Keeler Johnson's picks and plays March 9

March 9th, 2023

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Thursday, March 9 at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, and Turfway Park, along with horses to single in the $8,949 Pick 6 carryover at Fair Grounds.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Turfway Park $2,500 Thursday Leaderboard Contest: Place $10+ win wagers at Turfway Park on Thursdays from Jan. 5 through March 30 to earn points and compete for your share of a $2,500 weekly jackpot.

Picks and Plays

Fair Grounds: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (about 1 1/8 miles on turf, 4:15 p.m. ET)

#2 Clever Joke (2-1) has finished third in her first two starts against maiden special weight competition. On Aug. 28 at Saratoga, she rallied after a very poor start to finish third. On Dec. 3 at Tampa Bay Downs, she settled in the front half of the field before staying on to finish third again, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by next-out allowance optional claiming winner Mission of Joy.

Clever Joke may find the competition a bit easier at Fair Grounds, and racing on Lasix for the first time should only help her chances. Throw in hot jockey Corey Lanerie (a 20% winner at Fair Grounds this meet), and Clever Joke is worth betting to win and keying over #6 Jayla (9-2) and #7 Acting (5-1) in the exacta.


  • #2 Clever Joke (2-1)
  • #7 Acting (5-1)
  • #6 Jayla (9-2)


  • $18 to win on #2 Clever Joke
  • $6 Exacta: 2 with 6,7 ($12)
    Total: $30

Oaklawn Park: Race 7: $100,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 4:50 p.m. ET)

#2 Heroic Move (8-5) showed promise in a one-mile maiden special weight at Oaklawn last month, rallying steadily from midfield to post a half-length debut victory. His reward was an encouraging 89 Brisnet Speed rating.

High-percentage trainer Brad Cox (a 22% winner at Oaklawn this meet) strikes at a 27% rate with last-out maiden winners, and the presence of jockey Florent Geroux (a 27% winner at Oaklawn and a 32% winner teaming up with Cox over the last two months) adds to the appeal.

We’ll bet Heroic Move over Risen Star (G2) alumnus #3 Silver Heist (3-1) in a cold exacta. Then we’ll add #5 Funny Uncle (7-2) and #1 Mendelssohns March (8-1) for a trifecta.


  • #2 Heroic Move (8-5)
  • #3 Silver Heist (3-1)
  • #5 Funny Uncle (7-2)


  • $20 Exacta: 2 with 3
  • $5 Trifecta: 2 with 3 with 1,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 2: $8,000 Claiming (1 1/16 miles on Tapeta, 6:25 p.m. ET)

#9 Joker On Jack (2-1) has won three of his six starts at Turfway Park. Two starts, back he employed pace-tracking tactics to nab an $8,000 claimer racing one mile over this track, earning a sharp 87 Brisnet Speed rating.

Joker On Jack subsequently faltered to fifth place in a $12,500 claimer sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Turfway, but dropping down in class and stepping up in distance can trigger a rebound. A win bet will be our first order of business, followed by an exacta using #8 Texas Hedge (15-1) and #5 Texas Gano (5-1) for second place.


  • #9 Joker On Jack (2-1)
  • #8 Texas Hedge (15-1)
  • #5 Texas Gano (5-1)


  • $20 to win on #9 Joker On Jack
  • $5 Exacta: 9 with 5,8 ($10)
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Fair Grounds, Race 4: $8,949 Pick 6 carryover (9:25 p.m. ET)

If you’ve been scrolling through the list of Thursday carryovers, searching for a non-jackpot option to pursue, then chances are your eyes lit up when you saw the $8,949 non-jackpot prize pool up for grabs in the $1 Pick 6.

A challenging sequence is on tap. There are a couple of turf tests in the mix, and the dirt races feature large fields for the most part, so any winning ticket is likely to yield an enticing payoff.

If you’re looking for singles to build tickets around, the above-mentioned Race 5 is a fair place to start. As outlined previously, #2 Clever Joke (2-1) looks like a standout. Assuming the main-track-only entrant #8 Perfection Saver (6-1) scratches, Clever Joke will only face half a dozen rivals, which mathematically makes Race 5 an ideal place to seek a single.

But if one single doesn’t generate enough cost savings for your budget, then check out #7 Hidden Enemy (5-2) in Race 8, a $50,000 allowance optional claimer for older horses racing about 1 1/16 miles on turf. A total of 16 horses have been entered, but six are also-eligible entrants and two are entered for the main track only, so in all likelihood eight horses will face the starter.

Among those eight, Hidden Enemy looks like the best. His solid 5-2-1-1 record over the Fair Grounds turf course includes a rallying victory in an about 1 1/8-mile allowance on Feb. 4. That effort marked Hidden Enemy’s first start since September, but the five-year-old gelding shrugged off the layoff to score by half a length.

Hidden Enemy has hit the board a couple of times against graded stakes competition and should be a perfect fit for Thursday’s allowance optional claiming level. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen wins at a solid 19% rate with horses running back for the second time following a layoff, and the presence of hot jockey Brian Hernandez (a 22% winner at Fair Grounds) adds to the appeal.

In short, what’s not to like? Hidden Enemy’s key rival #5 Sailing Solo (7-2) has only run once in the last two years, so the door is open for Hidden Enemy to record a second straight victory.

Good luck!