Wednesday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Mandatory-payout $329,521 Pick 5 at Parx

February 7th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Wednesday, Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park and Turfway Park, along with analysis of the mandatory-payout $329,521 Pick 5 carryover at Parx Racing.

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.
  • Winning Wednesdays: Receive a 25% bonus (up to $25 per day) on your winning single-horse win wagers at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs every Wednesday in February.

Picks and Plays

Gulfstream Park: Race 8: $75,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (five furlongs on turf, 3:40 p.m. ET)

#3 Valiant Force (1-1) is the heavy favorite in his first start since rallying to finish second by half a length in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1), but he capitalized on a blazing pace that day and could be vulnerable in his sophomore debut. After all, speed horses hold an advantage in five-furlong turf sprints at Gulfstream, with pacesetters currently winning at a 52% rate.

There isn’t a crazy amount of speed in Wednesday’s field, so let’s try to beat Valiant Force with #1 Esperon (5-1), who has set the pace in all six of his starts. He actually crossed the wire first in a race over this course, distance, and class level on Dec. 21, only to be disqualified and placed second for interfering with a rival.

Taking advantage of the Winning Wednesdays promotion, we’ll bet Esperon to win, then key him over Valiant Force in a cold exacta.


  • #1 Esperon (5-1)
  • #3 Valiant Force (1-1)
  • #5 Mackville (8-1)


  • $20 to win on #1 Esperon
  • $10 Exacta: 1 with 3
    Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 3: $8,000 Claiming (one mile on Tapeta, 6:55 p.m. ET)

#5 Comedic Timing (2-1) and #3 Major Wager (3-1) look like the top two contenders in this $8,000 claimer. Comedic Timing was good enough to rally and win a $12,500 claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Turfway last month, while Major Wager exits respectable fifth- and fourth-place finishes against $16,000 claimers at Turfway.

Our primary wager will be a double bet using Comedic Timing and Major Wager in equal strength. But we’ll also box them in a small exacta.


  • #3 Major Wager (3-1)
  • #5 Comedic Timing (2-1)
  • #7 Mine Own Star (5-1)


  • $12 Double: 3,5 with 1 ($24)
  • $3 Exacta: box 3,5 ($6)
    Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (one mile on Tapeta, 7:25 p.m. ET)

#1 Fantastical (5-2) ran strongly in her first start over the Turfway Tapeta, closing ground to finish third by 1 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight. Even in defeat she earned a flashy 91 Brisnet Speed rating, and the form was flattered when the victorious Nice as Pie returned to dominate a $50,000 allowance optional claimer by 7 1/4 lengths.

None of Fantastical’s Wednesday rivals have earned a Brisnet Speed rating higher than 75, so Fantastical is an obvious choice to take home top honors while stretching out over one mile. She placed third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the Churchill Downs dirt last fall, so the added distance shouldn’t be any issue.

We’ll single Fantastical to conclude our double wager, then bet her to win for good measure.


  • #1 Fantastical (5-2)
  • #10 Tammy’s Cruiser (7-2)
  • #12 Sy B (10-1)


  • $25 to win on #1 Fantastical

Carryover Watch

Parx Racing: Race 6: $329,521 Pick 5 mandatory payout (2:20 p.m. ET)

The 50-cent Philly Big 5 at Parx Racing is normally a jackpot-style Pick 5 wager that pays out the carryover only in the event someone assembles a unique winning ticket. But on Wednesday, the $329,521 jackpot carryover will be paid out in mandatory fashion to all winning ticketholders.

A tricky sequence awaits. The five races drew 53 horses (averaging 10.6 per race) before scratches, which adds up to 129,600 possible outcomes. Every race contains at least nine horses, and narrowing down the contenders isn’t easy.

A few observations from the Monday and Tuesday cards at Parx may help. For starters, there’s been nothing wrong with racing along the inside. Rail runners have delivered a number of wins and runner-up finishes, enough to hint there might be benefit to racing inside beyond just saving ground.

Secondly, apprentice jockey Eliseo Ruiz (who rides with a five-pound weight allowance) has been on fire, going 3-for-6 (50%) on Monday and 3-for-5 (60%) on Wednesday. Two of those wins came aboard Patricia Farro trainees, contributing to Farro’s 2-for-4 (50%) record over the past two days. But Jamie Ness has won the most races among trainers since Monday, going 4-for-10 (40%) while saddling two runners-up for good measure.

Most of Ruiz’s Wednesday mounts will race during the first half of the card. But Ruiz does have two mounts within the Pick 5: #10 Cash on First (20-1) in Race 6 and #6 Wood Be Wild (10-1) in Race 10. It’s difficult to make a case for Cash on First based off current form, but Wood Be Wild enters off a gate-to-wire victory in a $12,500 claimer at Parx and has a shot to factor while tackling a $10,000 claimer on Wednesday, especially if Ruiz is able to guide Wood Be Wild to the inside.

Farro only has one horse entered on Wednesday: #9 Mischievous Jones (15-1) in Race 10. The five-year-old gelding has finished out of the trifecta in three straight $10,000 claimers at Parx and needs improvement to turn things around.

Ness also has one starter on the card, and that’s #5 Counterspy (5-2), the morning line favorite in Race 9. The contest in question is a $40,000 allowance optional claimer taking place over one mile on dirt, which should fit Counterspy just fine. The son of Gun Runner threw down a career-best 93 Brisnet Speed rating when returning from a long layoff with a fifth-place finish in a $50,000 allowance optional claimer sprinting six furlongs at Parx.

Ness wins at a 31% rate with horses making the sprint-to-route switch, and at a 24% rate with horses running back for the second time following a layoff, so the trainer stats suggest Counterspy will be dangerous while taking a step down the class ladder. It’s worth noting Counterspy has run second in both of his previous starts running long on dirt, so stretching out over one mile shouldn’t be a concern.

Good luck!