Friday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Army Officer can outrun odds

February 9th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Friday, Feb. 9 at Sunland Park, Turfway Park, and Delta Downs, along with a single and a live longshot for the $4,807 Pick 6 carryover at Fair Grounds.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Winter Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races every Thursday-Sunday.
  • Fraser Downs 25% Win Bonus: Receive a 25% bonus (up to $25 per day) on winning single-horse win wagers at Fraser Downs every Thursday and Friday from Feb. 8 through Feb. 29.
  • 10x Points at Meadowlands: Receive 10x reward points on all wagers (excluding show bets) at Meadowlands on Fridays and Saturdays in February.
  • Turfway Park $2,500 Late Pick 5 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 5 at Turfway Park on any Friday in February to win your share of a $2,500 daily bonus jackpot.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Sunland Park: Race 9: Jamison Memorial H. (6 1/2 furlongs, 5:54 p.m. ET)

#11 Let Him Be (5-2) is a winning machine with five victories from six starts. The four-year-old gelding has tactical speed and wired the six-furlong New Mexico Classic Cup Derby Championship S. at Zia Park by 3 3/4 lengths, but he’s definitely not a need-the-lead type—last time out, he rallied from midfield to win a six-furlong allowance at Sunland with a career-best 92 Brisnet Speed rating.

Let Him Be appears poised to extend the win streak for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Miguel Fuentes Jr. and Joel Marr, who have won at a 29% rate teaming up together over the last two months. That’s why we’re going to place a $30 win bet on Let Him Be.


  • #11 Let Him Be (5-2)
  • #1 Diabolical Storm (5-1)
  • #7 Strawberry Whisky (9-2)


  • $30 to win on #11 Let Him Be

Delta Downs: Race 3: $20,000 Maiden Claiming (seven furlongs, 7:13 p.m. ET)

#8 Ells (3-1) has been competing at Fair Grounds, where he’s finished seventh and 10th in his first two starts against Louisiana-bred maiden special weight competition. Even in defeat, Ells earned decent Brisnet Speed ratings of 63 and 53 that stack up well against Friday’s field.

Dropping into a $20,000 maiden claimer for Louisiana-breds at Delta Downs should put Ells in the hunt for victory while making his first start for hot trainer Allen Landry, a 23% winner with horses transitioning from maiden special weight to maiden claiming competition. A win bet is in order.


  • #8 Ells (3-1)
  • #2 Hangin’ Tuff (5-1)
  • #9 Wicked Punches (8-1)


  • $30 to win on #8 Ells (3-1)

Turfway Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on Tapeta, 7:55 p.m. ET)

#9 Army Officer (8-1) showed little when debuting in a one-mile maiden special weight at Ellis Park last August, finishing ninth by a wide margin. He subsequently disappeared from the work tab for nearly three months, so it’s possible something went awry at Ellis.

Army Officer has cranked out 11 timed workouts at Turfway in preparation for his return, including a quick half-mile from the starting gate in :47 3/5. He’s adding Lasix for his three-year-old debut and is simultaneously picking up jockey Axel Concepcion, a 31% winner teaming up with high-percentage trainer Brad Cox over the last two months. Surely 8-1 is too high a price?

We think so, which is why we’re placing a large win bet on Army Officer.


  • #9 Army Officer (8-1)
  • #1 Bolt At Midnight (2-1)
  • #4 Can’t You See (15-1)


  • $30 to win on #9 Army Officer

Carryover Watch

Fair Grounds: Race 3: $4,807 Pick 6 carryover (2:45 p.m. ET)

Looking for horses to play in Friday’s $4,807 Pick 6 carryover at Fair Grounds? We’ve analyzed the sequence for the $1 wager and identified a single and a live longshot to get you started:

Best single: Race 7: #4 Tarneema (3-1)

The seventh race on the card is a maiden special weight for three-year-old fillies racing about 1 1/16 miles on turf, and Tarneema is clearly the filly to beat for hot trainer Brad Cox, a 32% winner at Fair Grounds this meet.

Tarneema debuted over this course, distance, and class level on Dec. 31 and raced greenly in the early going, breaking slowly and carrying her head high. She dropped as many as 17 1/4 lengths off the pace as a result, and turning for home she was still a dozen or so lengths behind. But down the homestretch, Tarneema leveled off and gained a ton of ground, ultimately finishing third by 4 1/4 lengths.

It turns out that Dec. 31 contest was deep. The victorious Pink Polkadots returned to dominate a $100,000 allowance optional claimer over the same course and distance, while runner-up Ms Quality Control subsequently switched to dirt and trounced a one-mile and 70-yard maiden special weight at Fair Grounds by 3 3/4 lengths.

If Tarneema races more professionally in her second start, she can cruise to victory under hot jockey Florent Geroux, a 35% winner teaming up with Cox over the last two months. That’s why we view the daughter of acclaimed grass sire Kitten’s Joy as a viable Pick 6 single.

For good measure, we’ll capitalize on the Winter Money Back promotion and place a win bet on Tarneema:

  • $30 to win on #7 Tarneema

Live longshot: Race 3: #2 Kee Jee (10-1)

Eight three-year-old colts and geldings will race one mile on dirt in this maiden special weight for Louisiana-breds. Morning line favorites #6 Brittany’s Dream (2-1) and #8 Gamer Nate (3-1) look formidable after recording runner-up finishes over this track and class level, but we wouldn’t count Kee Jee out of the mix at double-digit odds.

Kee Jee is trained by Sam David Jr., who has compiled a respectable 9-for-75 (12%) record saddling first-time starters at Fair Grounds since 2019. Kee Jee is a son of Munnings (who sires 15% winners from first-time starters), and the chestnut gelding clocked a bullet three furlongs from the Fair Grounds starting gate in :37 1/5 on Wednesday, so there are reasons to believe he can fire a winning shot on debut.

Good luck!