Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 16

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February 16th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Fair Grounds, taking advantage of two special offers available from TwinSpires.

RELATED: Spot Plays for Mardi Gras Day at Fair Grounds by Vance Hanson

The Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion continues on Tuesday with all nine Fair Grounds races on the slate. Place a win bet on your top choice, and if your pick finishes second, your wager (up to $10) will be refunded.

Also enticing is the Fair Grounds $6,000 Place Jackpot promotion. Cash a $5 place bet in at least six races at Fair Grounds, and you’ll split a $1,000 bonus pool with all other bettors who achieve the feat.

Fair Grounds: Race 5: Allowance Optional Claiming (Six furlongs, 3:56 p.m. ET)

#5 Save (3-1) threw down a field-best 87 Brisnet Speed rating when employing pace-tracking tactics to win her debut over this track and distance on New Year’s Day. The daughter of Violence has tactical speed and figures to sit a perfect trip in her first start against winners, likely tracking #2 Malibu Bird (7-2) and/or #4 Puye Timing (9-2) before pouncing in the homestretch.

With Fair Grounds’ leading jockey James Graham in the saddle for high-percentage trainer Tom Amoss, Save appears poised for victory at a fair price. She’s a deserving choice in this small field.

  • $10 to win on #5 Save
  • $5 to place on #5 Save

Fair Grounds: Race 8: Mardi Gras S. (5 1/2 furlongs, 5:33 p.m. ET)

#2 Elle Z (7-2) has been a picture of consistency sprinting on turf over the last few months. The improving daughter of City Zip has shown a particular affinity for dashing 5 1/2 furlongs at Fair Grounds, defeating #1 Into Mystic (9-5) in the Pan Zareta S. before settling for second place behind her rival in the Nelson J. Menard Memorial.

A pure front-runner, Elle Z won’t have to worry about securing a clean trip in the Mardi Gras—with a bevy of triple-digit Brisnet E1 and E2 Pace ratings under her belt, she can simply dash to the lead from post 2 and attempt to steal the race in gate-to-wire fashion. Into Mystic is a formidable rival, but she received two pounds from Elle Z in the Menard Memorial, and they’ll carry even weights in the Mardi Gras. It’s a subtle shift, but potentially enough to tip the scales back in Elle Z’s favor.

In any case, Elle Z rates a strong chance to finish in the top two, which will suit our Winter Midweek Bet Back and Fair Grounds $6,000 Place Jackpot ambitions just fine.

  • $10 to win on #2 Elle Z
  • $5 to place on #2 Elle Z

Fair Grounds: Race 9: Maiden Special Weight (Six furlongs, 5:52 p.m. ET)

The afternoon finale is a six-furlong maiden sprint for sophomores, and while there are several promising first-time starters in the mix, I’m keen to support the experienced #3 Warrant (4-1) if his enticing morning line odds hold up.

A son of hot young sire Constitution, Warrant fired off a big effort in his Jan. 16 debut over this track and distance. After making a strong mid-race move into quick fractions of :22.08 and :45.62, Warrant weakened only slightly to finish third against a promising field, earning a sharp 91 Brisnet Speed rating.

The strength of the race was reiterated when runner-up Run Classic returned to win his next start. Warrant can do the same on Tuesday if he repeats his last effort, and if he improves—a distinct possibility, since trainer Brad Cox wins at a 26% rate with second-time starters—he’ll be very tough to deny.

  • $10 to win on #3 Warrant
  • $5 to place on #3 Warrant

Good luck!