Wednesday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Maidens at Turfway

January 31st, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Wednesday, Jan. 31 at Turfway Park, along with a single for the $2,083 Pick 5 carryover at Penn National.

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 January.

Picks and Plays

Turfway Park: Race 3: $15,000 Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta, 6:55 p.m. ET)

#6 Midnight Grind (8-1) wired a $12,500 maiden claimer sprinting five furlongs over the Horseshoe Indianapolis turf course, defeating a next-out winner by 1 3/4 lengths. She followed up with a runner-up finish in a five-furlong turf allowance at Belterra Park, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths. The form of that defeat has been flattered by the winner and third-place finisher returning to win their next starts.

Since Nov. 29, 40% of 6 1/2-furlong sprints at Turfway have been won in gate-to-wire fashion, so Midnight Grind’s early speed figures to come in handy while making her Tapeta debut. Throw in the fact she’s a daughter of Midnight Storm, whose progeny have excelled at Turfway Park this racing season, and Midnight Grind is worth betting to win.


  • #6 Midnight Grind (8-1)
  • #10 Charley Rude (3-1)
  • #1 My Blue Valentine (20-1)


  • $25 to win on #6 Midnight Grind

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

Since 2019, trainer Wesley Ward has gone 17-for-38 (45%) debuting three-year-olds in sprints at Turfway Park. This bodes well for Ward’s unraced three-year-old #1 Kehoe Beach (3-1).

Kehoe Beach is a son of Omaha Beach (who is siring 24% winners from first-time starters) out of Sweet Awakening, the dam of multiple stakes winners Core Values and Are You Kidding Me. The latter won a bevy of stakes on synthetic at Woodbine, so Kehoe Beach has the pedigree to shine on Tapeta.

Throw in the fact Kehoe Beach breezed a bullet five furlongs from the Turfway Park starting gate in :59 3/5 earlier this month, and he’s well worth betting to win. We’ll also add a small exacta using #8 Peaceful Kingdom (10-1) for second place.


  • #1 Kehoe Beach (3-1)
  • #8 Peaceful Kingdom (10-1)
  • #3 Lead With Speed (9-2)


  • $25 to win on #1 Kehoe Beach
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 8
    Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 8: $50,000 Maiden Claiming (one mile on Tapeta, 9:25 p.m. ET)

#12 Planet (5-1) has cracked the trifecta in three of his four starts against maiden special weight competition. During the summer, he ran second over the Tapeta track at Presque Isle Downs, after which he switched to dirt and finished third in a one-mile contest at Churchill Downs behind future Smarty Jones S. winner Catching Freedom.

Now Planet is returning to Tapeta and dropping in class for a $50,000 maiden claimer. He’s actually entered for a $40,000 tag, which gives him a four-pound break in the weights. That advantage is further enhanced by the presence of apprentice jockey Irving Moncada, who rides with a 10-pound weight allowance; the end result is Planet will carry only 106 pounds, 14 fewer than his rivals.

Throw in the fact Planet is adding Lasix and making his first start as a gelding, and the son of Mendelssohn looks ready for a winning run at fair odds. We’ll bet him to win and add an exacta with longshot #9 Quiet Rush (20-1) for second place.


  • #12 Planet (5-1)
  • #9 Quiet Rush (20-1)
  • #8 Cruisin and Boozin (4-1)


  • $25 to win on #12 Planet
  • $5 Exacta: 12 with 9
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Penn National: Race 4: $2,095 Pick 5 carryover (7:28 p.m. ET)

The Wednesday card at Penn National is highlighted by a non-jackpot Pick 5 carryover worth $2,095.

The Pick 5 at Penn National is a bit different than Pick 5s at many other tracks because the minimum bet amount is $1, rather than the usual 50 cents. That makes it twice as expensive to play, though that will be offset to some extent on Wednesday by the manageable number of horses entered in the Pick 5.

Indeed, from a mathematical perspective, this isn’t the trickiest sequence. Only 38 horses are entered across the five races, averaging 7.6 per field. It works out to 25,088 possible outcomes before scratches, which isn’t too hard for a Pick 5.

We can slice the possibilities to consider down to a mere 3,136 if we’re willing to single #2 Warrior’s Ransom (5-2) in Race 6, a $25,000 allowance optional claimer for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs on dirt. The conditions should be perfect for the morning line favorite, who—on her best day—is easily the fastest entrant from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective.

Warrior’s Ransom didn’t fire her best shot when last seen in the 1 1/8-mile Carousel S. at Laurel Park, tiring to finish fifth. But two starts back in the seven-furlong Safely Kept S. at Laurel, Warrior’s Ransom rallied to finish third against non-state-restricted competition. And three starts ago, Warrior’s Ransom closed ground to finish second by half a length in a non-state-restricted seven-furlong allowance at Parx.

The last time Warrior’s Ransom took on an allowance for Pennsylvania-breds, she rallied from last place to obliterate a 6 1/2-furlong sprint at Parx by 8 3/4 lengths. There’s quite a bit of speed entered in Wednesday’s field, so Warrior’s Ransom figures to get a favorable pace setup while returning to the Pennsylvania-bred ranks.

Throw in the fact high-percentage trainer Jamie Ness wins at a 29% rate with horses cutting back from a route to a sprint, and Warrior’s Ransom is shaping up as a formidable favorite. By singling this talented four-year-old filly in the Pick 5, we’ll have every chance to assemble a winning ticket on a reasonable budget.

Good luck!