Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Jan. 14

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 14th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, Jan. 14 at Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, and Turfway Park. Among the highlights are two win bets taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion from TwinSpires.

Fair Grounds: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs, 4:54 p.m. ET)

This maiden sprint for Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies hasn’t come up particularly tough, considering none of the experienced runners have reached the 78 Brisnet Speed rating plateau that stands as par for this class level and distance. So why not take a shot with the first-time starter #11 Elsie Girl (10-1)?

A daughter of the multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter Custom for Carlos, who sires 13% debut winners, Elsie Girl has flashed significant speed during morning training. Last Friday, she rocketed a bullet half-mile from the Fair Grounds starting gate, getting the distance in a swift :47 1/5.

Trainer Sam David has gone 5-for-16 (31%) saddling 3-year-old first-time starters at Fair Grounds since 2018, suggesting Elsie Girl will be ready to fire a big shot on debut. A $10 win bet will be our first order of business, in order to capitalize on the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer. But we’ll also play Elsie Girl in a straight exacta with #3 Shades of Truth (3-1), who finished fifth at this class level on Nov. 26 after dueling through fast early fractions.

  • $10 to win on #11 Elsie Girl
  • $5 exacta: 11 with 3

Total: $15

Gulfstream Park: Race 9: Allowance Optional Claiming (1 3/8 miles on turf, 4:42 p.m. ET)

Trainer Mike Maker has a terrific record claiming milers, stretching them out in distance on turf, and turning them into graded stakes stars. And while Maker didn’t claim #7 Enjoyitwhilewecan (7-2), it’s possible the basic formula will still apply to this 5-year-old mare, who is making her second start since transferring to Maker’s care.

Enjoyitwhilewecan has won only once in 12 starts, but she’s shown potential competing against allowance company on both dirt and turf. A stoutly bred daughter of Quality Road out of a Dynaformer mare, Enjoyitwhilewecan is bred to run long and will stretch out over 1 3/8 miles on Thursday, her longest race to date.

Reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz takes the mount, a positive sign since Ortiz has been on fire with a 28% win rate at Gulfstream. He’s also struck at a 27% rate when teaming up with Maker over the last two months, so Enjoyitwhilewecan warrants plenty of respect from a connections standpoint.

Let’s bet Enjoyitwhilewecan to win and key her in the exacta with logical favorites #6 Whatdoesasharksay (5-2) and #8 Crystalle (3-1),

  • $12 to win on #7 Enjoyitwhilewecan
  • $3 exacta: 7 with 6,8 ($6)
  • $6 exacta: 6,8 with 7 ($12)

Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (1 mile on Tapeta, 7:16 p.m. ET)

Some of the highest Brisnet Speed ratings in this competitive maiden heat belong to #4 Continuation (7-2), who tossed up a field-best 92 Brisnet Speed rating when finishing second in a 1-mile maiden race at Aqueduct one year ago.

But Continuation hasn’t run since spring and will be switching from dirt to synthetic on Thursday, a winning move just 5% of the time for trainer Dane Kobiskie. In contrast, #2 Nineeleventurbo (2-1) isn’t quite as fast on paper, but at least he’s shown an affinity for the local course.

Indeed, Nineeleventurbo fired off a gutsy effort over this track, distance, and class level on Dec. 19, rallying strongly from behind slow fractions to finish second by half a length. This effort produced a sharp 99 Brisnet Late Pace rating, and Nineeleventurbo has since come back to breeze a bullet half-mile in :47 at Turfway.

Let’s take advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer and place a $10 win bet on Nineeleventurbo. Then we’ll play him on top of a trifecta using Continuation, #8 Torin (3-1), and #9 Scale (3-1) underneath, a ticket that could produce a 15% bonus payoff through the Trifecta Thursdays promotion.

  • $10 to win on #2 Nineeleventurbo
  • $3 trifecta: 2 with 4,8,9 with 4,8,9 ($18)
  • $1 trifecta: 2 with 8,9 with 8,9 ($2)

Total: $30

Good luck!