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