Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of the day for April 18
Picks and Plays
Aqueduct Race 7: New York Stallion S. (6 1/2 furlongs, 4:34 p.m. ET)
#1 Laobanonaprayer (4-5) is a Brisnet Speed rating standout in this sprint for New York-bred sophomore fillies. A two-time stakes winner against state-restricted company, Laobanonaprayer has already posted a pair of 91 ratings, including when fourth in the one-mile Busher S. on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.
Cutting back to 6 1/2 furlongs should suit Laobanonaprayer just fine, and she’ll retain the services of hot jockey Kendrick Carmouche, a 22% winner at Aqueduct. Trainer Daniel Velazquez is a 21% winner in non-graded stakes, and Laobanonaprayer signaled her readiness for a peak effort when working four furlongs in a bullet :46 3/5 on April 10.
#5 Shaker Shack (3-1), runner-up twice in allowance/optional claiming sprints at Aqueduct, can round out the exacta.
Santa Anita Race 3: Tokyo City Cup (G3, 1 1/2 miles, 5:12 p.m. ET)
#5 Zestful (5-2) hasn’t been disgraced in a series of recent races over 1 1/8 miles or less. The son of Ghostzapper has posted four straight Brisnet Speed ratings in the 94-99 range, earning his highest figure when fourth against tough competition in the San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita.
But Zestful has performed best when allowed to stretch his front-running speed over longer distances. Back in 2019, he dominated the 1 1/4-mile Los Alamitos Special S. by six lengths before finishing second by less than a length in the 1 3/4-mile Marathon (G2).
Zestful's key rival in the Tokyo City Cup is fellow front-runner #3 Tizamagician (4-5), who finished a distant second in this race last year. Since Zestful has the better record running long, we’ll favor him on top of our tickets while using Tizamagician and #4 Lure Him In (4-1) underneath.
$10 Exacta: 5 with 3,4 ($20)
$5 Trifecta: 5 with 3,4 with 3,4 ($10)
Santa Anita Race 8: Kona Gold S. (G3, 6 1/2 furlongs, 7:53 p.m. ET)
#4 Brickyard Ride (3-5) has turned into an absolute freak of a sprinter this winter. In the seven-furlong San Carlos (G2) at Santa Anita last month, the son of Clubhouse Ride roared to the front through sensational splits of :21.63 and :43.93 before continuing on with authority to score by four lengths in 1:21.51.
If Brickyard Ride brings his A-game on Sunday, I can’t envision him losing. And since Brickyard Ride’s blazing early speed figures to compromise Santana Mile winner and fellow front-runner #3 Ax Man (2-1), we’ll get a little creative with our exotic wagers, playing Brickyard Ride on top of #1 Cezanne (3-1) and #2 Fight On (20-1) in cold exacta and trifecta tickets.
$30 Exacta: 4 with 1
$5 Trifecta: 4 with 1 with 2
Santa Anita, Race 4: $197,942 Rainbow Pick 6 Jackpot
The only six-figure carryover up for grabs on Sunday is a $197,942 Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot at Santa Anita. While there isn’t a mandatory dispersal on tap, the daily pool should be large enough to make playing worthwhile.
Saturday’s Rainbow 6 attracted $196,498 in new wagers, and winning bettors cashed to the tune of $26,238.58 after a 19-1 shot won the first leg of the sequence. That’s a solid return on investment for a 20-cent wager, especially when you consider how a theoretical $2 win parlay would have returned just $18.037.37.
Let’s take a race-by-race look at Sunday’s Rainbow Pick 6 sequence, then assemble a ticket for just under $60:
Race 4: $40,000 Allowance/Optional Claiming
The field for this six-furlong turf sprint looks very competitive. #2 Jazzique (5-2), #3 Anna Fantastic (7-2), #5 Lofty (3-1), and #6 Rakassah (3-1) all bring similar form and Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix, so we’ll reluctantly use them all to kick off the Rainbow 6.
Race 5: $20,000 Claiming
#5 Rebel War (5-2) recently returned from a long layoff to finish second over this track and class level, beaten less than a length after carving out the pace. A repeat can land him in the winner’s circle, though #1 Alcools (3-1) looms a logical alternative while dropping blinkers for trainer Peter Miller, who wins at a 28% rate when making this move.
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight
#2 Mr. Impossible (5-2) has cracked the trifecta in his first three starts against tough competition on dirt. Switching to turf shouldn’t be an issue since dam Qaraaba won the Robert J. Frankel (G3) on grass and previously foaled Californiagoldrush, who placed against Grade 1 company on the lawn. But for backup, we’ll toss in #3 Cali Bay (2-1), an Irish import training sharply in advance of his local debut for hot trainer Phil D’Amato.
Race 7: $30,000 Maiden Claiming
#6 Bolu (7-2) finished second when sprinting for a $30,000 claiming tag two starts back, and though he faltered when stretching out over one mile last time out, cutting back in distance could trigger a rebound. The two rivals he has to fear are #2 Bob Daniels (3-1) and #3 Rookie Year (6-1), both of them transitioning from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company.
Race 8: Kona Gold (G2)
The above-mentioned #4 Brickyard Ride (3-5) is a clear standout and a logical single.
Race 9: $100,000 Allowance/Optional Claiming
This 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint looks like a beast to handicap. You can make a case for almost anyone, so we’ll spread deep with #2 Isn’t She Lovely (4-1), #3 Miss Dracarys (7-2), #4 Sweetest Angel (12-1), #6 Equilove (7-2), #8 Majestic Steps (3-1), and #9 Bleu Ballon (6-1). If we survive the first five legs of the Rainbow 6, we’ll have a strong chance to cash in the finale.
20-cent Rainbow Pick 6: 2,3,5,6 with 1,5 with 2,3 with 2,3,6 with 4 with 2,3,4,6,8,9 ($57.60)