, let us point you toward Tampa Bay Downs. The Florida racetrack has put together an excellent Wednesday card highlighted by a $46,708 carryover in the 50-cent Late Pick 5.

The sequence spans Races 5-9, a series containing 47 entries (averaging 9.4 per race) and 72,000 possible outcomes. No fewer than three of the races contain 10-horse fields. Assembling a winning ticket won’t be easy, but if we can identify a trustworthy single or two, we can sharply reduce ticket costs and still have a good chance at success.

The best opportunity for a single might come in Race 9, a $16,000 allowance optional claimer slated to take place over five furlongs on turf. Speed tends to be an asset in grass dashes, and that certainly holds true at Tampa Bay Downs. The Florida oval has hosted a quintet of five-furlong turf sprints so far this meet, with pacesetters winning 40%. Horses drawn in post 1 have likewise won at a 40% clip.

Granted, the sample sizes are small, but those stats point toward #1 Jura (3-1) as the horse to beat on Wednesday. The three-year-old gelding showed plenty of speed over this course and distance on Dec. 11, tracking hot fractions of :21.22 and :44.24 in a maiden special weight before taking command to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

With the exception of a slow-starting debut performance, Jura has set or tracked the pace in all of his starts, and his 4-1-2-1 lifetime record is a sign of talent and consistency. Jura’s Brisnet Speed ratings are solid, and accomplished jockey Samy Camacho is retaining the mount for trainer Reeve McGaughey, whose record at Tampa this meet stands at a solid 5-1-2-0. If Jura breaks alertly from the rail, he can make his first start against winners a successful one, providing us with a single to conclude the Pick 5.

Good luck!