Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Wednesday, Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, including a pair of plays capitalizing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.
Gulfstream Park: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (One mile, 2:08 p.m. ET)
With rain in the forecast, it’s unclear whether this race will remain on the turf or be transferred to the main track. But the connections of #8 Shaftesbury (1-1) shouldn’t have to worry, because the son of elite sire Uncle Mo is bred to handle either surface and will be tough to beat regardless of the conditions.
A Triple Crown nominee conditioned by hot trainer Todd Pletcher, Shaftesbury ran a big race over this course and distance last month, tracking the pace before closing gamely to finish second by one length against the promising Annex. This effort produced an 85 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Wednesday’s field.
With three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz in the saddle, Shaftesbury can win for fun over the main-track only entrant #3 Dream Keeper (5-2) or the lightly raced turf performer #7 Straight Up Guy (9-2), depending on which racing surface is put to use.
$30 to win on #8 Shaftesbury
$10 Exacta: 8 with 3,7 ($20)
Gulfstream Park: Race 10: $16,000 Maiden Claiming (7 1/2 furlongs on turf, 5:48 p.m. ET)
As with Race 3, it’s difficult to predict whether this maiden claimer will take place over turf or dirt. The good news is, either surface should suit #10 Hardly Social (5-2) just fine.
After finishing sixth in her first two starts against $25,000 claiming company, Hardly Social showed improvement when dropping down to the $16,000 level at Gulfstream last month. Favored to win a 7 1/2-furlong turf test, Hardly Social was caught wide on the turns, but stayed on gamely down the stretch to finish second with an encouraging 73 Brisnet Speed rating.
Irad Ortiz retains the mount for trainer Saffie Joseph, a winning team 44% of the time over the last two months. If Wednesday’s race stays on the turf, Hardly Social is an obvious threat to win. And while she’s never run on dirt, her pedigree (by Social Inclusion out of a Hard Spun mare) suggests she would handle a surface switch without issue.
We’ll place a $10 win bet on Hardly Social and get our money back (through the Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion) if she settles for second. We’ll also box her in the exacta with the well-bred #3 Union Park Gal (4-1), but only if the race stays on the turf.
$10 to win on #10 Hardly Social
$5 Exacta Box: 3,10 ($10)
Tampa Bay Downs: Race 9: $6,250 Claiming (One mile and 40 yards, 4:21 p.m. ET)
High-percentage trainer Gerald Bennett (a 25% winner at Tampa Bay Downs) has turned #6 Lady Breanna (2-1) into a winning machine in recent months. The speedy six-year-old has won three straight races at Tampa Bay Downs, where she boasts a solid 14-6-3-2 record overall.
With recent Brisnet Speed ratings in the 79-84 range to her credit, Lady Breanna looms as the fastest runner in Wednesday’s field based on current form. For good measure, she’ll be ridden by Daniel Centeno, who has gone 7-for-13 (54%) teaming up with Bennett over the last two months. With her abundant tactical speed, Lady Breanna will be tough to catch.
Taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Lady Breanna. Then we’ll key her on top of an exacta using #1 Alexbabe (3-1) and #4 Royalbonnielegacy (6-1) for second place.
$10 to win on #6 Lady Breanna
$5 Exacta: 6 with 1,4 ($10)