Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Dec. 30

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December 30th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, Dec. 30 at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, and Turfway Park, along with horses to play in lucrative five-figure carryovers at Aqueduct and Turfway Park.

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 Aqueduct.

Picks and Plays

Aqueduct: Race 4: $25,000 Claiming (six furlongs, 2:11 p.m. ET)

#2 Hoopla (3-1) has shown strong form in recent starts. After wiring a $30,000 claiming sprint at Belmont Park, the four-year-old gelding tackled a $50,000 starter allowance over the same distance at Aqueduct, where he settled for third place in a large field.

Hoopla will face easier competition on Thursday and appears highly competitive from a Brisnet Speed rating standpoint. He’s also getting a five-pound weight break courtesy of apprentice jockey Christian Ramos. Under the circumstances, Hoopla looks like a logical choice to upset morning line favorite #3 Alfie Solomons (2-1).

Taking advantage of the Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Hoopla.

  • $10 to win on #2 Hoopla
  • $5 Exacta: 2 with 3
    Total: $15

Fair Grounds: Race 3: $5,000 Claiming (six furlongs, 3:07 p.m. ET)

#6 Fire Blaster (3-1) ran well over this track and class level on Dec. 5. Making his first start since being claimed by trainer Ron Faucheux, Fire Blaster shrugged off a 2 1/2-month layoff to finish second with a respectable 73 Brisnet Speed rating.

Faucheux strikes at a 38% rate with horses running back for the second time following a claim, so Fire Blaster is eligible to improve on Thursday. We’ll bet Fire Blaster to win before keying him over #4 Interactif Moment (7-2) and #5 Cryptozonic (4-1) in the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #6 Fire Blaster
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 4,5
    Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (6 1/2 furlongs, 8:14 p.m. ET)

Since 2020, trainer Brad Cox has gone 3-for-6 (50%) debuting two-year-olds at Turfway Park. Cox can keep his strike rate right at the 50% mark if either #9 American Pure (3-1) or #12 Noble Jon (7-2) claims top honors in this maiden sprint for juveniles.

Both American Pure and Noble Jon have been cranking out bullet workouts at Turfway, so either is eligible to win on Thursday. Of the pair, we’ll favor Noble Jon. His dam (Ladyledue) matured early enough to win multiple stakes at age two, and Turfway’s leading jockey Gerardo Corrales (a 23% winner this meet) is named to ride.

#5 Love On the Rocks (7-2), the fastest of the experienced runners from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, can get involved for the exacta.

  • $20 to win on #12 Noble Jon
  • $5 Exacta: 12 with 5,9 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Aqueduct, Race 3: $49,303 Pick 6 carryover (1:44 p.m. ET)

The $1 Pick 6 at Aqueduct is shaping up as an exciting offering. Thursday’s sequence carries a lofty $49,303 non-jackpot carryover, but it looks like a tricky sequence to hit.

The best chance for a single might came in Race 5, a maiden special weight for juveniles dashing six furlongs on dirt. Only seven horses have been entered, with #4 Urban Forest (5-2) appearing formidable.

Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Urban Forest has cracked the trifecta in his last two starts sprinting on turf at Aqueduct, including a runner-up effort on Dec. 4. But Urban Forest has also shown encouraging form on dirt—in his Aug. 14 debut sprinting six furlongs at Aqueduct, Urban Forest ran third with a career-best 81 Brisnet Speed rating.

If Urban Forest produces his A-game while returning to dirt, he can keep our Pick 6 tickets alive as a logical (if not immediately obvious) single.

Turfway Park, Race 8: $10,896 Super High 5 carryover (9:46 p.m. ET)

Not to be outdone by Aqueduct, Turfway Park is offering a $10,896 non-jackpot Super High 5 carryover in Thursday’s eighth race, a $15,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs on Tapeta.

On paper, a couple of contenders stand out. #2 Cuzzywuzzy (7-2) was beaten less than a length when second over this track and class level on Dec. 4, earning a sharp 74 Brisnet Speed rating. But she may face a meaningful challenge from #8 Watermark (2-1), third in a $30,000 maiden claimer sprinting six furlongs at Turfway on Mar. 24.

Watermark hasn’t run since, but trainer Ben Colebrook wins at a respectable 16% rate with horses returning from long layoffs, and Watermark is eligible to improve while adding Lasix. The fact leading jockey Gerardo Corrales will ride is also appealing.

If we box Cuzzywuzzy and Watermark in the top two slots of our Super High 5, then we can spread a bit deeper underneath and hopefully cash a winning ticket.

  • $1 Super High 5: 2,8 with 2,8 with 4,6,9 with 4,6,9 with 4,6,9,11,12 ($36)

Good luck!