Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 5
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Friday, Feb. 5 at Santa Anita and Turfway Park, including a pair of exacta tickets.
Santa Anita: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (One mile, 4:03 p.m. ET)
#1 Frosteria (6-5) is going to be a heavy favorite—maybe even odds-on—after finishing second in her first four starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Ghostzapper has been knocking heads with some very tough fillies and enters off a game effort in the Santa Ynez (G2).
But the fact Frosteria is 0-for-4 is cause for pause. She’s never finished within 1 1/4 lengths of victory and seems content to settle for minor awards, so I wonder if she lacks the instinct to fight for victory.
If that’s the case, then #4 Donna Bella (2-1) can steal the show. The Simon Callaghan trainee ran too good to lose in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Santa Anita last month, falling a nose short of catching Las Virgenes (G2) entrant Honor America.
Donna Bella is training forwardly and will drop blinkers for her route debut. She has enough speed to secure the early lead under ultra-hot jockey Umberto Rispoli, and if Donna Bella gets brave up front, she can turn back Frosteria to spring an upset.
Let’s bet Donna Bella and Frosteria in a cold exacta.
$20 Exacta: 4 with 1
Santa Anita: Race 7: Baffle S. (6 1/2 furlongs on turf, 6:45 p.m. ET)
#6 Commander Khai (7-2) didn’t quite see out one mile when finishing third in the Cecil B. Demille (G3) and second in the Eddie Logan S. The front-running colt led into deep stretch on both occasions, but weakened in the final strides.
Cutting back to 6 1/2 furlongs should help Commander Khai produce a stronger finish. Don’t forget, the son of Twirling Candy broke his maiden impressively dashing five furlongs at Del Mar. A series of sharp workouts suggest Commander Khai is still in hot form, and the presence of Umberto Rispoli in the saddle is a positive sign. Rispoli is one of the top turf jockeys on the Southern California circuit, winning at a 25% rate over the lawn.
Let’s bet Commander Khai to win, then play him on top of #3 Earls Rock (3-1) and #9 Beer Can Man (4-1) in the exacta.
$20 to win on #6 Commander Khai
$5 Exacta: 6 with 3,9 ($10)
Turfway Park: Race 6: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 8:46 p.m. ET)
Trainer Wesley Ward is tough to beat when debuting three-year-olds in sprints at Turfway Park. Since 2016, Ward has compiled a phenomenal 25-12-5-3 record with such starters, which translates to a stellar 48% win rate and an 80% in-the-money-rate.
With this in mind, how can we oppose the Ward entrymates #1 Gold for Kitten (5-2) and #1A Smiling Kitten (5-2) in this maiden claiming sprint for sophomore fillies? Both are daughters of two-time leading sire Kitten’s Joy, and both have shown speed in workouts over the Turfway Tapeta course. Any way you slice it, they look competitive.in a race that didn’t come up especially tough on paper.
Both Gold for Kitten and Smiling Kitten have jockey Deshawn Parker named to ride, so it’s possible one or the other will scratch. But that’s okay, because one Ward filly is all we need to cash a hefty win bet.
$30 to win on #1 Gold for Kitten/#1A Smiling Kitten