Keeler Johnson's picks and plays March 28

March 28th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Tuesday, March 28 at Will Rogers Downs and Turf Paradise, along with a horse to single in the $18,150 Pick 5 carryover at Sunland Park.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

Picks and Plays

Will Rogers Downs: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 3:35 p.m. ET)

The two best efforts posted by #6 Sword of Gold (2-1) have come in one-mile maiden special weights similar to the one he’ll tackle on Tuesday. In those races, both contested at Remington Park last fall, Sword of Gold finished third and second with Brisnet Speed ratings of 73 and 71. None of Sword of Gold’s rivals have posted a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 66 on dirt.

Sword of Gold kicked off 2023 with a decent third-place finish in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Will Rogers Downs, so stretching back out over one mile can send him to the winner’s circle under hot jockey Alex Birzer.

#1 Grandsonsam (5-2) and #3 Magna Tap (6-1) can battle for the minor awards. We’ll bet the exacta and trifecta, playing the latter ticket to capitalize on the Trifecta Tuesday promotion.


  • #6 Sword of Gold (2-1)
  • #1 Grandsonsam (5-2)
  • #3 Magna Tap (6-1)


  • $10 Exacta: 6 with 1,3 ($20)
  • $5 Trifecta: 6 with 1,3 with 1,3 ($10)
    Total: $30

Will Rogers Downs: Race 5: TRAO Classic Sprint S. (six furlongs, 4:05 p.m. ET)

There’s a lot of speed in the TRAO Classic Sprint field. Defending winner #1 Shannon C (1-1) has set, pressed, or tracked the pace in each of his last eight starts. Consistent allowance competitor #2 Mister Wayside (5-1) has led or dueled for the lead in five of his last seven starts, including each of his last three. And multiple stakes winner #3 Fly to the Bank (3-1) has set the pace in five of his last six starts.

All this speed may lend an advantage to the stretch-running #5 Tommyhawk (4-1), runner-up by two lengths in this race last year. The six-year-old gelding kicked off 2023 with a third-place finish in a six-furlong allowance at Will Rogers Downs in which he finished just three-quarters of a length behind runner-up Shannon C.

Let’s key Tommyhawk over Shannon C and Fly to the Bank in exacta and trifecta tickets.


  • #5 Tommyhawk (4-1)
  • #1 Shannon C (1-1)
  • #3 Fly to the Bank (3-1)


  • $10 Exacta: 5 with 1,3 ($20)
  • $5 Trifecta: 5 with 1,3 with 1,3 ($10)
    Total: $30

Turf Paradise: Race 4: $25,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (about 7 1/2 furlongs on turf, 5:50 p.m. ET)

#3 Arrabiata (9-2) has finished off the board in a couple of recent dirt runs, but three starts back he finished second in an allowance over this turf course and distance, earning a sharp 84 Brisnet Speed rating.

Arrabiata has also placed against $50,000 starter optional claiming competition running one mile over the Santa Anita turf course, so it appears grass racing is a strong suit for Arrabiata. At 9-2, he’s worth betting to win and keying over #5 Heir (5-2) in the exacta.


  • #3 Arrabiata (9-2)
  • #5 Heir (5-2)
  • #4 Light Cruiser (5-1)


  • $20 to win on #3 Arrabiata
  • $10 Exacta: 3 with 5
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Sunland Park, Race 5: $18,150 Pick 5 carryover (4:09 p.m. ET)

Last Tuesday, the 50-cent Pick 5 at Sunland Park featured a modest $601 carryover. This Tuesday, the Pick 5 boasts a dramatically larger $18,150 Pick 5 carryover, triggered in no small part by Wild On Ice’s 35-1 upset in Sunday’s Sunland Park Derby (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

If winning a share of a five-figure, non-jackpot carryover sounds appealing, you had best come prepared for a stiff handicapping challenge. Every race in Tuesday’s Pick 5 sequence contains eight or more horses. Four of the races have drawn between 10 and 12 horses, and there are 52 entries in total, averaging 10.4 per race. Wow! That also means there are 116,160 possible outcomes, a hefty number for a Pick 5.

A good strategy for handicapping a competitive sequence like this is to find a trustworthy single to build tickets around. That’s easier said than done, but Tuesday’s Pick 5 offers a viable possibility in Race 5, a $5,000 claimer for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt.

The field is large with 10 entries, but morning line favorite #9 Short Pockets (7-5) looks tough to beat. Conditioned by hot trainer Dick Cappellucci (a 24% winner at Sunland this meet), Short Pockets exits a third-place finish in a non-state-restricted $5,000 claimer racing one mile at Sunland, an effort that yielded a sharp 82 Brisnet Speed rating.

None of Short Pockets’ rivals have posted a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 77 in their last 10 starts, a sample size of 90 races. And Short Pockets’ 82 wasn’t a fluke; she posted numbers of 82 and 83 when winning $5,000 claimers at Zia Park last fall.

Short Pockets has been running long as of late, but she’s also a capable sprinter with a 9-1-3-2 record sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs. Under hot jockey Luis Fuentes (a 28% winner at Sunland and a 24% winner teaming up with Cappellucci over the last two months), Short Pockets is a compelling choice to take home top honors in the opening leg of the Pick 5.

Good luck!