Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of Dec. 5, 2023

December 5th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Mahoning Valley and Zia Park, along with a ticket for the $1,591 Super High 5 carryover at Mountaineer.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 10x Points at Zia Park: Receive 10x reward points on all wagers (excluding show bets) at Zia Park on Mondays and Tuesdays through Dec. 19.

Picks and Plays

Mahoning Valley: Race 1: $10,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 12:45 p.m. ET)

#4 Akito (3-1) showed some ability when debuting in a $12,500 maiden claimer at Charles Town last month, tracking the pace before staying on to finish third in the 4 1/2-furlong dash. He’s picking up hot jockey Luis Rivera for his Mahoning Valley debut, and that’s significant since Rivera has won at a 36% rate teaming up with trainer Anthony Farrior over the last two months.

Akito looks ready to win while dropping down to the $10,000 maiden claiming level, so we’ll play the race accordingly, betting him to win and keying him over stablemate #5 Alligator Arms (7-2) in a small exacta.


  • #4 Akito (3-1)
  • #5 Alligator Arms (7-2)
  • #2 Wilderzar (6-1)


  • $20 to win on #4 Akito
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 5
    Total: $25

Mahoning Valley: Race 4: $25,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile and 70 yards, 2:08 p.m. ET)

#1 Chiquita Mosca (7-2) has been competing against tougher on the Kentucky circuit. Last time out, she was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths when finishing sixth in a $125,000 allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs.

That effort produced an 86 Brisnet Speed rating, which stacks up well against this Mahoning Valley field. The rail post has produced 33% winners in one-mile and 70-yard races at Mahoning this meet, so at 7-2 Chiquita Mosca is well worth betting to win.


  • #1 Chiquita Mosca (7-2)
  • #3 Always Laughing (5-2)
  • #2 Liberty Belle (3-1)


  • $30 to win on #1 Chiquita Mosca

Zia Park: Race 4: $7,500 Claiming (six furlongs, 3:29 p.m. ET)

Former Southern California campaigner #10 Charlie’s Ghost (3-1) earned a sharp 79 Brisnet Speed rating when making his New Mexico debut in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Albuquerque, pressing the pace before taking over to win by half a length.

None of Charlie’s Ghost’s Tuesday rivals have recently earned a Brisnet Speed rating as high as 79, so we’ll bet him to win and key him over last-out $7,500 claiming winner #4 Wind River (6-1) in a small exacta.


  • #10 Charlie’s Ghost (3-1)
  • #4 Wind River (6-1)
  • #9 Air Jock (4-1)


  • $20 to win on #10 Charlie’s Ghost
  • $5 Exacta: 10 with 4
    Total: $25

Carryover Watch

Mountaineer: Race 8: $1,591 Super High 5 carryover (9:55 p.m. ET)

The Super High 5 at Mountaineer went unsolved on both Sunday and Monday, which means there’s non-jackpot double carryover worth $1,591 up for grabs on Tuesday’s card.

The prize pool is available to chase in Race 8, a $4,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won three races (excluding races for West Virginia-breds). The 5 1/2-furlong dirt dash has drawn 11 entries (including one also-eligible), so there are 55,440 possible outcomes before scratches.

Despite its large field size, the race doesn’t appear indecipherable. A handful of short-priced contenders look solid enough to build tickets around:

  • #1 My Girl Gabby (3-1) is dropping in class after finishing second by 3 1/4 lengths in a $6,500 claimer for non-winners of three races on Nov. 1 at Mountaineer. She earned a respectable 69 Brisnet Speed rating in that six-furlong dash and is eligible to fare even better while tackling $4,000 claiming company.
  • #2 Lunar Prayer (4-1) was much the best in a $4,000 claimer for non-winners of two races (other than West Virginia-bred races) on Nov. 12, wiring the five-furlong sprint by 4 1/4 lengths with a career-best 75 Brisnet Speed rating. The six-year-old mare won’t necessarily repeat that big figure (she earned numbers of 53 and 57 when placing twice over the same track, distance, and class level on Aug. 16 and Oct. 30), but she can’t be counted out of the mix for hot trainer James Barker.
  • #6 Talented Corinna (5-2) was beaten less than one length when third in a $5,000-$4,500 claimer for non-winners of three races on Nov. 17 at Charles Town. The four-year-old filly won twice at the end of summer and has posted four straight Brisnet Speed ratings in the 64-70 range, suggesting she’s a logical win threat for the red-hot jockey/trainer duo of Mauro Cedillo and Romney Brown, who have won at a 36% rate teaming up together over the last two months.
  • #10 Surcharge (8-1) hasn’t been running as fast as the favorites from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, but she ran well to finish second by three-quarters of a length over this track, distance, and class level on Nov. 15. Surcharge pulled 2 3/4 lengths clear of the third-place runner and still has some upside while making only her second start at Mountaineer.

Let’s key My Girl Gabby on top in the Super High 5 while emphasizing Lunar Prayer, Talented Corinna, and Surcharge to round out the minor awards:

  • $1 Super High 5: 1 with 2,6 with 2,6,10 with 2,4,6,9,10 with 2,3,4,6,8,9,10 ($48)

Good luck!