Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Jan. 25

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January 25th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park and Turfway Park, along with tickets for the $6,187 Super High 5 carryover at Tampa Bay Downs.

Picks and Plays

Gulfstream Park: Race 3: $16,000 Maiden Claiming (five furlongs on Tapeta, 1:08 p.m. ET)

#8 Avatal Hero (3-1) has been facing tougher competition than she’ll encounter on Wednesday. She’s placed twice in $25,000 maiden claimers against fellow fillies over the Gulfstream Park Tapeta, and last time out she ran fifth against males in a $25,000 maiden claimer over this track.

Dropping down to the $16,000 maiden claiming level should make Avatal Hero formidable for trainer Jose D’Angelo, who has gone 52-for-247 (21%) over the Gulfstream Tapeta since the track opened. The presence of jockey Jose Ortiz (a 27% winner over this surface) adds to the appeal.

We’ll bet Avatal Hero to win and key him over #3 St. Joe Jet (6-1) and #6 Live Like Laura (3-1) in the exacta.


  • #8 Avatal Hero (3-1)
  • #6 Live Like Laura (3-1)
  • #3 St. Joe Jet (6-1)


  • $18 to win on #8 Avatal Hero
  • $6 Exacta: 8 with 3,6 ($12)
    Total: $30

Gulfstream Park: Race 8: Allowance (six furlongs, 3:37 p.m. ET)

#2 Munnys Gold (4-5) was utterly spectacular in her debut sprinting five furlongs at Gulfstream Park last June, beating future stakes winner Alma Rosa by 14 1/2 lengths with a 103 Brisnet Speed rating.

Munnys Gold hasn’t run since, but she’s trained strongly in preparation for her comeback, and trainer Todd Pletcher wins at a lofty 24% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more. She looks ready to deliver another decisive victory while squaring off against fellow Florida-bred fillies.

We’ll bet Munnys Gold on top of a cold exacta. For second place, we’ll use #4 Defended (8-1), runner-up over this track, distance, and class level two starts back.


  • #2 Munnys Gold (4-5)
  • #4 Defended (8-1)
  • #7 Hihellohowareyou (3-1)


  • $20 Exacta: 2 with 4

Turfway Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on Tapeta, 7:55 p.m. ET)

#6 Cute Khloe (4-1) placed in her first two starts in Southern California. Both of those tries came in maiden special weight turf sprints, and Cute Khloe posted sharp Brisnet Speed ratings of 80 and 79.

Trainer Jonathan Wong has been hot at Turfway, going 6-for-29 (21%) since Nov. 30, and it’s worth noting hot apprentice jockey Walter Rodriguez (who rides with a five-pound weight allowance) is named to ride. Wong and Rodriguez have gone 4-for-7 (57%) teaming up together over the last two months.

Cute Khloe looms as a logical choice to beat #9 Friction (5-2) and #8 Dias Alegres (3-1) to the winner’s circle.


  • #6 Cute Khloe (4-1)
  • #9 Friction (5-2)
  • #8 Dias Alegres (3-1)


  • $20 to win on #6 Cute Khloe
  • $8 Exacta: 6 with 9
  • $2 Trifecta: 6 with 9 with 8
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 1: $6,187 Super High 5 carryover (12:29 p.m. ET)

Feel like chasing a non-jackpot Super High 5 carryover? Tampa Bay Downs is ready to oblige with a $6,187 prize pool up for grabs in Wednesday’s $1 Super High 5, available to play right off the bat in Race 1.

Race 1 is a $5,000 claimer for horses who haven’t won a race since July 25. The distance is 1 1/16 miles on dirt, and with seven horses in the entries there are only 2,520 possible Super High 5 outcomes. That sounds pretty straightforward to handicap, yes?

The tricky part is the fact #6 One Eyed Jack (3-2) isn’t necessarily unbeatable, even though he’s a clear favorite on the morning line. Sure, the seven-year-old gelding is consistent and routinely throws down competitive Brisnet Speed ratings in the 72-89 range. But in a race over this track and class level on Jan. 6, One Eyed Jack set a slow pace and still weakened to finish second, only a nose ahead of third-place finisher #3 English Laughter (7-2).

English Laughter raced wide and off the pace in that $5,000 claimer, so the fact he rallied to finish on practically even terms with One Eyed Jack is encouraging. You can argue English Laughter ran a better race than One Eyed Jack, and it’s not a stretch to think he can turn the tables on Wednesday.

As for the rest of the runners, #5 Catching Fish (4-1) and #2 Especiallea (6-1) warrant respect after finishing fifth and sixth (behind One Eyed Jack and English Laughter) on Jan. 6. Of the pair, we prefer Catching Fish, who has finished ahead of Especiallea twice at Tampa since December.

But we also have to highlight #7 Pharaoh Fancy Pant (15-1) as a live longshot. He won $16,000 and $8,000 claimers at Tampa last winter and has been freshened since May by trainer Aldana Spieth, who wins at a respectable 14% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more. Five of Pharaoh Fancy Pant’s last six starts have produced Brisnet Speed ratings in the 70-85 range, so he’s fast enough to factor on his best day.

Here’s how we’ll bet the Super High 5:

  • $1 Super High 5: 3,6 with 3,6 with 5,7 with 2,5,7 with 1,2,5,7 ($16)
  • $1 Super High 5: 3,6 with 5,7 with 3,6 with 2,5,7 with 1,2,5,7 ($16)
  • $1 Super High 5: 3,6 with 5,7 with 2,5,7 with 3,6 with 1,2,5,7 ($16)
    Total: $48

Good luck!