Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for April 11

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April 11th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Sunday, April 11 at Keeneland and Oaklawn Park.

Then—because there’s so much weekend racing action to enjoy—Keeler looks for reliable singles in lucrative carryovers at Fonner Park and Gulfstream Park.

Picks and Plays

Keeneland Race 6: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 3:51 p.m. ET)

Trainer Wesley Ward has been on fire at Keeneland, compiling a 16-6-6-1 (37%) record through Saturday. Jockey Joel Rosario has been similarly hot, going 9-for-32 (28%), and together they’ve teamed up to win at a 44% rate over the last 60 days.

Rosario and Ward will reunite on Sunday with #3 Bourre’ Trick (5-2), who looks formidable while dropping down in class and distance. Fourth after setting the pace in a one-mile maiden special at Turfway Park last time out, the son of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Super Saver has plenty of tactical speed and is training nicely for his first start on dirt. The surface switch shouldn’t be an issue—Super Saver is the sire of champion sprinter Runhappy, and Bourre’ Trick is a half-brother to Conquest Eclipse, who placed in multiple Grade 1 races on dirt.

We’ll bet Bourre’ Trick to win and play him over #6 Speight and Malice (7-2) in a cold exacta.

$25 to win on #3 Bourre’ Trick
$5 Exacta: 3 with 6
Total: $30

Keeneland Race 8: Allowance/Optional Claiming (six furlongs, 4:57 p.m. ET)

Ward can pick up another winner with #2 Palace Avenger (8-5), who looms as the runner to beat in this allowance dash for fillies and mares. A daughter of the multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Palace, Palace Avenger hasn’t missed the trifecta in her last six starts, including a couple of sharp allowance victories at Saratoga last summer.

Palace Avenger hasn’t run since finishing third in the Oct. 3 Thoroughbred Club of American (G2) at Keeneland, but Ward wins at a solid 23% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more, and a fast :59 3/5 five-furlong workout on April 5 at Keeneland suggests Palace Avenger is ready for a strong effort. Dropping back down to the allowance ranks could also help her chances.

With three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle, Palace Avenger looks tough to beat. We’ll bet her on top in a trifecta using #1 Call On Mischief (3-1), #4 Club Car (3-1), and #5 Anna’s Fast (6-1) underneath.

$5 Trifecta: 2 with 1,4,5 with 1,4,5 ($30)

Oaklawn Park Race 9: Allowance/Optional Claiming (1 1/2 miles, 6:10 p.m. ET)

#6 Carlos L. (5-2) is going to be a popular choice after springing a 47-1 upset in the 1 1/2-mile Temperence Hill S. at Oaklawn. But the son of Hold Me Back benefited from escaping on an uncontested lead through slow fractions of :24.16, :48.39, 1:13.78, and 1:39.00, leaving him with plenty left to hold off the pace-tracking #2 Lone Rock (2-1).

Rather than count on a similar outcome in Sunday’s allowance test, we’ll take a shot with #5 Harpers First Ride (3-1). True, the five-year-old gelding has never run 1 1/2 miles. But he’s shown excellent form over shorter route distances, rattling off four stakes wins (including the Grade 3 Pimlico Special) during the final four months of 2020.

In his first start for hot trainer Robertino Diodoro, Harpers First Ride finished a respectable fourth in Oaklawn’s 1 1/16-mile Essex H. after dueling for the early lead. His tactical speed will be an asset while stretching out over 1 1/2 miles, and I’m willing to bet Harpers First Ride’s proven graded stakes class will carry him to the winner’s circle.

$18 to win on #5 Harpers First Ride
$2 Trifecta: 5 with 2,6,7 with 2,6,7 ($12)
Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Fonner Park, Race 5: $68,878 Pick 5 Jackpot

Following a somewhat tricky Saturday sequence that produced five winners at 8-1 or less, but only one successful favorite, the 50-cent Dinsdale Automotive Pick 5 Jackpot stands at $68,878. A unique winning ticket is necessary to sweep the whole pool, but consolation payoffs can be solid—Saturday’s wager returned $1,727.35 to multiple winning bettors.

Sunday’s sequence looks challenging with 48 horses entered across the five races, averaging 9.6 horses per field. Fortunately, Race 8—a $5,000 claiming event for fillies and mares sprinting four furlongs—appears to offer a reliable single in the form of #6 Jagged Arrow (3-1), who boasts a solid 13-4-4-3 record over this distance.

A front-running daughter of Kentucky Derby (G1) alumnus Papa Clem, Jagged Arrow is the fastest entrant in terms of recent Brisnet Speed ratings, posting five consecutive figures in the 72-79 range. Furthermore, Jagged Arrow enters off back-up-back runner-up efforts over this track, distance, and class level, so she’s clearly capable of competing under these conditions.

#7 Congrats Girl (4-1) looms as a logical challenger after winning three straight four-furlong claiming sprints at Fonner, but her best Brisnet Speed ratings (70 and 71) are a little light compared to Jagged Arrow. If the latter brings her A-game, she’ll be tough to deny.

Gulfstream Park, Race 5: $426,932 Rainbow Pick 6

The always-popular Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot at Gulfstream Park is rapidly accumulating, with another mandatory payoff surely looming in the not-too-distant future. But in the meantime, any bettor skilled enough to construct a unique winning ticket can claim the whole jackpot for themselves.

Of course, Sunday might not be the best day to pursue a unique ticket. Just 56 horses are entered across the sequence, and there are a couple of six-horse fields in play. Furthermore, Race 7—a $16,000 maiden claiming race featuring a dozen entries—looks surprisingly straightforward to handicap.

Indeed, you can make a case for #1 Red Flag Alert (9-5) as a viable single in this one-mile turf test. Sold for $600,000 as a juvenile, the well-bred son of Ghostzapper recently returned from a layoff to finish an even third in a $25,000 maiden claiming event racing one mile over the Gulfstream grass course.

This effort produced a solid 81 Brisnet Speed rating, which is higher than the par for Sunday’s class level (79) and significantly higher than the best figure posted by any of his Sunday rivals (77). Dropping down to the $16,000 claiming level should make Red Flag Alert difficult to defeat for trainer George Weaver, who strikes at a 23% rate with horses running back for the second time following a layoff. The addition of blinkers and the switch to jockey Edgard Zayas (a 40% winner when teaming up with Weaver) are two other positives in Red Flag Alert’s favor.

Good luck!