Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Friday, Jan. 15 at Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, and Turfway Park, highlighted by an exciting first-time starter from the barn of Bob Baffert.

Fair Grounds: Race 1: $12,500 Maiden Claiming (6 furlongs, 2:00 p.m. ET)

#2 Mariposa d’Oro (5-2) owns the five highest Brisnet Speed ratings in this maiden claiming spring for fillies and mares, so the daughter of Shackleford looks ultra-tough to beat. She’s run well over a wide variety of surfaces and conditions, but her two best efforts have come on dry dirt—precisely the conditions she’ll encounter on Friday.

I’m willing to draw a line through Mariposa d’Oro’s most recent effort, a last-place effort in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight over the Fair Grounds turf course. On that occasion, Mariposa d’Oro broke through the starting gate before the race and failed to fire after being reloaded.

Assuming Mariposa d’Oro behaves better on Friday, she can cruise to victory for trainer Ron Faucheux, who strikes at a 24% rate with runners transitioning from turf to dirt. Dropping down to $12,500 will further enhance Mariposa d’Oro’s chances.

Let’s bet Mariposa d’Oro on top of #4 Diamond and Silks (4-1) and #5 Two More Barbo (7-2) in the exacta and trifecta.

  • $10 exacta: 2 with 4,5 ($20)
  • $5 trifecta: 2 with 4,5 with 4,5 ($10)

Total: $30

Santa Anita: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs, 5:05 p.m. ET)

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert wins at a phenomenal 36% rate with first-time starters, so his promising 3-year-olds #4 Concert Tour (7-5) and #5 Hozier (6-5) are obvious contenders to win this high-quality maiden special weight sprint.

Of the pair, I prefer Hozier, whose flashy work tab includes a bullet 5 furlongs from the Santa Anita starting gate in :59 2/5. A son of Pioneerof the Nile out of the multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Merry Meadow, Hozier sold for $625,000 as a yearling and appears poised for a big effort on debut.

For the runner-up spot, we’ll take a shot with #6 Mr. Impossible (3-1), hailing from the barn of hot trainer Simon Callaghan. The son of Munnings has turned in an encouraging series of workouts, and Callaghan wins at a solid 21% rate with first-time starters.

  • $30 exacta: 5 with 6

Turfway Park: Race 5: Forego S. (6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 8:16 p.m. ET)

Victorious in the 6 1/2-furlong Animal Kingdom S. at Turfway last winter, #2 Bango (3-1) is returning to Turfway in hot form. On Nov. 26, the son of Congrats ran huge in a 6-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs, carving out splits of :21.44 and :44.85 before drawing away to beat graded stakes winner Strike Power by 2 1/2 lengths.

This effort produced an excellent 97 Brisnet Speed rating, one of the highest figures in the Forego field. Betting the favorite in a deep field of sprinters might not be the most appealing opportunity at first glance, but Bango’s form looks solid, and he’s picking up hot jockey Gerardo Corrales. At 3-1, I believe Bango offers excellent wagering value.

A win bet will be our first order of business, followed by a small exacta playing Bango over #6 Made in America (4-1) and #9 Dabo (15-1).

  • $24 to win on #2 Bango
  • $3 exacta: 2 with 6,9 ($6)

Total: $30

Good luck!