Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Jan. 27
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Wednesday, Jan. 27 at Mahoning Valley and Gulfstream Park, including a trio of $10 win bets capitalizing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.
Mahoning Valley: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs, 1:40 p.m. ET)
The best of the experienced runners in this maiden sprint for fillies and mares are tough to separate. So rather than split hairs, why not take a shot with the first-time starter #4 Kentucky Home (8-1)?
A 4-year-old daughter of Haskell (G1) winner Verrazano, Kentucky Home hails from the barn of Pavel Matejka, a 26% winner with first-time starters. Kentucky Home’s work tab isn’t overly flashy, but she’s posted half a dozen breezes since December, including a half-mile in :49 2/5 at The Thoroughbred Center on Jan. 19.
Kentucky Home might not be the most likely winner of Wednesday’s race, but her 8-1 morning line odds stamp her as fair value. Plus, if she finishes second, we’ll get our $10 win bet back thanks to the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.
In addition to our win bet, we’ll key Kentucky Home in the exacta with #1A Enchante Nile (2-1), who cuts back in distance for hot jockey/trainer duo Sonny Leon and Eric Reed.
- $10 win: #4 Kentucky Home
- $7 exacta: 1 with 4
- $3 exacta: 4 with 1
- Total: $20
Mahoning Valley: Race 7: Allowance (6 furlongs, 3:33 p.m. ET)
Many of the runners in this allowance sprint for Ohio-breds are exiting an identical 6-furlong dash held on Jan. 2, in which #9 C K’s Lucky Duck (5-2) rallied to finish second-best.
Overall, C K’s Lucky Duck’s form looks rock-solid. The 5-year-old gelding hasn’t missed the trifecta in four starts at Mahoning Valley, which includes his three most recent runs. A solid allowance competitor, C K’s Lucky Duck has consistently thrown down Brisnet Speed ratings in the 82-87 range, establishing him as the fastest runner in Wednesday’s field.
C K’s Lucky Duck is versatile in terms of running style and should sit a perfect trip from his outside draw. A $10 win bet will be our first order of business, but we’ll also play C K’s Lucky Duck on top of an exacta using #1 Ohio Munny (3-1) and #8 Denny M (8-1) underneath. The latter got burned up setting a blazing pace in the Jan. 2 allowance race, but he’s a two-time winner sprinting 6 furlongs at Mahoning Valley and warrants respect for ultra-hot trainer Larry Smith.
- $10: #9 C K’s Lucky Duck
- $5 exacta: 9 with 1,8 ($10)
- Total: $20
Gulfstream Park: Race 10: $20,000 Maiden Claiming (1 mile on turf, 5:13 p.m. ET)
This competitive field of fillies and mares looks evenly matched, so I’m willing to think outside the box with #2 Eighty Seven North (12-1), who is actually the field’s top-ranked runner from a Brisnet Prime Power perspective.
Eighty Seven North spent most of her 2020 campaign competing admirably against fellow New York-breds in $40,000 maiden claiming races at Saratoga, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct. Subsequently transferred to trainer Kathleen O’Connell, Eighty Seven North left the New York-bred ranks in favor of a 1-mile, $20,000 maiden claiming event over the Gulfstream turf course last month, where she rallied belatedly to finish sixth.
This effort was stronger than it appears because the early pace was pedestrian, and Eighty Seven North actually flew home the final quarter in a quick :23.41 to finish just 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner. There’s no guarantee she’ll receive a faster pace to work with on Wednesday, but her 12-1 odds are enough to offset the risk, especially with hot jockey Irad Ortiz in the saddle. Keep in mind, O’Connell strikes at a 21% rate with horses running for the second time under her care.
Of course, if Eighty Seven North settles for second place, we’ll get our money back through the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer.
- $10 win: #2 Eighty Seven North