Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Wednesday, Jan. 6 at Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, and Tampa Bay Downs, including a trio of exacta plays.

Fair Grounds: Race 6: Allowance Optional Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 4:25 p.m. ET)

#4 Real News (9-5) is the morning line favorite after competing against much tougher stakes foes in his last four starts. But with the exception of a fifth-place effort in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2), Real News hasn’t finished within three lengths of victory since January 2020. He’ll compete for a $40,000 claiming tag on Wednesday and doesn’t offer much value at 9-5.

I’m more intrigued by #1 Born Great (5-2), a lightly raced son of Scat Daddy out of a More Than Ready mare. A half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) winner Four Wheel Drive, Born Great won a pair of 6 1/2-furlong grass dashes at Kentucky Downs during late summer, most notably dominating an allowance race by 5 3/4 lengths.

That effort produced a 103 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Wednesday’s field. And while Born Great could only finish second over this course, class, and distance on Dec. 11, he showed a nice stretch kick to come home just a length away from victory. With this prep run under his belt, Born Great can spring a mild upset on Wednesday.

  • $20 to win on #1 Born Great
  • $10 exacta: 1 with 4

Total: $30

Gulfstream Park: Race 9: Allowance Optional Claiming (1 mile, 4:42 p.m. ET)

#9 Summer Kid (5-1) caught my eye last summer when the Gustavo Delgado trainee broke his maiden racing a mile at Gulfstream Park. Facing five rivals, Summer Kid tracked quick fractions of :23.23 and :45.73, then pounced to the front and won eased up by 3 3/4 lengths.

The 97 Brisnet Speed rating Summer Kid posted is among the highest figures in Wednesday’s field, and while he subsequently finished last in an allowance race at Saratoga, the fact he disappeared from the work tab immediately afterward suggests something went awry.

Summer Kid returned to serious training in November and has since turned in a sharp series of workouts. Delgado wins at a solid 17% rate with runners returning from extended breaks, so there’s no reason to think Summer Kid won’t come back with a strong effort at a fair price.

  • $20 to win on #9 Summer Kid
  • $5 exacta: 9 with 1,4 ($10)

Total: $30

Tampa Bay Downs: Race 5: Allowance Optional Claiming (1 mile on turf, 2:48 p.m. ET)

#7 Oyster Box (8-5) is a logical morning line favorite for trainer Graham Motion. A daughter of the four-time graded stakes-winning turf router Starformer, Oyster Box rallied nicely to win her debut sprinting 6 furlongs on grass at Belmont, earning a solid 84 Brisnet Speed rating.

But Oyster Box will stretch out significantly in distance at Tampa Bay Downs, and it’s worth noting Motion has gone just 3-for-71 (4%) saddling fillies and mares on turf at Tampa since 2018. With all this in mind, why not oppose the favorite with #2 Tete a Tete (7-2)?

Conditioned by Michael Stidham (a 25% winner at Tampa this meet), Tete a Tete rallied after a slow start to finish third in her lone turf start to date, a 1-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Granted, she was beaten 10 3/4 lengths, but the quality of the field was high—runaway winner Con Lima came right back to win the Ginger Brew S. at Gulfstream.

Tete a Tete will face easier competition at Tampa while picking up jockey Hector Diaz, a 26% winner when teaming up with Stidham. A win bet and a straight exacta play with Oyster Box will be our strategy for success.

  • $20 to win on #2 Tete a Tete
  • $10 exacta: 2 with 7

Total: $30

Good luck!