Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Jan. 28
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, Jan. 28 at Fair Grounds, Sam Houston, and Turfway Park, including a bevy of bets capitalizing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back, Trifecta Thursdays, and Build Your Stakes Day Bankroll promotions.
Fair Grounds: Race 7: $15,000 Maiden Claiming (1 mile and 70 yards, 4:54 p.m. ET)
This low-level maiden claiming race for 3-year-olds didn’t draw the tougher field, so I’m willing to think outside the box with #6 Hiccup (8-1), hailing from the barn of high-percentage trainer Whitney J. Zeringue.
Hiccup hasn’t shown a lot in three starts to date, but one was a dirt sprint and the other two were turf routes, so he’s eligible to improve while running long on dirt for the first time. Zeringue strikes at a lofty 44% rate with runners transitioning from turf to dirt, and as a son of Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Overanalyze, Hiccup is bred to handle the main track.
Taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Hiccup and get our money back if he finishes second. We’ll also play him on top in the trifecta, aiming to receive a 15% bonus on the payoff (up to $25) through the Trifecta Thursdays promotion.
$10 to win on #6 Hiccup
$1.50 trifecta: 6 with 3 with 4,7,9,10 ($6)
$1 trifecta: 6 with 4,7,9,10 with 3 ($4)
Sam Houston: Race 1: $10,000 Claiming (1 mile, 5:02 p.m. ET)
#1 Earnednevergiven (6-5) has been on fire for ultra-hot trainer Austin Gustafson, winning three straight races since November. On Jan. 21, the 6-year-old gelding rallied from behind slow fractions to win a $15,000 claiming race over 1 1/16 miles at Sam Houston.
Earnednevergiven will face slightly easier company on Thursday and may also receive a quicker pace to work with, setting the stage for a fourth consecutive victory. Jockey Reylu Gutierrez (a 29% winner when teaming up with Gustafson) takes the mount, and Earnednevergiven should be able to save ground early while breaking from the rail.
Let’s play Earnednevergiven on top in a trifecta. Underneath, we’ll key #6 Millwood (2-1), victorious for a $5,000 tag over this track and distance on Jan. 8. Claimed out of that race by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Millwood is thoroughly capable of hitting the board under hot jockey Stewart Elliot.
We’ll play our trifecta for a cost of $30, though keep in mind, if you bet $100 at Sam Houston on Thursday, you’ll earn $5 to bet on Sam Houston’s stakes-packed Sunday card thanks to the Build Your Stakes Day Bankroll promotion.
$10 trifecta: 1 with 6 with 3,4,5 ($30)
Turfway Park: Race 3: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (6 furlongs, 7:16 p.m. ET)
Gerardo Corrales is the leading jockey at Turfway Park. Trainer Wesley Ward and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey topped the standings during the 2020 winter meet. When these formidable forces team up, they’re tough to beat, so you can bet #5 Casanova Kitten (5-2) will receive plenty of support on Thursday.
A son of two-time leading sire Kitten’s Joy, Casanova Kitten has been competing against tougher maiden special weight company, most notably finishing second by half a length over the synthetic track at Woodbine. Dropping down in class should set the stage for victory, considering Ward strikes at a 28% rate with horses transitioning from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company.
Even better, Casanova Kitten has been freshened (and gelded) since his last run in September, two factors that can trigger improvement from the chestnut 4-year-old. We’ll favor Casanova Kitten with a $10 win bet (taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer) and also key him on top of a trifecta.
$10 to win on #5 Casanova Kitten
$1.50 trifecta: 5 with 1,3,4,7 with 1,3,4,7 ($18)