Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 15
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Monday, Feb. 15 at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita, including a trio of exacta bets.
Aqueduct: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (Six furlongs, 3:25 p.m. ET)
#3 La Victoria (1-1) sold for $800,000 as a weanling, not surprising since she’s a daughter of three-time leading sire Tapit out of champion female sprinter La Verdad. But though La Verdad has posted a solid series of workouts at Palm Beach Downs, it’s worth noting that since 2016, trainer Todd Pletcher has gone just 2-for-22 (9%) debuting three-year-olds at Aqueduct during the first two months of a year.
With this in mind, let’s take a shot against La Victoria with the speedy front-runner #4 Hip Number One (4-1), who finished third over this track, distance, and class level on Jan. 24. The daughter of Central Banker brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the equation and may shake loose on an easy lead in this small field.
#2 Summer Brew (5-2) can battle with La Victoria to round out the exotics.
- $12 to win on #4 Hip Number One
- $5 Exacta: 4 with 2,3 ($10)
- $2 Trifecta: 4 with 2,3 with 1,2,3 ($8)
- Total: $30
Fair Grounds: Race 9: $12,500 Maiden Claiming (Six furlongs, 5:55 p.m. ET)
There’s hardly any speed entered in his $12,500 maiden claiming test for Louisiana-breds, so unless one of the first-time starters comes rocketing out of the gate, #8 Wicked Alex (9-2) may be able to secure an uncontested lead. In his debut over this track, distance, and class level on Nov. 28, Wicked Alex dueled for the lead through splits of :22.43 and :46.58 before weakening to finish sixth.
Wicked Alex failed to flash them same level of speed when stepping up to the $25,000 level on Dec. 27, but he nevertheless ran evenly to finish sixth. Dropping back down in class might be all Wicked Alex needs to get out in front and prevail in his second start for trainer Joseph Foster, who strikes at a 23% rate with horses descending two or more level downs the class ladder.
Fellow class dropper #7 Mighty Able (7-2) can round out the exacta while adding blinkers for trainer Mike Maker.
- $10 to win on #8 Wicked Alex
- $5 Exacta: 8 with 7
- Total: $15
Santa Anita: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 6:14 p.m. ET)
#5 Star Sailor (9-5) is the morning line favorite after finishing second over this track and distance on Jan. 3, beaten only by future Robert B. Lewis (G3) runner-up Roman Centurian. But I prefer the chances of #6 Chasing Fame (4-1), who finished fourth in that same race.
Whereas Star Sailor enjoyed an unencumbered journey vying for the lead through reasonable fractions, Chasing Fame had a tougher time. Breaking from the rail, the Doug O’Neill trainee was shuffled back early and forced to steady a couple of times around the first time, winding up in last place. Despite these obstacles, Chasing Fame rallied wide down the stretch to finish just 2 1/4 lengths behind Star Sailor.
Chasing Fame showed front-running speed in his first two starts, and breaking from the outside post in a small field should ensure he gets a cleaner, more forwardly placed run on Monday. Adding blinkers should also help his chances.
We’ll bet Chasing Fame to win, then add exacta and trifecta tickets using #3 Exalted Joy (15-1) and #5 Star Sailor (9-5) underneath.
- $15 to win on #6 Chasing Fame
- $5 Exacta: 6 with 3,5 ($10)
- $2.50 Trifecta: 6 with 3,5 with 3,5 ($5)
- Total: $30