Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Monday, Jan. 18 at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita, including the Megahertz (G3).
Aqueduct: Race 7: Interborough S. (7 furlongs, 3:50 p.m. ET)
#6 Portal Creek (6-5) looks tough to beat at a short price. The daughter of Shanghai Bobby has improved by leaps and bounds since being transferred to the care of high-percentage trainer Juan Guerrero, most recently battling to a runner-up effort in the Go for Wand H. (G3) racing a mile at Aqueduct.
Cutting back to 7 furlongs should suit Portal Creek just fine, considering her lone start over this distance produced a staggering 14-length allowance victory at Parx Racing. Portal Creek brings a series of sharp Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix and looms as the only clear front-runner in the Interborough field, setting the stage for victory under hot jockey Kendrick Carmouche.
Let’s try betting Portal Creek in a straight exacta over defending Interborough winner #2 Saguaro Row (3-1), who is training sharply for her second start off a 10-month layoff.
$20 exacta: 6 with 2
Fair Grounds: Race 7: Allowance Optional Claiming (1 mile and 70 yards, 4:54 p.m. ET)
Will class prevail in this competitive allowance event for 3-year-old fillies? Whereas most of the runners are exiting maiden or allowance races, #1 Princess Theorem (4-1) comes out of the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs, where she rallied mildly from last position to split the field in fifth place.
Princess Theorem will drop in class and add blinkers for Monday’s allowance test, opening the door for an improved performance. The daughter of Nyquist also has the pedigree to improve with maturity, considering her half-siblings Prince of Arabia and Lady Kate did their best running as older horses.
For all these reasons, Princess Theorem is a logical win contender for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Adam Beschizza and Brendan Walsh, who have gone 3-for-10 together over the last 60 days. We’ll bet Princess Theorem to win and play her over #3 Minute Waltz (3-1) and #8 Divine Comedy (7-2) in the exacta.
$20 to win on #1 Princess Theorem
$5 exacta: 1 with 3,8 ($10)
Santa Anita: Race 7: Megahertz (G3, 1 mile on turf, 6:40 p.m. ET)
Rodeo Drive (G1) winner #4 Mucho Unusual (9-5) is a clear class standout in this 1-mile turf test. The 5-year-old mare has spent the last year and a half competing almost exclusively against graded stakes company and enters the Megahertz off a sharp victory in the Robert J. Frankel (G3).
But Mucho Unusual has done her best running over longer trips, and a mile might be a little sharper than she prefers. With this in mind, I’m willing to take a shot against Mucho Unusual with #1 Brooke (4-1), a Chilean-bred daughter of talented turf sprinter No Nay Never.
A two-time Group 1 winner in her native country, Brooke is slated to make her U.S. debut for trainer Simon Callaghan, who strikes at a respectable 18% rate with horses shipping in from abroad. Brooke has compiled a steady string of 5-furlong workouts for her debut and even retains the services of regular rider Jeremy Laprida, who has traveled from Chile specifically to ride Brooke in the Megahertz.
$15 to win on #1 Brooke
$10 exacta: 1 with 4