Keeler Johnson's picks and plays of April 20
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $75 worth of picks and plays for Thursday, April 20 at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland, along with horses to single in Pick 6 carryovers at Keeneland and Aqueduct.
Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:
- Hoosier Park $1,000 Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the late Pick 4 on Thursdays at Hoosier Park to win your share of a $1,000 weekly jackpot.
- Keeneland Daily Double Down: Receive a 50% bonus on all winning double wagers at Keeneland on Wednesdays and Thursdays (also Friday, April 28).
- Rest of the World $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in any race at Newmarket (UK).
Picks and Plays
Gulfstream Park: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 12:40 p.m. ET)
#5 Mist (2-1) looks ready to factor on debut for trainer Juan Alvarado, who has enjoyed success saddling early-season juveniles at Gulfstream in recent years. The daughter of Brethren worked a solid half-mile in :49.55 last Saturday and is slated to be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo, who has gone 2-for-4 (50%) teaming up with Alvarado over the last two months.
Mist’s stablemate #6 Cherokee (3-1) can battle with #1 Sun Azteca (4-1) for the minor awards. The latter filly is trained by Jose D’Angelo, a 30% winner with horses debuting in maiden special weights.
- #5 Mist
- #1 Sun Azteca
- #6 Cherokee
Keeneland: Race 2: Maiden Special Weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 1:32 p.m. ET)
The beautifully bred #8 American Rascal (6-5) ought to be ready for a winning debut. Trainer Wesley Ward excels in these early-season juvenile sprints at Keeneland, and American Rascal is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin out of Ward’s globetrotting filly Lady Aurelia.
Lady Aurelia is best known for beating males in the King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny (G1) at Deauville, but she also dominated her debut as a two-year-old during the Keeneland spring meet. If American Rascal has inherited Lady Aurelia’s precociousness, he can deliver victory under jockey Joel Rosario, a 43% winner teaming up with Ward over the last two months.
We’ll look for #1 Cowes (9-2) or #5 Kore Kinetic (6-1) to complete the exacta.
- #8 American Rascal
- #1 Cowes
- #5 Kore Kinetic
- $15 Exacta: 8 with 1, 5 ($30)
Keeneland: Race 9: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on turf, 5:16 p.m. ET)
#8 Just So (7-2) debuted in an off-the-turf maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park last month, rallying from midfield to finish second in the one-mile and 70-yard Tapeta contest. As a son of Triple Crown winner Justify, who sires 16% winners from first-time turf starters, Just So is eligible to improve while trying grass. The fact hot trainer Chad Brown (a 40% winner at Keeneland this meet) strikes at a 23% rate with first-time turf starters adds to the appeal.
Let’s bet Just So to win and play him over #10 Cyber Ninja (5-2) and #7 Sherlock’s Jewel (12-1) in a couple of small exactas.
- #8 Just So
- #10 Cyber Ninja
- #7 Sherlock’s Jewel
- $12 win: #8 Just So
- $5 Exacta: 8 with 10
- $3 Exacta: 8 with 7
Aqueduct: Race 3: $37,483 Pick 6 carryover (2:24 p.m. ET)
Another week, another Pick 6 carryover at Aqueduct. Racing resumes at the New York track on Thursday with a $37,483 non-jackpot Pick 6 prize pool up for grabs.
The $1 wager spans Race 3 through Race 8, a sequence containing 58 horses (averaging 9.7 per race) and 756,000 possible outcomes before scratches. On the bright side, three of those horses are main-track-only entrants who figure to scratch, and two coupled entries further reduce the number of actual betting combinations to consider. Factor in the expected scratches and the coupled entries, and the real number of possibilities is more like 432,000, not unmanageable for a Pick 6.
You can further slice the possibilities down to 72,000 if you’re willing to single #5 Runninsonofagun (4-5) in Race 3, an $80,000 allowance optional claimer taking place over six furlongs on dirt. You won’t be alone in singling Runninsonofagun, so it’s not exactly a value-packed proposition. But singling the logical favorite will reduce Pick 6 ticket costs and allow you to spread deeper in more challenging legs, increasing the likelihood of cashing a winning ticket.
That’s assuming, of course, that Runninsonofagun visits the winner’s circle. And while there are no certainties in racing, a victory for Runninsonofagun appears highly likely.
The four-year-old son of Gun Runner has cracked the trifecta in eight consecutive stakes, seven of them graded. He even ran third against a strong field in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) at Saratoga last summer.
Runninsonofagun has been particularly sharp in his last three starts at Aqueduct. After rallying to defeat next-out General George (G3) winner Eastern Bay in the Bold Ruler H. (G3), Runninsonofagun finished second by a neck in the Fall Highweight H. (G3) and second by 1 1/2 lengths in the Tom Fool H. (G3). The latter performance yielded a career-best 106 Brisnet Speed rating.
The Tom Fool marked Runninsonofagun’s first start of 2023. He’s turned in sharp workouts since then and is eligible to improve while dropping in class for his second run of the season. Throw in hot jockey Kendrick Carmouche (a 22% winner at Aqueduct since the start of the year), and Runninsonofagun is a compelling single to start the Pick 6.
Keeneland: Race 4: $226,155 Pick 6 carryover (2:36 p.m. ET)
If you think Aqueduct’s Pick 6 carryover looks enticing, check out the prize pool up for grabs at Keeneland. The $1 Pick 6 has gone unsolved for multiple days in a row, resulting in a non-jackpot carryover worth $226,155.
A deep and competitive sequence is on tap, featuring 73 horses (averaging 12.2 per race) and 2,359,296 possible outcomes before scratches. A dozen horses are listed as also-eligibles, so the sequence will simplify once scratches are announced, but it’s obviously a challenging Pick 6.
Finding a trustworthy single to build tickets around isn’t easy. But if you want to give it a try, you might check out Race 6, a $30,000 starter allowance taking place over 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt. Morning line favorite #4 Devil’s Tower (7-5) has won three straight six-furlong sprints at Oaklawn Park, wiring a $30,000 claimer by 4 1/2 lengths before nabbing back-to-back $35,000 starter allowances with tracking and rallying tactics.
Devil’s Tower is versatile in terms of running style, setting the stage for a favorable trip under four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz. Devil’s Tower also enters with improving Brisnet Speed ratings of 86, 90, and 94, suggesting he still has upside for high-percentage trainer Chris Hartman. In a competitive Pick 6, Devil’s Tower looks like as viable a single as any.