Thursday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Fair Grounds Pick 6 single

January 25th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Thursday, Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park and Turfway Park, along with a single for the $3,125 Pick 6 carryover at Fair Grounds.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Winter Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in select races every Thursday-Sunday.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Gulfstream Park: Race 5: $35,000 Maiden Claiming (7 1/2 furlongs on turf, 2:09 p.m. ET)

#5 Butterfly Queen (5-1) has struggled a bit in two recent starts on Tapeta, but her lone turf try at Keeneland last fall was much better, as she closed ground off a modest pace to finish third (beaten only 1 3/4 lengths) in a one-mile maiden special weight.

Returning to turf and dropping into a $35,000 maiden claimer can trigger improvement from Butterfly Queen. Her sire, Omaha Beach, was best on dirt but is proving to be a source of turf prowess at stud.

Let’s bet Butterfly Queen to win and hope her enticing 5-1 morning line odds hold up.


  • #5 Butterfly Queen (5-1)
  • #9 Sheila’s Mission (5-1)
  • #3 Privacy Setting (6-1)


  • $25 to win on #5 Butterfly Queen

Turfway Park: Race 2: $30,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs on Tapeta, 6:25 p.m. ET)

#10 Phat Chance Fancy (10-1) showed some promise against maiden special weight competition at Ellis Park last year. After finishing fifth in her first two starts on dirt, the daughter of Bolt d’Oro switched to turf and employed pace-pressing tactics to finish third in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint.

Dropping in class for a $30,000 maiden claimer on Tapeta should help Phat Chance Fancy vie for victory under apprentice jockey Erick Fuentes, who rides with a 10-pound weight allowance. A win bet is in order, and we’ll also single Phat Chance Fancy to start a double wager.


  • #10 Phat Chance Fancy (10-1)
  • #9 Fancy Prance (20-1)
  • #11 Shesasmalltowngirl (7-2)


  • $20 to win on #10 Phat Chance Fancy (10-1)
  • $5 Double: 10 with 3
    Total: $25

Turfway Park: Race 3: $5,000 Claiming (six furlongs on Tapeta, 6:55 p.m. ET)

#3 Double Advantage (9-5) posted a strong performance in an $8,000 claimer on Dec. 8, 2022 at Turfway Park, rallying from seventh place to dominate by 5 1/2 lengths over Crosstown Shootout, who returned to win his next start against similar company.

Double Advantage wasn’t quite as productive when returning from a one-year layoff in a pair of $12,500 claimers at Turfway, finishing fourth and third. But he was beaten a combined 2 1/2 lengths in those contests and should be tough to beat while dropping into a $5,000 claimer for the ultra-hot jockey/trainer duo of Alberto Burgos and Randy Klopp, who have won at a 39% rate teaming up together over the last two months.

Let’s bet Double Advantage to win, single him to conclude our double wager, and add a small exacta using #8 Enjoy the Music (2-1) for second place.


  • #3 Double Advantage (9-5)
  • #8 Enjoy the Music (2-1)
  • #2 J W Ruckus (8-1)


  • $20 to win on #3 Double Advantage
  • $5 Exacta: 3 with 8
    Total: $25

Carryover Watch

Fair Grounds: Race 5: $3,125 Pick 6 carryover (3:45 p.m. ET)

Weather could wreak havoc on Thursday’s $3,125 Pick 6 carryover at Fair Grounds. Rain on Wednesday, and a chance for more rain on Thursday, may cause turf races to be transferred to the main track. And the main track could wind up sloppy.

That makes handicapping tricky because the Pick 6 sequence includes three turf races. If they’re switched to dirt, half a dozen main-track-only entrants will draw in, and many other horses figures to scratch.

We’ll have to wait until race-day changes are posted to have any idea how to handicap the turf races, but at least Race 6—the second leg of the Pick 6—should be straightforward to analyze regardless of track conditions. It’s a maiden special weight for three-year-olds and older horses racing over 1 1/16 miles on dirt, and only six horses have entered (none of them three-year-olds), so mathematically speaking this is a favorable spot in which to seek a Pick 6 single.

The most striking aspect of this small field is the lack of speed it contains. The six entrants have made a combined 33 starts, but none of them have ever raced in first or second place during the first two calls of a race.

That should lend an insurmountable advantage to morning line favorite #2 Empire’s Best (9-5), who is also the only entrant to ever hold the lead in a race. In a $50,000 maiden claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs last time out, Empire’s Best tracked the pace from third place, took over around the far turn, and battled gamely through the homestretch to finish second by a head.

The 83 Brisnet Speed rating Empire’s Best received is tied for the highest number in Thursday’s field, and there are other positives in his favor. He’s run well against maiden special weight competition in the past, sticking within 2 1/2 lengths of the pace in a 1 1/16-mile contest at Oaklawn Park before staying on to finish third. The winner, Winters Lion, has since placed in multiple stakes, while runner-up Rungius has gone on to win three races.

Furthermore, Empire’s Best has the red-hot jockey/trainer duo of Florent Geroux and Brad Cox in his corner. Over the last two months, Geroux and Cox have compiled a stellar 15-for-38 (39%) record teaming up together.

Throw in the fact Empire’s Best has run his two best races over wet tracks (including a sloppy track at Oaklawn), and it’s hard to picture any outcome other than Empire’s Best setting or pressing a slow pace on his way to a comfortable victory. That’s why we’ll single him in the Pick 6.

Good luck!