Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Thursday, Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, and Sam Houston.
In addition to pursuing the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer, Keeler is keen to capitalize on the Trifecta Thursdays promotion, which awards a 15% bonus (up to $25 maximum) on all winning trifecta wagers.
Sam Houston: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs, 5:27 p.m. ET)
With just six horses in the mix, including a heavy favorite, this maiden special weight looks fairly straightforward to handicap. We’ll aim to play a chalky trifecta ticket and use the Trifecta Thursdays promotion to boost the payoff.
We’ll start by keying #3 Via Angelica (4-5) on top of our ticket. Formerly based in Southern California with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, this daughter of Quality Road finished third in a pair of maiden special weights on dirt at Santa Anita last spring, putting up Brisnet Speed ratings that easily top Thursday’s field.
Via Angelica’s recent efforts on turf have been disappointing, but she’s been freshened since October and has been breezing strongly for new trainer Michael Stidham. Returning to dirt can send Via Angelica straight to the winner’s circle.
For second place, we’ll use #6 Red Bottom Rebel (2-1), close runner-up in a $20,000 maiden claiming race at Churchill Downs last time out. Hot jockey Stewart Elliot takes the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen, a winning duo 24% of the time over the last two months.
We’ll round out our ticket with #2 Triple Entendre (15-1) and #4 Nellie Dee (20-1). The total cost of our play is $30, though take note—if you bet $100 at Sam Houston on Thursday, you’ll earn $5 to bet during Sam Houston’s stakes-packed Jan. 31 card, thanks to the TwinSpires “Build Your Stakes Day Bankroll” promotion.
$15 trifecta: 3 with 6 with 2,4 ($30)
Fair Grounds: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (1 mile on turf, 4:25 p.m. ET)
#12 Musta Got Lost (7-2) seems like a perfect fit in this maiden special weight for Louisiana-breds. Conditioned by high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, Musta Got Lost showed promise in his Dec. 12 debut sprinting 6 furlongs at Fair Grounds, rallying over a muddy main track to finish second by two lengths.
As a son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hit It a Bomb out of a mare by City Zip, Musta Got Lost is bred to thrive racing a mile on turf. Also encouraging is the fact Cox wins at a 26% rate with second-time starters, and at a 27% rate with horses running long for the first time.
We’ll take advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer and place a $10 win bet on Musta Got Lost. Then we’ll bet him on top of an exacta using #7 Ballinonabudjet (8-1) and #13 Your Time’s Coming (6-1) underneath.
$10 to win on #12 Musta Got Lost
$5 exacta: 12 with 7,13 ($10)
Turfway Park: Race 3: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (6 furlongs, 7:16 p.m. ET)
Since 2016, trainer Wesley Ward has compiled a phenomenal 13-for-32 (41%) record saddling 3-year-old first-time starters at Turfway Park. On Thursday, he’ll unveil #10 Headline Hunter (7-2), a daughter of Tapizar with some sharp workouts under her belt. A bullet half-mile breeze in :47 at Turfway suggests Headline Hunter can add to Ward’s glowing resume with debuting sophomores over this course.
Once again, we’ll place a $10 win bet to capitalize on the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer. Then we’ll play Headline Hunter in a straight exacta over #1 Shastaloo (3-1), who cuts back in distance after finishing third over a mile at Turfway last month.
$10 to win on #10 Headline Hunter
$10 exacta: 10 with 1