Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Mar. 12

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March 12th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Friday, Mar. 12 at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, and Santa Anita, including a couple of exacta and trifecta tickets.

Fair Grounds: Race 7: Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 4:54 p.m. ET)

#2 Cantata (5-2) looked like a star in the making when winning her debut at Saratoga last summer by 10 1/4 lengths. But the Steve Asmussen-trained filly has only run twice since, finishing fifth in the Frizette (G1) and fifth in a Feb. 12 allowance optional claiming race at Fair Grounds.

The latter effort could be considered a disappointment since Cantata faded to finish eight lengths behind the winner. But Cantata was racing over a sloppy track, and if you assume she didn’t care for the footing, you can make a case for the stoutly bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro to bounce back in a big way on Friday. Don’t forget, Cantata sold for $950,000 as a yearling and is nominated to the Triple Crown, so her connections clearly hold her in high regard.

We’ll bet Cantata to win, then play her over #3 Minute Waltz (7-2) and #4 Zoom Up (9-5) in the exacta and trifecta.

$15 to win on #2 Cantata
$5 Exacta: 2 with 3,4 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 2 with 3,4 with 3,4 ($5)
Total: $30

Oaklawn Park: Race 9: Allowance Optional Claiming (Six furlongs, 6:10 p.m. ET)

#4 K J’s Nobility (2-1) was in hot form at Oaklawn last year, compiling a 4-2-0-2 resume highlighted by a three-length victory in the Nodouble Breeders’ S. against fellow Arkansas-breds. The seven-year-old gelding recently returned from a layoff to finish fourth against open company in a six-furlong allowance sprint at Oaklawn, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by the Grade 1-placed Mucho.

The latter effort produced a sharp 95 Brisnet Speed rating, just one point off K J’s Nobility’s career-best figure, so all signs suggest he’s poised for a winning effort while returning to the state-bred ranks. #2 Bandit Point (4-1), #3 Hoonani Road (9-2), #5 Tempt Fate (9-2), and #6 Man in the Can (5-2) can battle for the minor awards.

$22 to win on #4 K J’s Nobility
$2 Trifecta: 4 with 2,5,6 with 2,3,5,6 ($18)
Total: $40

Santa Anita: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/4 miles on turf, 6:45 p.m. ET)

#8 Disappearing Act (8-5) is a logical favorite after finishing second three times against maiden special weight company on turf, but you can argue 1 1/4 miles might be a bit beyond her best distance.

In contrast, #3 Lady Crocker (4-1) has the pedigree to relish this extended trip. A daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and stamina influence Curlin, Lady Crocker was produced by the Foxhound mare Foxysox, winner of the Santa Barbara H. (G2) racing 1 1/4 miles over the Santa Anita turf.

Lady Crocker didn’t run badly in her grass debut at Santa Anita last month, racing evenly to finish fifth in her first start off a 13-month layoff. If she takes a step forward on Friday, she can vie for victory at a fair price under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

$20 to win on #3 Lady Crocker
$10 Exacta: 3 with 8
Total: $30

Good luck!