Keeler Johnson's picks and plays March 8

March 8th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Wednesday, March 8 at Tampa Bay Downs and Fair Grounds, including live longshots to play in the $6,233 Pick 6 carryover at Fair Grounds.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Winning Wednesdays: Get a 25% boost on your winning win wagers (excluding stake amount; maximum $50 bonus per day) when you bet Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park on Wednesdays.

Picks and Plays

Tampa Bay Downs: Race 5: $25,000 Starter Allowance (1 1/16 miles on turf, 2:25 p.m. ET)

#7 Harrow (9-5) is an obvious favorite after rallying to victory over this course and class level on Dec. 14, earning a career-best 89 Brisnet Speed rating. But Harrow recently finished fifth in an identical contest on Jan. 27, coming home only three-quarters of a length ahead of #6 Harpoon Harry (3-1).

There isn’t a ton of speed in Wednesday’s field, so Harpoon Harry—who usually sets or tracks the pace—may have a tactical advantage over the stretch-running Harrow. We’ll play the race accordingly, betting Harpoon Harry to win and keying him over Harrow and #5 Fatima’s Blessing (5-2) in exacta and trifectas tickets.


  • #6 Harpoon Harry (3-1)
  • #7 Harrow (9-5)
  • #5 Fatima’s Blessing (5-2)


  • $15 to win on #6 Harpoon Harry
  • $5 Exacta: 6 with 5,7 ($10)
  • $2.50 Trifecta: 6 with 5,7 with 5,7 ($5)
    Total: $30

Tampa Bay Downs: Race 6: $10,000 Claiming (six furlongs, 2:55 p.m. ET)

#3 Aunt Nadine (5-2) has competed primarily on synthetic as of late, but three starts back she tackled a $12,500 claimer sprinting six furlongs over the Gulfstream Park dirt track and ran second, beaten only two lengths after carving out the pace.

That effort produced a flashy 92 Brisnet Speed rating, and it’s worth noting Aunt Nadine’s career-best 97 Brisnet Speed rating was likewise earned on dirt. These numbers stamp Aunt Nadine as the mare to beat while returning to dirt and descending to the $10,000 claiming level, so we’ll bet her to win and key her over #6 Liking It Twisted (3-1) and #2 Dr. Ann (7-2) in the exacta.


  • #3 Aunt Nadine (5-2)
  • #6 Liking It Twisted (3-1)
  • #2 Dr. Ann (7-2)


  • $18 to win on #3 Aunt Nadine
  • $6 Exacta: 3 with 2,6 ($12)
    Total: $30

Fair Grounds: Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (about 5 1/2 furlongs, 5:15 p.m. ET)

#3 Gold Plus (6-1) has a shot to outrun her morning line odds on debut. Sire Goldencents is responsible for a solid 20% winners on turf (including 12% winners from first-time turf starters), while trainer Sam David Jr. wins at a 16% rate with first-time starters and a 20% rate with horses debuting on turf.

This field of three-year-old maidens hasn’t come up especially tough on paper, so we’ll place a large win bet on Gold Plus and call it a day.


  • #3 Gold Plus (6-1)
  • #7 Audaciousness (9-2)
  • #6 Zoom Erin (8-1)


  • $25 to win on #3 Gold Plus

Carryover Watch

Fair Grounds, Race 3: $6,233 Pick 6 carryover (3:15 p.m. ET)

The racing week at Fair Grounds kicks off with a $6,233 non-jackpot carryover up for grabs in the $1 Pick 6.

A competitive sequence is in the offing, so we’ve analyzed the entries and identified a pair of live longshots worth including. If we can land both in the winner’s circle, we’ll be well on our way to cashing a nice Pick 6 payoff.

Race 4: $12,500 Claiming (six furlongs): #1 Cigar Van (8-1)

Speed horses and runners drawn in posts 1-3 have enjoyed the strongest success in six-furlong dirt sprints at Fair Grounds this meet. That bodes well for Cigar Van, a live longshot in this $12,500 claimer for Louisiana-breds.

Cigar Van couldn’t quite stretch his speed over one mile when tackling this track and class level on Feb. 10, weakening to finish third after leading for seven furlongs. Nor could he handle the $20,000 claiming level in a six-furlong contest on Jan. 27, finishing seventh after setting the early pace.

But three starts back, Cigar Van dominated a $10,000 maiden claimer dashing six furlongs at Fair Grounds, tracking the early pace before taking command and pulling away to score by 3 3/4 lengths. Sprinting six furlongs against $12,500 company should suit Cigar Van just fine, and the fact he has a favorable running style and post draw for Wednesday’s contest is encouraging. Throw in the fact trainer Floyd Pitzer has gone 4-for-9 (44%) at Fair Grounds this meet, and Cigar Van is well worth including in the Pick 6.

Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles): #4 Transparency (9-2)

Transparency finished behind Wednesday rivals #2 Blame the Toll (7-2) and #1 Magic Palace (5-1) when finishing fourth in a one-mile maiden special weight at Fair Grounds on Feb. 9. But whereas Blame the Toll and Magic Palace brought experience to the table, Transparency was racing for the first time.

Trainer Wayne Catalano wins at a lofty 43% rate with horses running long for the second time, and hot jockey Corey Lanerie (a 20% winner at Fair Grounds this meet) retains the mount. Throw in the fact Transparency breezed a sharp half-mile in :47 2/5 on Feb. 25, and this four-year-old filly looks ready to move forward and challenge for victory.

Good luck!