Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 24
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Wednesday, Feb. 24 at Sam Houston and Turfway Park, including a pair of promising maidens.
Sam Houston: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles on turf, 5:43 p.m. ET)
#9 Kobla Mas (9-5) ships in from Fair Grounds, where he’s recently posted a pair of competitive Brisnet Speed ratings over the turf course. The consistent colt has run faster than par for Wednesday’s class level and looms as an obvious contender.
But don’t overlook the chances of #3 Gumbo (8-1), a first-time starter hailing from the hot barn of Steve Asmussen. Since 2016, Asmussen has gone 9-for-20 (45%) debuting three-year-old males at Sam Houston, which includes a 2-for-4 (50%) record on turf. A well-bred son of Speightstown out of a Galileo mare, Gumbo is a sibling to a pair of turf winners and should relish debuting over the lawn.
At 8-1, Gumbo is worth betting to win, and if he settles for second, we’ll get our money back (up to $10) through the TwinSpires Sam Houston Wednesday Bet Back offer. But we’ll also take a shot betting Gumbo on top in the exacta and trifecta, emphasizing Kobla Mas and #4 Heliochrome (7-1) underneath.
$10 to win on #3 Gumbo
$5 Exacta: 3 with 4,9 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 3 with 4,9 with 4,6,9 ($10)
Tampa Bay Downs: Race 2: Allowance Optional Claiming (One mile and 40 yards, 12:45 p.m. ET)
#2 Soup and Sandwich (2-1) was tons the best in his debut sprinting against Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park, tracking the pace before roaring clear to win by 7 1/4 lengths. His final time of 1:16.82 translated to a sharp 98 Brisnet Speed rating, and distant third-place finisher Picking Up Pennies flattered the performance by returning to win his next start.
A son of Into Mischief out of a Tapit mare, Soup and Sandwich has the pedigree to stretch out around two turns. His abundant tactical speed should ensure he receives a favorable trip under Tampa’s leading jockey Antonio Gallardo, who has gone 3-for-3 when teaming up with trainer Mark Casse over the last two months.
In short, Soup and Sandwich is an exciting prospect and clearly the runner to beat. We’ll play him on top in the trifecta while using Tampa maiden winner #5 Broadway (4-1) for second place.
$10 Trifecta: 2 with 5 with 3,4,6 ($30)
Turfway Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (One mile, 8:16 p.m. ET)
Triple Crown nominee #12 Knopfler (9-2) risks a wide trip while breaking from post 12, but there are reasons to believe he can overcome this obstacle.
A son of Preakness (G1) winner Lookin At Lucky, whose progeny win at a lofty average distance of 7.6 furlongs, Knopfler fired off a big effort in his debut at Turfway. Sprinting just 6 1/2 furlongs (a distance surely shorter than his best), Knopfler rallied gamely down the stretch to finish second by 1 1/4 lengths, earning a promising 82 Brisnet Speed rating.
Trainer Rodolphe Brisset wins at a 23% rate with second-time starters, and at a 21% rate with horses running long for the first time, so Knopfler should be primed for a sharper effort on Wednesday. Taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Knopfler, then bet him on top of a small trifecta using #2 Bourre’ Trick (5-1), #8 Win d’Oro (7-2), and #10 Nineeleventurbo (3-1) underneath.
$10 to win on #12 Knopfler
$1 Trifecta: 12 with 2,8,10 with 2,8,10 ($6)