Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Mar. 3

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March 3rd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Wednesday, Mar. 3 at Sam Houston and Turfway Park, including a cold double.

Sam Houston: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (Five furlongs on turf, 7:40 p.m. ET)

Since 2016, trainer Brad Cox has gone 4-for-9 (44%) saddling turf horses at Sam Houston, which includes a 1-for-1 record with three-year-olds. With this in mind, it’s going to be tough for anyone to take down #9 Vincaia (5-2) on Wednesday.

A well-bred daughter of Bernardini out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, Vincaia sold for $575,000 as a juvenile and showed potential in her debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Fair Grounds. After tracking quick fractions, Vincaia forged to a narrow lead, then faltered late to finish fifth by 2 1/2 lengths.

This effort produced an 80 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Wednesday’s field. Vincaia figures to sit a perfect trip stalking fellow Fair Grounds speedster #6 Alimony Blues (9-2) early on, and it’s possible she could show improvement in her second run under colors—remember, Cox’s win percentage jumps from 18% with first-time starters to 27% with second-time starters.

Taking advantage of the Sam Houston Wednesday Bet Back Offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Vincaia and get our money back if she finishes second. Then we’ll play her on top of exacta and trifecta tickets using Alimony Blues and the first-time starter #8 More Than Lucky (7-2) underneath.

$10 to win on #9 Vincaia
$5 Exacta: 9 with 6,8 ($10)
$2.50 Trifecta: 9 with 6,8 with 6,8 ($5)
Total: $25

Turfway Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (One mile, 8:16 p.m. ET)

Trainer Mark Casse has been hot at Turfway this winter, going 12-for-54 (22%). Not surprisingly, he’s enjoyed a good measure of success with horses shipping in from Woodbine, which—like Turfway—has a Tapeta track installed.

That’s why #10 La Isadora (3-1) looks tough to beat in this maiden route for fillies and mares. The four-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper fired off a big effort sprinting seven furlongs at Woodbine in October, rallying fast to finish second by less than one length.

This effort produced an excellent 83 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest last-out figure in Wednesday’s field. La Isadora has trained forwardly at Turfway for her 2021 debut and picks up jockey Rafael Hernandez, a 27% winner when teaming up with Casse. In short, La Isadora looks tough to beat.

A $10 win bet will be our first order of business; if La Isadora settles for second, we’ll get our money back through the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion. We’ll single La Isadora to kick off a cold double bet.

$10 to win on #10 La Isadora
$10 double: 10 with 1
Total: $20

Turfway Park: Race 6: Allowance (One mile, 8:46 p.m. ET)

Eight horses have been entered in this allowance event for non-winners of three races lifetime, but only one has ever won a race over the Turfway Tapeta. That would be #1 Burning Bright (9-5), who employed pace-tracking tactics to comfortably win a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race on Feb. 6 at Turfway—his first start over the local course, and his first run off a 7 1/2-month layoff.

Burning Bright is bred to be a top-class competitor. He’s a son of Empire Maker (whose progeny thrive over synthetic surfaces) out of Forever Together, the champion grass mare of 2008. Trainer Jonathan Thomas has been ultra-hot at Turfway, going 9-for-20 (45%) overall and 6-for-8 (75%) when teaming up with jockey Chris Landeros. For good measure, Thomas wins at a 30% rate with horses running for the second time off a layoff.

A sharp half-mile workout in :47 4/5 last Thursday indicates Burning Bright is still in strong form. Let’s place a $10 win bet on Burning Bright (capitalizing on the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer) and single him to conclude our double.

$10 to win on #1 Burning Bright

Good luck!