Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 26
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Friday, Feb. 26 at Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, and Turfway Park, including the Cincinnati Trophy S.
Gulfstream Park: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (Five furlongs on turf, 2:08 p.m. ET)
#6 Chasing Artie (3-1) showed promise in a $15,000 maiden claiming race sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Turfway last month. After opening up a huge lead through fast fractions of :22.41 and :45.06, Chasing Artie weakened in the final furlong to finish second by a neck.
Even in defeat, Chasing Artie posted a competitive 82 Brisnet Speed rating. Switching from Tapeta to turf can trigger improvement, considering he’s bred top and bottom to thrive on grass. Chasing Artie is a son of We Miss Artie (who sires 14% winners from first-time turf starters) out of a mare by grass champion and two-time leading sire Kitten’s Joy.
Chasing Artie has been training up a storm over the Palm Meadows turf course, most recently clocking five furlongs in a swift :58 3/5. Trainer Wesley Ward wins at a 21% rate with horses trying the lawn for the first time, and pacesetters win 39% of five-furlong turf sprints at Gulfstream. In short, Chasing Artie looks like a great play at 3-1, with #2 Mr Annoying (5-1) and #5 Wora the main threats to round out the exacta.
$20 to win on #6 Chasing Artie
$5 Exacta: 6 with 2,5 ($10)
Santa Anita: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (Six furlongs, 6:12 p.m. ET)
#1 Ginja (3-1) isn’t your typical first-time starter from the barn of Bob Baffert. She didn’t bring a lofty purchase price at auction, instead selling for just $60,000. Her modest price tag might be one reason why she’s the 3-1 third choice on the morning line in this maiden sprint for sophomore fillies.
But Ginja nevertheless brings a solid pedigree to the mix; she’s a daughter of successful sire Quality Road out of the Forestry mare Sequoia Queen, who has already foaled five winners from five starters. Furthermore, Ginja has turned in some encouraging workouts in preparation for her debut, culminating with a quick five furlongs from the starting gate in :59 4/5 on Feb. 18.
Since 2018, Baffert has gone 10-for-22 (45%) debuting three-year-old fillies in dirt sprints at Santa Anita, so let’s bet Ginja to win and play her over fellow first-time starter #4 Just Distorted (2-1) in a cold exacta.
$20 to win on #1 Ginja
$10 Exacta: 1 with 4
Turfway Park: Race 7: Cincinnati Trophy S. (6 1/2 furlongs, 9:16 p.m. ET)
Only two of the 13 fillies entered in this Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep event have won over the Tapeta track at Turfway. One of them is #6 Igloo (6-1), who obliterated her opponents in a six-furlong maiden race on Dec. 26. After flashing serious front-running speed through fractions of :22.26 and :45.55, Igloo widened powerfully under urging down the stretch, pulling clear to score by 7 1/4 lengths.
Trainer Jonathan Thomas has been on fire at Turfway this winter, going 9-for-17 (53%) so far, and Igloo can add another victory to Thomas’ record if she runs back to her eye-catching debut.
A win bet will be our first order of business, followed by an exacta using Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) alumnus #10 Dirty Dangle (4-1) for second place.
$25 to win on #6 Igloo
$5 Exacta: 6 with 10