Friday, February 23, 2024

Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays March 3 | The TwinSpires Edge

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Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares picks and plays for Friday, March 3 at Fair Grounds and Turfway Park, including a ticket for Turfway’s $99,210 Pick 5 carryover.

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 Friday through Sunday.

Picks and Plays

Fair Grounds: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 3:45 p.m. ET)

#1 Guitar Riff (9-2) looks ready to challenge for victory on debut. He’s a son of Star Guitar (who sires 15% winners from first-time starters) out of Wild About Marie, whose sire—Wildcat Heir—is responsible for 16% debut winners.

Wild About Marie has produced six starters so far, all of them sons and daughters of Star Guitar. Six are winners, two are stakes winners, and three others have placed at the stakes level. Three came to hand early enough to win on debut.

With this classy and productive pedigree in his corner, Guitar Riff is a fair bet at his 9-2 morning line odds. We’ll play him to win and key him over #2 Aztec Gem (7-2) and #6 Macho Beanie (5-2) in the exacta.


  • #1 Guitar Riff (9-2)
  • #2 Aztec Gem (7-2)
  • #6 Macho Beanie (5-2)


  • $18 to win on #1 Guitar Riff
  • $6 Exacta: 1 with 2,6 ($12)
    Total: $30

Turfway Park: Race 4: $12,500 Claiming (six furlongs on Tapeta, 7:25 p.m. ET)

In his first start since being claimed by trainer Deborah Hernandez, #9 Takafumi (3-1) rallied strongly to win a $12,500 claimer racing one mile at Turfway on Feb. 9, earning a sharp 88 Brisnet Speed rating.

Cutting back to six furlongs shouldn’t bother Takafumi; he hasn’t missed the exacta in four starts over this distance. I’m optimistic he can rally to spring a mild surprise over #4 Crosstown Shootout (6-1) and #5 Like a Saltshaker (5-2).


  • #9 Takafumi (3-1)
  • #4 Crosstown Shootout (6-1)
  • #5 Like a Saltshaker (5-2)


  • $20 to win on #9 Takafumi
  • $5 Exacta: 9 with 4,5 ($10)
    Total: $30

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

#1 Retained (7-2) was beaten to fourth place in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Turfway Park last month, but don’t let that subpar showing fool you. The three-year-old colt was facing older rivals and carved out a quick pace for 5 1/2 furlongs before weakening late to finish behind a trio of four-year-olds.

Retained has fared better against his own age group at Turfway, finishing third by half a length in a six-furlong maiden special weight and second by a neck in the 6 1/2-furlong Turfway Prevue S. On Friday, Retained will tackle a maiden special weight restricted to three-year-olds, setting the stage for victory under hot apprentice jockey Walter Rodriguez.

#12 Gold Ghost (3-1), a first-time starter from the red-hot barn of Wesley Ward, can battle with #4 Pearse (10-1) to complete the exacta.


  • #1 Retained (7-2)
  • #12 Gold Ghost (3-1)
  • #4 Pearse (10-1)


  • $20 to win on #1 Retained
  • $6 Exacta: 1 with 12
  • $4 Exacta: 1 with 4
    Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Turfway Park, Race 4: $99,210 Pick 5 carryover (7:25 p.m. ET)

The Thursday card at Turfway Park produced a bevy of upsets, which means Friday’s card features a $99,210 non-jackpot carryover in the 50-cent Late Pick 5.

Let’s take a race-by-race look at the sequence and plan our betting strategy:

Race 4: $12,500 Claiming (six furlongs on Tapeta)

We’ve already made a case for #9 Takafumi (3-1) as our top choice while cutting back in distance, but we won’t single him for Pick 5 purposes. Instead, we’ll use him in equal strength with #4 Crosstown Shootout (6-1) and #5 Like a Saltshaker (5-2).

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs on Tapeta)

#1 Retained (7-2) looms as the best of the experienced runners as outlined previously, but the first-time starters #4 Pearse (10-1) and #12 Gold Ghost (3-1) are worth using for backup in the Pick 5.

Race 6: $50,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles on Tapeta)

#10 Offlee Naughty (3-1) thrived in his first try over the Turfway Tapeta track, smashing a $40,000 allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/4 miles by 5 3/4 lengths. But in case cutting back in distance proves detrimental to Offlee Naughty, proven 1 1/16-mile competitors like #3 Eons (7-2) and #4 Leblon (5-1) are worth using as well.

Race 7: $50,000 Maiden Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta)

#3 Amanwalksintoabar (7-2) ran second over this track, distance, and class level on Feb. 4, his first try over the Turfway Tapeta. He’s a logical contender, but not the only viable win threat. #7 One Giant Leap (5-2) ran second in a $150,000 maiden claimer at Keeneland and looks ready to challenge for red-hot trainer Wesley Ward, while #8 Ashcroft (3-1) is dropping in class out of a maiden special weight and could be tough while adding blinkers for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox.

Race 8: $15,000 Maiden Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta)

Wesley Ward’s #11 Nara (5-2) is the obvious choice after finishing a good fourth in a $30,000 maiden claimer over this track and distance. The class drop will likely send Nara to the winner’s circle, though we’ll also use longshot #8 Hap’s Victory (10-1), who is eligible to improve while dropping in class and distance for his first start as a gelding.

  • 50-cent Pick 5: 4,5,9 with 1,4,12 with 3,4,10 with 3,7,8 with 8,11 ($81)

Good luck!

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