Monday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Bo Cruz ready for return

February 12th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Monday, Feb. 12 at Mahoning Valley, Fair Grounds, and Turf Paradise, including horses to play in non-jackpot carryovers at Mahoning and Fair Grounds.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • 10x Points on Harness Racing: Earn 10x reward points on all harness racing wagers (excluding show bets) every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday during the month of February.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Mahoning Valley: Race 5: $7,500 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 2:36 p.m. ET)

#7 Written Consent (3-1) ran second in a $7,500 maiden claimer sprinting six furlongs over the Turfway Park Tapeta track last time out, but you can argue the four-year-old filly is superior on dirt. Two starts sprinting on dirt since being claimed by trainer Antonio Meraz have seen Written Consent finish second in $12,500 maiden claimers at Belterra Park while earning sharp Brisnet Speed ratings of 74 and 77.

Returning to dirt while tackling a $7,500 maiden claimer should make Written Consent formidable, so we’ll place a large win bet on the daughter of Tapwrit.


  • #7 Written Consent (3-1)
  • #12 Luvisanaki (12-1)
  • #3 Working Holiday (4-1)


  • $30 to win on #7 Written Consent

Fair Grounds: Race 6: $50,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile and 70 yards, 4:15 p.m. ET)

#4 Bo Cruz (5-2) showed plenty of promise last winter and spring. After wiring a one-mile and 70-yard maiden special weight at Fair Grounds by 12 1/4 lengths, he nabbed a 1 1/16-mile $100,000 allowance optional claimer over the same track by three lengths and then ran third against a strong field in the 1 1/8-mile Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs.

Bo Cruz disappeared from the work tab following a surprising eighth-place finish as the favorite in the July 8 Iowa Derby, but he’s posted nine timed workouts at Fair Grounds since returning to serious training in December, including a bullet half-mile in :47 4/5. If Bo Cruz brings his A-game off the layoff, he’ll be tough to catch.

We’ll bet Bo Cruz to win and key him over #3 Banishing (7-2) in a small exacta.


  • #4 Bo Cruz (5-2)
  • #3 Banishing (7-2)
  • #6 Behemah Star (4-1)


  • $25 to win on #4 Bo Cruz
  • $5 Exacta: 4 with 3
    Total: $30

Turf Paradise: Race 5: Allowance (one mile, 4:32 p.m. ET)

There isn’t a ton of speed in this five-horse field, which could lend an advantage to #5 Thirsty John (3-1), who is stretching out in distance off a trio of sprints. Last year, the son of Travers (G1) winner Stay Thirsty wired the 1 1/16-mile California Cup Derby at Santa Anita, and stretching back out in distance at Turf Paradise should allow Thirsty John to set or press a modest pace.

Let’s play Thirsty John on top of an exacta using stretch-running favorite #4 Oviatt Class (6-5) for second place.


  • #5 Thirsty John (3-1)
  • #4 Oviatt Class (6-5)
  • #2 Orth (6-2)


  • $15 Exacta: 5 with 4

Carryover Watch

Mahoning Valley: Race 1: $8,007 Pick 5 carryover (12:45 p.m. ET)

Mahoning Valley is kicking off the new racing week with an $8,007 carryover up for grabs in their non-jackpot $1 Pick 5.

If you’re looking for a single to build tickets around, we recommend #7 Written Consent (3-1) in Race 5, the closing leg of the Pick 5. As outlined above, she should be tough to beat while returning to dirt for a $7,500 claimer.

In contrast, we recommend spreading a bit in Race 2, a maiden special weight for three-year-olds racing one mile on dirt. Hot trainer Wesley Ward has entered a pair of first-time starters: the colt #4 Via Della Spiga (5-2) and the filly #2 You Kuuipo (3-1). Both warrant respect, but it’s worth noting Ward’s 27% win rate with first-time starters drops to only 13% with horses debuting over one mile or farther. At Mahoning specifically, Ward has gone 0-for-2 debuting horses in routes since 2019.

If the Ward trainees falter, logical challengers abound. #3 Axed Avenger (7-2) is bred to shine while stretching out from six furlongs to one mile for his second start, and it’s worth noting trainer Israel Acevedo wins at a 35% rate with second-time starters. #5 Mansion Party (6-1) has early speed and ran second over this track, distance, and class level on Nov. 27. And even #7 Y’zin Up (10-1) could be in with a shot after rallying to finish third in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Mahoning last time out.

The field for Race 2 isn’t huge, but you can make a case of some sort for more than half the entrants, so covering as many logical contenders as affordable may be the key to surviving this leg of the Pick 5.

Fair Grounds: Race 3: $9,388 Pick 6 carryover (2:45 p.m. ET)

Fair Grounds is joining in on Monday’s non-jackpot carryover action with a $9,388 prize pool up for grabs in their $1 Pick 6.

Before scratches, the sequence contains 62 horses (averaging about 10.3 per race) and 958,464 possible outcomes. It sounds challenging, but it might not be as difficult as first appears.

For starters, seven of the entrants are on the also-eligible list, so scratches could reduce the number of possibilities down to 557,568 or lower. And if we single the above-mentioned #4 Bo Cruz (5-2) in Race 6, that drops the number down to 69,696.

But wait, it gets better. In Race 4, a $12,500 maiden claimer taking place over one mile and 70 yards on dirt, we should be able to survive using only #1 Pearse (7-5) and #3 South Side (8-5) in an eight-horse field. Pearse is the fastest of the experienced maiden claiming competitors after finishing second over this track, distance, and class level on Jan. 21, earning a flashy 80 Brisnet Speed rating. But South Side is eligible to challenge while dropping in class out of maiden special weights at Fair Grounds.

By using only Pearse and South Side, that leaves us with 17,424 remaining outcomes to analyze across the other four races. Simplifying that number down to a playable Pick 6 ticket shouldn’t be overly difficult, even for bettors with modest budgets.

Good luck!