Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of March 30
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, March 30 at Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, and Aqueduct, along with horses to play in the $2,189 Super High 5 carryover at Turfway Park.
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- Turfway Park $2,500 Thursday Leaderboard Contest: Place $10+ win wagers at Turfway Park on Thursdays from Jan. 5 through March 30 to earn points and compete for your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.
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Picks and Plays
Gulfstream Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (7 1/2 furlongs on turf, 2:38 p.m. ET)
#5 Dark Vector (8-5) never fired in his debut on dirt, but the son of Bolt d’Oro improved significantly when trying turf in a one-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, running second behind Carl Spackler. The latter runner looks like a stakes star in the making, and Dark Vector received a promising 92 Brisnet Speed rating even in defeat.
We’ll bet Dark Vector over #6 Guaranteed Speck (7-2) and #1 Delta Delta (9-2) in the exacta.
- #5 Dark Vector (8-5)
- #6 Guaranteed Speck (7-2)
- #1 Delta Delta (9-2)
- $15 Exacta: 5 with 1,6 ($30)
Oaklawn Park: Race 7: Allowance (one mile, 4:50 p.m. ET)
The favorites appear vulnerable in this two-turn allowance for three-year-olds. #6 Tyler’s Tribe (8-5) has never raced farther than six furlongs and hasn’t competed since December, when he was beaten to third as an odds-on favorite in the Advent S. at Oaklawn. Meanwhile, #1 Echo Again (9-5) was pulled up in the Lecomte (G3) two months ago and is 0-for-3 in route races.
Both Tyler’s Tribe and Echo Again are frontrunners, so if they burn each other out in a speed duel, #5 El Tomate (5-1) can take advantage for hot trainer Miguel Silva, who has gone 3-for-10 (30%) at Oaklawn this meet. El Tomate earned a respectable 84 Brisnet Speed rating when rallying to finish second in a $100,000 allowance optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn last month and should thrive if he receives a fast pace to chase.
- #5 El Tomate (5-1)
- #1 Echo Again (9-5)
- #6 Tyler’s Tribe (8-5)
- $20 to win on #5 El Tomate
- $5 Exacta: 5 with 1,6 ($10)
Aqueduct: Race 8: $25,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 5:00 p.m. ET)
The five-year-old gelding #7 Reunion Tour (5-2) has hit the board in six straight races over this track and class level, including a runner-up finish sprinting six furlongs on Feb. 26. But with a 26-0-7-4 lifetime record, Reunion Tour seems more likely to settle for a minor award than battle for victory.
#6 Stellwagen Banker (2-1) is an appealing alternative. The lightly raced three-year-old has only run three times. He faded after setting the pace in a $30,000 maiden claimer racing one mile at Laurel Park last time out, but two starts back he finished second by a nose in a $20,000 maiden claimer sprinting six furlongs.
Those claimers took place against non-state-restricted competition, whereas Thursday’s contest is restricted to horses bred in New York. Under the circumstances, Stellwagen Banker looms as the horse to beat.
- #6 Stellwagen Banker (2-1)
- #7 Reunion Tour (5-2)
- #8 Go Get the Bag (6-1)
- $25 Exacta: 6 with 7
Turfway Park, Race 8: $2,189 Super High 5 carryover (9:25 p.m. ET)
If you’re thinking to yourself, “There’s nothing better than a Thursday night chasing a big payoff in a nearly inscrutable 12-horse field,” then you’ll be delighted to know Turfway Park has a $2,189 carryover up for grabs in Thursday’s $1 Super High 5, and the race involved definitely falls into the “nearly inscrutable” category. Anyone who assembles a winning ticket should be in line for a nice payoff.
As usual, the Super High 5 is available to play in the final race of the evening—in this case, Race 8, a $25,000 allowance optional claimer taking place over six furlongs on Tapeta. A total of 14 horses have entered, but since the maximum field size is 12 horses, two key contenders—#13 Bullbriar (6-1) and morning line favorite #14 Towing (3-1)—are on the also-eligible list.
What are synthetic tracks?— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) January 26, 2022
Let’s ask @J_Keelerman 🤔https://t.co/XRF6fUwRAj
Planning a detailed ticket before scratches are announced isn’t feasible, but we don’t have to wait for scratches to know that #4 Foliage (7-2) is a horse worth building tickets around. While he’s never run over a synthetic track, the son of Speightstown showed strong form in a trio of 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints last year, dominating a Fair Grounds maiden special weight by 4 1/4 lengths before finishing third in a pair of allowances at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.
These efforts earned consistent Brisnet Speed ratings of 84, 85, and 84, fast enough to challenge against Thursday’s field. Foliage hasn’t run since May and has since switched barns, but new trainer Thomas Drury Jr. wins at a solid 19% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and at a 27% rate with horses running for the first time under his care. Those are a couple of solid angles in Foliage’s favor.
Throw in the fact Foliage will be ridden by jockey Joe Talamo, who has gone 3-for-6 (50%) teaming up with Drury over the last two months, and Foliage looks like a horse worth keying on top in the Super High 5.
We also recommend counting on #3 Go Bali Go (5-1) to crack the top five. He finished a decent fourth sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs over this track and distance on March 10, earning a career-best 86 Brisnet Speed rating. And two starts back, he rallied from midfield to win a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Turfway, earning an 81 Brisnet Speed rating that ranks as his second-best number. Go Bali Go is progressing in the right direction and looks ready to secure a strong finish.