Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for March 25
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, March 25 at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park, including a pair of $10 win bets capitalizing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.
Keeler has also assembled a series of trifecta tickets taking aim at the Trifecta Thursdays bonus.
Fair Grounds: Race 1: $10,000 Claiming (six furlongs, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Four of the seven runners in this claiming sprint for non-winners of three races lifetime are exiting races restricted to Louisiana-breds, including the speedy morning line favorite #1 Knockalittlelouder (5-2). In contrast, #5 Can Imagine (6-1) has been competing against tougher open company. Three starts back, the gray four-year-old was a sharp winner over this track and distance, rallying from a pace-tracking position to nab a $15,000 claiming race for non-winners of two races lifetime.
Can Imagine has the tactical speed to work out a clean trip and should enjoy facing easier company on Thursday. With leading jockey James Graham aboard, Can Imagine is capable of springing an upset if he brings his A-game.
Knockalittlelouder can battle with #7 Rose’s Galaxy (3-1) to complete the exacta and trifecta.
$7 Exacta: 5 with 1,7 ($14)
$3 Trifecta: 5 with 1,7 with 1,7 ($6)
Oaklawn Park: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 3:02 p.m. ET)
There isn’t much speed entered in this two-turn maiden route, and the only runner to have shown an interest in setting the pace—#2 Super Constitution (7-2)—is removing blinkers, setting the stage for a more relaxed journey. With a slow pace on the horizon, I’m intrigued by the chances of the second-time starter #4 Enid (4-1).
Enid wasn’t disgraced in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Oaklawn, chasing fast fractions from mid-pack before running on evenly to finish fourth behind the highly promising Noble Reflection. Runner-up Gaslight, who finished four lengths clear of Enid, reiterated the quality of the race by returning to win his next start in comfortable fashion.
Enid figures to race closer to the pace while stretching out over 1 1/16 miles, and as a son of Tiznow out of the Summer Bird mare Killer Bird (a stakes-winning router), Enid has the pedigree to thrive running long. We’ll play him on top of all our tickets while using Super Constitution and #5 Saqeel (5-2) for the exotics.
$10 to win on #4 Enid
$6 Exacta: 4 with 2,5 ($12)
$1 Trifecta: 4 with 2,5 with 1,2,3,5 ($6)
Oaklawn Park: Race 7: Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile, 5:09 p.m. ET)
#8 Scarred (3-1) failed to fire in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Oaklawn last month, but the son of Into Mischief was returning from a 2 1/2-month layoff and racing over a sloppy track. His form over fast dirt at Churchill Downs last fall was much more encouraging; he won his debut in a seven-furlong maiden sprint, then finished second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race, beaten just half a length by future Tampa Bay Derby (G2) runner-up Hidden Stash.
Trainer Steve Asmussen strikes at a 26% rate with horses beaten as the favorite in their previous start, so there’s no reason to think Scarred won’t bounce back in his second run of the season. Hot jockey Ricardo Santana (a 24% winner when teaming up with Asmussen) takes the mount, so let’s bet Scarred to win and play him on top of a trifecta emphasizing #6 Cousin Larry (5-2) and #7 Gershwin (9-2) underneath.
We also recommend watching the weather; there’s a chance of rain at Oaklawn on Thursday, which would potentially make Scarred a less appealing play.
$10 to win on #8 Scarred
$1 Trifecta: 8 with 6,7 with 4,5,6,7 ($6)
$1 Trifecta: 8 with 4,5,6,7 with 6,7 ($6)