Keeler Johnson's picks and plays Jan. 16

January 16th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Monday, Jan. 16 at Mahoning Valley and Fair Grounds, along with tickets for the $595 Super High 5 carryover at Laurel Park.

Picks and Plays

Mahoning Valley: Race 1: $7,500 Claiming (one mile, 12:45 p.m. ET)

#1A Silver G T O (3-1) has been sprinting as of late, finishing fifth in an $8,000 claimer and fifth in a $5,000 starter allowance dashing six furlongs at Mahoning Valley. But he has the pedigree to run longer and has twice won over one mile in the past.

Silver G T O isn’t a need-the-lead type, but he figures to work out a favorable forwardly placed trip while stretching out in distance on Monday. He’ll also benefit from the services of hot apprentice jockey Yan Aviles, an 18% winner at Mahoning Valley who rides with a five-pound weight allowance.

Deep closer #4 Gizmo Jones (5-2) is a logical choice to rally and complete the exacta.


  • #1A Silver G T O (3-1)
  • #4 Gizmo Jones (5-2)
  • #8 Auger (8-1)


  • $20 to win on #1A Silver G T O
  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 4
    Total: $30

Fair Grounds: Race 4: $17,500 Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 3:45 p.m. ET)

#3 Royal Take Charge (3-1) was impressive in her debut at Churchill Downs two months ago. The daughter of Will Take Charge carved out the pace in a 7 1/2-furlong maiden special weight before staying on to win by one length with a sharp 97 Brisnet Speed rating.

If Royal Take Charge produces a similar performance at Fair Grounds, she can lead all the way to defeat fellow debut winner #2 Non Violence (5-2), victorious by 5 1/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Fair Grounds last month.


  • #3 Royal Take Charge (3-1)
  • #2 Non Violence (5-2)
  • #4 Judy’s Way (9-2)


  • $20 to win on #3 Royal Take Charge
  • $20 Exacta: 3 with 2
    Total: $40

Fair Grounds: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles on turf, 5:15 p.m. ET)

#8 Just Say So (8-1) exits a decent fifth-place finish in a deep 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Kentucky Downs. The winner (American Apple) came back to win the Matron (G3) and finish sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1), while the runner-up (Twirled) won her next start, finished second in the Fern Creek S., and recently nabbed an Oaklawn Park allowance.

Just Say So figures to encounter easier competition on Monday, which might be all she needs to deliver a winning run at enticing odds. The fact she’s adding Lasix is another positive since trainer Eddie Kenneally wins at an excellent 24% rate with horses running on Lasix for the first time.

#3 Paint Me Perfect (5-1) and #5 Girl Named Charlie (9-2) can complete the exacta.


  • #8 Just Say So (8-1)
  • #3 Paint Me Perfect (5-1)
  • #5 Girl Named Charlie (9-2)


  • $20 to win on #8 Just Say So
  • $5 Exacta: 8 with 3,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Laurel Park, Race 1: $595 Super High 5 carryover (12:25 p.m. ET)

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which means Laurel Park is hosting a special holiday card highlighted by a $595 Super High 5 carryover.

The $1 wager is available to play right off the bat in Race 1, a $16,000 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won three races. Eight horses have turned out to contest the six-furlong dirt sprint, which means there are 6,720 possible Super High 5 outcomes.

There isn’t a crazy amount of pace in the Monday opener, which should lend an advantage to #5 Rock Rose (7-2), the only obvious frontrunner in the field. The four-year-old filly has set the pace in six of her nine career starts, including when fading to finish sixth in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance sprint on New Year’s Day at Laurel.

Rock Rose’s defeat to start the season can be forgiven since she was facing tougher competition than she usually tackles. Two starts back, she was tons the best in a $16,000 claimer for non-winners of two races, settling in third place early on before pouncing clear to dominate the six-furlong Laurel sprint by 3 1/4 lengths.

That effort produced a career-best 85 Brisnet Speed rating, the best recent number posted by any horse in Monday’s field. If Rock Rose shakes loose on an easy lead while returning to the $16,000 level, she can match or improve upon that number and deliver another victory.

All this is a roundabout way of saying we’ll key Rock Rose on top in the Super High 5. Underneath, we’ll strongly emphasize #1 A Girl Named Jac (3-1), who hasn’t missed the board in her last eight starts against tougher competition. She exits a second and a fourth against $25,000 claiming competition sprinting at Laurel, solid efforts that produced Brisnet Speed ratings of 83 and 80. Look for A Girl Named Jac to be closing ground down the homestretch.

#2 Sweet Talia (5-1), #4 Hot Lookin Royal (4-1), #7 Fancy Princess (10-1), and #8 Preparefortakeoff (10-1) are other key contenders with the form lines to factor on their best days.

Here’s how we'll bet the Super High 5:

  • $1 Super High 5: 5 with 1 with 2 with 4,7,8 with 3,4,6,7,8 ($12)
  • $1 Super High 5: 5 with 2 with 1 with 4,7,8 with 3,4,6,7,8 ($12)
  • $1 Super High 5: 5 with 1 with 4,7,8 with 2 with 3,4,6,7,8 ($12)
  • $1 Super High 5: 5 with 4,7,8 with 1 with 2 with 3,4,6,7,8 ($12)
    Total: $48

Good luck!