Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 25

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February 25th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, and Turfway Park, including a trifecta ticket capitalizing on the TwinSpires Trifecta Thursdays promotion.

Fair Grounds: Race 3: Allowance (One mile and 70 yards, 2:58 p.m. ET)

The stakes-placed #4 Janets Jay Jay (3-1) is favored after rallying to finish second over this class level at Fair Grounds on Feb. 6. But the stretch-running colt benefited from a destructive early pace set by #7 Highland Creek (8-1), who can potentially turn the tables on Thursday.

A front-running maiden winner racing one mile on turf at Fair Grounds, Highland Creek went out much too fast in the Feb. 6 allowance event, opening up a daylight lead through formidable fractions of :23.64, :47.11, and 1:12.53 over a muddy track. If Highland Creek rations his speed a bit better on Thursday, he can improve at a nice price.

So how should we play the race? Let’s start by placing a $10 win bet on Highland Creek; if he finishes second, we’ll get our money back through the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion. Then we’ll key Highland Creek in the exacta with Janets Jay Jay and #6 Schnell (6-1).

$10 to win on #7 Highland Creek
$4 Exacta: 7 with 4,6 ($8)
$4 Exacta: 4,6 with 7 ($8)
Total: $26

Oaklawn Park: Race 8: Allowance (Six furlongs, 5:40 p.m. ET)

It’s hard to know how to proceed in handicapping this six-furlong sprint; considering how training was interrupted for an extended time at Oaklawn due to poor winter weather, predicting which runners will be ready to roll under less-than-ideal circumstances is difficult.

That said, it seems reasonable to conclude #7 One for Richie (15-1) will be fit for a peak effort. The son of Congrats has run at least once a month since June 2020, so missing an easy workout or two shouldn’t affect his chances.

One for Richie has already shown a clear affinity for Oaklawn, going 3-for-5 over this track as opposed to 2-for-24 everywhere else. He was particularly sharp in a $10,000 waiver claiming race on Jan. 23, tracking quick fractions before powering clear to win by 5 1/4 lengths. This effort produced a sharp 97 Brisnet Speed rating (the highest in Thursday’s field), and One for Richie’s performance was flattered when the runner-up returned to comfortably win his next start.

Taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on One for Richie and call it a day. If he springs the upset at 15-1, we won’t need the exotics to enjoy a lucrative payday.

$10 to win on #7 One for Richie

Turfway Park: Race 6: Allowance Optional Claiming (Six furlongs, 8:46 p.m. ET)

#5 Fire Sword (1-1) has gone 2-for-2 for Turfway’s leading trainer Wesley Ward. After wiring his debut in a $50,000 maiden claiming race at Keeneland, the son of First Samurai led all the way to trounce a starter optional claiming race at Aqueduct by 4 1/2 lengths.

Fire Sword is the lone Triple Crown nominee in Thursday’s field, and the 87 Brisnet Speed rating he earned at Aqueduct stamps him as the fastest runner in the race. Jockey Gerardo Corrales wins at a lofty 30% rate when teaming up with Ward, so let’s key Fire Sword on top in the trifecta. If we cash, we’ll receive a 15% bonus (up to $25) through the Trifecta Thursdays promotion.

For second place, we’ll use #2 Wellman (4-1), who wired a maiden special weight at Turfway last month with an 84 Brisnet Speed rating. #1 J C’s Champ (5-1), #4 C F V Red Nova (6-1), and #6 City Drifter (6-1) can battle for third place.

$5 Trifecta: 5 with 2 with 1,4,6 ($15)

Good luck!