Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Mar. 18

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March 18th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, Mar. 18 at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, and Turfway Park, including a trio of $10 win bets capitalizing on the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.

Trifecta plays focusing on the Trifecta Thursdays bonus are also on the agenda.

Fair Grounds: Race 7: $40,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 4:54 p.m. ET)

In terms of recent Brisnet Speed ratings, the two fastest runners in this field are the coupled entrymates #1 Blue Jays and #1A Cowboy Diplomacy (2-1), so the fact we can play them together as a 2-for-1 package is appealing.

Cowboy Diplomacy in particular looks formidable. The Brad Cox trainee has finished second twice over this class level and distance, flashing front-running speed on both occasions. A half-brother to two-time champion mare Monomoy Girl, Cowboy Diplomacy appears poised to shake loose on an uncontested lead, and he’ll be tough to run down if he escapes with setting a modest pace.

A $10 win bet will be our first order of business, followed by trifectas keying the up-and-coming #2 Extraordinary (6-1) underneath.

$10 to win on #1 Blue Jays/#1A Cowboy Diplomacy
$2.50 Trifecta: 1 with 2 with 3,4,5,6 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 1 with 3,4,5,6 with 2 ($10)
Total: $30

Oaklawn Park: Race 8: $40,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (Six furlongs, 5:40 p.m. ET)

#7 Auberge (5-1) looked like a quality sprinter in the making when trained by Bob Baffert. Starting three times between Oct. 2019 and Feb. 2020, Auberge recorded two wins and one second, with her runner-up effort coming behind three-time Grade 1 winner Bast in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez (G2). Against slightly easier company sprinting six furlongs, Auberge was unstoppable.

Auberge hasn’t run in 13 1/2 months, but she’s been firing off fast workouts at Fair Grounds for Michael Stidham, who has taken over training duties. Stidham excels with runners returning form long layoffs, so Auberge should be ready to roll in her four-year-old debut. She’s already defeated Ashland (G1) winner Speech and the multiple Grade 1-placed Golden Principal, so if Auberge brings her A-game, she can make her comeback a winning one.

#2 Ocean Breeze (7-2), #4 Lady Rocket (3-1), and #6 Wildwood’s Beauty (5-2) can battle to round out the exacta.

$10 to win on #7 Auberge
$5 Exacta: 7 with 2,4,6 ($15)
Total: $25

Turfway Park: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (One mile, 8:16 p.m. ET)

The tried-and-true route runners in this competitive maiden heat are difficult to split, so why not take a shot with the longshot #5 Izzybella (12-1), whose lone start to date came sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs?

A daughter of Whitney H. (G1) winner Cross Traffic, Izzybella has the breeding to stretch out over one mile, and her sprint debut was better than it appeared. After dropping back early on, she rallied belatedly to finish fourth behind the promising Twenty Carat, with next-out winner Good Alternative among her beaten rivals.

This effort produced a respectable 71 Brisnet Speed rating, suggesting Izzybella can factor at a price in her two-turn debut. We’ll place a $10 win bet on Izzybella, then play her on top of a trifecta emphasizing the consistent #3 Treaty of Paris (5-2) underneath.

$10 to win on #5 Izzybella
$1 Trifecta: 5 with 3 with 1,6,7,8,9 ($5)
$1 Trifecta: 5 with 1,6,7,8,9 with 3 ($5)
Total: $20

Good luck!