Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 19
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Friday, Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds and Santa Anita, including a handful of trifectas.
Fair Grounds: Race 3: $5,000 Claiming (Six furlongs, 2:58 p.m. ET)
Winner of a maiden special weight at Oaklawn Park last winter, #4 Twilight Fantasy (4-1) hasn’t been in the strongest form as of late, but there are reasons to believe she can improve in her second start for hot trainer Steve Margolis.
For starters, Twilight Fantasy is dropping down in class after running evenly to finish fourth for a $15,000 tag at Fair Grounds last month. This is typically a strong move for Margolis, who wins at a 50% rate with horses descending two or more levels down the class ladder. For another, Twilight Eclipse will be making her second start since being claimed by Margolis, who strikes at a 75% rate with such runners.
In short, Twilight Fantasy appears poised to outrun expectations on Friday. We’ll bet her to win and key her over fellow class dropper #2 Day Trip (5-2) in a cold exacta.
$15 to win on #1 Twilight Fantasy
$10 Exacta: 1 with 2
Santa Anita: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (One mile on turf, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Bob Baffert’s Triple Crown nominee #3 Du Jour (9-5) is the morning line favorite based off top-three finishes in his first two starts. After rallying to finish second in his debut on turf, the son of Temple City switched to dirt and came home third behind future Robert B. Lewis (G3) runner-up Roman Centurian.
But Du Jour is a deep closer, and this field doesn’t contain much pace to enhance his late rally. Indeed, only the Doug O’Neill trainees #5 Enough Nonsense (7-2) and #6 Man Friday (3-1) have shown much in the way of speed, and with the latter removing blinkers (setting the stage for a more relaxed journey), Enough Nonsense may be able to shake loose on an uncontested lead.
A son of Quality Road, Enough Nonsense ran well over this course, distance, and class level on Jan. 9, carving out a steady pace before hanging on to finish third behind next-out Baffle S. winner Earls Rock. A repeat of this effort can put Enough Nonsense in the hunt for victory at a fair price.
Let’s bet Enough Nonsense to win, then key him over Du Jour and Man Friday in the exacta and trifecta.
$10 to win on #5 Enough Nonsense
$5 Exacta: 5 with 3,6 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 5 with 3,6 with 3,6 ($5)
Santa Anita: Race 4: $50,000 Maiden Claiming (Six furlongs, 5:08 p.m. ET)
In a race without a ton of speed on paper, #3 McWherter (9-5) has an opportunity to shake loose up front. Trained by Doug O’Neill, who wins at a 20% rate in maiden claiming races, McWherter was last seen finishing second over this course, distance, and class level on Jan. 31, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths after dueling for the lead through quick fractions of :21.69 and :45.51.
A son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents out of a mare by champion sprinter Orientate, McWherter is a half-brother to recent Palos Verdes (G3) winner Wildman Jack, so transitioning to dirt shouldn’t be an issue. A bullet half-mile workout on Feb. 9 indicates McWherter is still in good form, and the presence of apprentice jockey Jessica Pyfer means McWherter will carry just 117 pounds.
Let’s bet McWherter on top of a trifecta while keying the capable filly #5 Little Rachel (8-5) underneath.
$5 Trifecta: 3 with 5 with 4,6 ($10)
$5 Trifecta: 3 with 4,6 with 5 ($10)