Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 18

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February 18th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park, including a pair of $10 win bets focusing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.

Fair Grounds: Race 1: $12,500 Claiming (Six furlongs, 2:00 p.m. ET)

After breaking her maiden for a $20,000 tag, #2 Louleigh (5-2) spent the last four months of 2020 competing against much tougher competition than she’ll face on Thursday. The chestnut filly sandwiched fifth-place efforts in the Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies S. and Louisiana Futurity around a third-place finish in a Fair Grounds allowance race.

Dropping in class should be a winning strategy for Louleigh, who picks up hot jockey Adam Beschizza for her first run of the season. To capitalize on the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Louleigh and get our money back if she finishes second. Then we’ll play her on top of a straight exacta using the stakes-placed #6 Rue Lala (3-1) for second place.

$10 to win on #2 Louleigh
$10 Exacta: 2 with 6
Total: $20

Fair Grounds: Race 7: $15,000 Maiden Claiming (One mile and 70 yards, 4:54 p.m. ET)

Although #4 S Man (5-2) has done his best running on grass, and performed only so-so in his lone dirt start last fall, the Brad Cox trainee has been facing tougher $30,000 claiming company and should appreciate dropping down to the $15,000 level on Thursday.

After all, Cox wins at a lofty 31% rate with horses dropping down two or more class levels, and at an excellent 27% rate with runners switching from turf to dirt. The fact S Man has shown an affinity for racing two turns is another positive.

Capitalizing on the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on S Man. Then—for good measure—we’ll play him on top of a small exacta using the newly gelded #2 Okudah (8-1) and the stretch-out sprinter #3 Contact Tracing (3-1) underneath.

$10 to win on #4 S Man
$5 Exacta: 4 with 2,3 ($10)
Total: $20

Gulfstream Park: Race 5: $25,000 Maiden Claiming (Six furlongs, 3:11 p.m. ET)

#4 Miss Mikaela (3-1) is an obvious favorite while adding blinkers for trainer Antonio Sano. The daughter of Tonalist has cracked the trifecta in each of her first four starts, including a trio of $50,000 maiden claiming races.

But Miss Mikaela has yet to finish within five lengths of victory, and her tendency to settle for minor awards is a bit concerning. With this in mind, #1 Exaggerated Moment (7-2) is an appealing alternative. The daughter of Preakness (G1) winner Exaggerator wasn’t disgraced in her debut sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream turf course, dueling for the lead in a $16,000 maiden claiming race before finishing fourth by just 1 1/2 lengths.

As a half-sister to Laudation and Moment Is Right (both stakes-winning sprinters on dirt), Exaggerated Moment has the pedigree to thrive while switching surfaces. Let’s take a shot betting Exaggerated Moment on top in the exacta and trifecta.

$10 Exacta: 1 with 4
$5 Trifecta: 1 with 4 with 2,5 ($10)
Total: $20

Good luck!