Thursday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Turf Paradise Derby and More

March 14th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Thursday, March 14 at Turf Paradise and Turfway Park, along with analysis of the $2,773 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.
  • 10x Points at Fraser Downs: Receive 10x reward points on all wagers (excluding show bets) at Fraser Downs on Thursdays and Fridays in March.
  • Woodbine Mohawk 15% Trifecta Boost: Receive a 15% bonus (up to $25 per day) on winning trifecta wagers at Woodbine Mohawk during the month of March.
  • Cheltenham $10 Money Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second or third in any eligible race at Cheltenham on Tuesday through Friday.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Turf Paradise: Race 6: Arizona Oaks (one mile, 6:30 p.m. ET)

#1 Pink Whitney (5-2) endured a wide trip when beaten 1 1/4 lengths by #2 Sakura Blossom (2-1) in a seven-furlong $50,000 starter optional claimer at Santa Anita last month. In contrast, Sakura Blossom raced inside around the turn, so ground loss may have been the difference between victory and defeat for Pink Whitney.

Pink Whitney figures to receive a better trip while breaking from the rail in the Arizona Oaks, so we’re willing to bet this Southern California raider can turn the tables and take home top honors. We’ll key Pink Whitney over Sakura Blossom and #7 Madison Rae (4-1) in an exacta, then single Pink Whitney to start a double wager.


  • #1 Pink Whitney (5-2)
  • #7 Madison Rae (4-1)
  • #2 Sakura Blossom (2-1)


  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 2,7 ($20)
  • $10 Double: 1 with 2
    Total: $30

Turf Paradise: Race 7: Turf Paradise Derby (1 1/16 miles, 7:05 p.m. ET)

#2 Last Call London (7-2) won the one-mile King Glorious S. against California-breds at Los Alamitos and recently finished fourth in a fast $100,000 allowance optional claimer against open company at Santa Anita. The runner-up in that one-mile contest, Imagination, came back to win the San Felipe (G2) in his next start.

Last Call London appears to be facing an easier field in the Turf Paradise Derby, stamping the bay gelding as a viable win threat for trainer Peter Miller, who has gone 3-2-1-0 (67%) at Turf Paradise this meet. A win bet is in order, and we’ll also single Last Call London to conclude our double wager.


  • #2 Last Call London (7-2)
  • #4 E J Won the Cup (5-2)
  • #1 Freeze ‘Em (9-2)


  • $25 to win on #2 Last Call London

Turfway Park: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 7:55 p.m. ET)

#2 Princess Is Olivia (4-1) never factored after a slow start in a one-mile maiden special weight over a muddy track at Oaklawn Park last time out, finishing eighth. But she’d previously cracked the trifecta in three straight maiden special weight sprints over fast tracks at Oaklawn, Churchill Downs, and Keeneland.

Princess Is Olivia may find the competition a bit easier at Turfway Park, where trainer Juan Cano has won at a 20% rate this meet. Throw in the fact she’ll be ridden by Axel Concepcion (who has gone 5-for-10, 50% teaming up with Cano over the last two months), and Princess Is Olivia is well worth betting to win.


  • #2 Princess Is Olivia (4-1)
  • #8 Marmalade Skye (5-2)
  • #7 Stagflation (4-1)


  • $30 to win on #2 Princess Is Olivia

Carryover Watch

Fair Grounds: Race 4: $2,773 Pick 6 carryover (3:15 p.m. ET)

No one came close to hitting the $1 Pick 6 on Wednesday at Fair Grounds, triggering a $2,773 carryover for Thursday’s card.

Wednesday’s Pick 6 sequence saw a pair of 17-1 shots and an 11-1 chance visit the winner’s circle. We’re highlighting the upsets because those two 17-1 winners achieved their victories in gate-to-wire fashion on turf. In fact, the winners of all three of Wednesday’s grass races at Fair Grounds led from start to finish, so a case can be made that the firm course played kindly toward speed horses.

What does this mean for Thursday’s Pick 6? That’s a good question. There are two grass races in the Pick 6 sequence, and if the course stays firm we’d be inclined to favor horses with early speed. But there’s a possibility for rain on Thursday, so if the course gets damp (or if the races are switched to dirt), that could change the equation.

The first grass event in the Pick 6 is Race 5, a $15,000 claimer for older horses racing about one mile on turf. An overflow field with several also-eligible entrants has turned out, and there isn’t much pace in the main body of the field. #3 Smokey Harbor (8-1) is usually prominent, though he’s done his best work on dirt and failed to show speed when switching to turf for a $10,000 starter optional claimer at Fair Grounds last month. #12 Freedom Factor (6-1) might be the most likely pacesetter and is a good fit for Thursday’s field after placing twice over this course, distance, and class level in recent months, but he’s on the also-eligible list.

Speed horses aside, we want to include #1 Niles Channel (7-2) regardless of how the course plays. He’s won three straight $10,000 starter optional claimers over the Fair Grounds lawn and will be particularly dangerous if Wednesday’s speed bias evaporates.

The other turf race in the Pick 6 sequence is Race 7, a $20,000 allowance optional claimer for older Louisiana-breds racing about one mile on turf. The problem here is that speed horses abound among the entries, and splitting them isn’t easy. We might lean toward #4 Mi Solution (7-2), who has raced first or second in all eight of his starts; the five-year-old gelding exits victory in a $12,500 allowance optional claimer over this course and distance and is eligible to win right back for the hot jockey/trainer duo of Jose Rodriguez and Keith Bourgeouis.

But if Race 7 gets rained off the turf, you’ll want to mix in horses like #3 Cajun Eddie (10-1), #8 Izzy’s Baby Boy (8-1), and even the main-track-only entrant #11 Home Visit (10-1), since they all boast good recent form on dirt.

Good luck!