Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays for April 5

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April 5th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson kicks off another racing week with picks and plays for Monday, April 5, at Mahoning Valley and Turf Paradise.

In addition to win and exacta bets, Keeler has assembled a play for the $17,486 Buckeye Pick 6 carryover at Mahoning Valley.

Picks and Plays

Mahoning Valley, Race 7: Allowance (one mile, 3:33 p.m. ET)

#7 Big Al’s Express (1-1) hasn’t missed the board in five starts and brings a sharp series of Brisnet Speed ratings. Ultra-hot jockey Ricardo Feliciano has the mount, and the draw in post 7 sets the stage for a clean trip.

But Big Al’s Express is primarily a sprinter and has negotiated two turns only once, when he finished a distant second in an allowance for Ohio-breds at Mahoning on Jan. 30.

On that occasion, Big Al’s Express finished just 2 1/2 lengths ahead of #1 Tom T (5-1), who boasts considerably more experience in two-turn races. He is not quite as fast as Big Al’s Express on paper, but he broke his maiden over this track and distance in November, when he led essentially all the way to score by a half-length.

Jockey Edgar Paucar and trainer Richard Zielinski have enjoyed strong success together over the last couple weeks, with a a 5-2-1 record from nine starters. Since Tom T has the tactical speed to secure an ideal, forwardly placed trip from the rail, we’ll bet him to win and play him on top of Big Al’s Express in the exacta.

$15 to win on #1 Tom T
$10 exacta: 1 with 7
Total: $25

Mahoning Valley, Race 8: Allowance (one mile, 4:02 p.m. ET)

#3 Mymonstersforreal (9-5) has been strong since he stretched out over one mile for hot trainer Jeffrey Greenhill. After he finished second by a nose in a Jan. 26 maiden special weight at Mahoning Valley, the three-year-old gelding came back to dominate an identical race by six lengths March 1.

In a race without a ton of speed on paper, Mymonstersforreal figures to get a perfect trip under leading jockey Sonny Leon and will likely stalk the speedy sprinter #1 Trust and Obey (3-1). From there, Mymonstersforreal can kick away to record another easy victory.

Trust and Obey can battle with #8 Mr Chips (8-1) for the runner-up spot.

$25 to win on #3 Mymonstersforreal
$5 exacta: 3 with 1,8 ($10)
Total: $35

Turf Paradise, Race 7: $3,500 maiden claiming (one mile, 7:12 p.m. ET)

#2 Paisano (5-2) has faced much tougher competition on the California circuit, where he most recently finished fourth for a $20,000 tag at Santa Anita. Suffice to say, he’ll be tough to beat on the drop to the $3,500 claiming level in his first start for high-percentage trainer Justin Evans.

Evans is a 32% winner at Turf Paradise, and a 41% winner when he drops horses down two or more class levels. Leading jockey Luis Negron (a 35% winner when he teams with Evans) is named to ride, so from a connections standpoint, Paisano looks formidable. Throw in the fact Paisano brings tactical speed and competitive Brisnet Speed ratings, and 5-2 seems like a great price.

#7 Loose Ball (10-1), fourth for a $7,500 tag at Turf Paradise last month, offers some appeal as a longshot for the runner-up spot.

$25 to win on #2 Paisano
$5 exacta: 2 with 7
Total: $30

Carryover Watch

Mahoning Valley, Race 3: Buckeye Pick 6

A week ago, Mahoning Valley grabbed headlines with the mandatory dispersal of a $343,877 Buckeye Pick 6 carryover. The final pool for the 20-cent wager reached $1,692,846, and our $48 TwinSpires ticket held the winning combination, which returned $7,448.04.

With less than two weeks left in the Mahoning winter meet (closing day is April 17), the Buckeye Pick 6 carryover is back up to $17,486 for Monday’s card. Since we’ve already handicapped the final two legs of the six-race sequence, shouldn’t we analyze the first four, as well, and put together a play?

I’m certainly game to give it a go. Since we’re staying narrow in the final two legs (using Tom T and Big Al’s Express in Race 7 and Mymonstersforreal in Race 8), we can afford to spread a bit deeper in the first two-thirds of the sequence.

The Pick 6 kicks off in Race 3 (post time 1:40 p.m. ET), a six-furlong maiden special weight for three-year-olds. Seven horses have been entered, and narrowing down the field is pretty straightforward. #4 Love Twenty Six (2-1) has plenty of speed and looks dangerous off a third-place effort in a $15,000 maiden claiming race at Turfway Park. If he handles the switch to dirt under Leon, he’ll be tough to catch.

But two others warrant inclusion, as well. #7 Powerful Moon (5-2) posted the field’s best Brisnet Speed rating when he employed pace-tracking tactics to finish second in a $15,000 maiden claiming race at Mahoning last month. His proven affinity for the local surface is a positive, and the same can be said for #6 Hurry On Out (7-2), who rallied to finish second in a maiden special weight over this track March 22. If Love Twenty Six and Powerful Moon hook up in a speed duel, Hurry On Out is capable of picking up the pieces.

A similar scenario could unfold in Race 5, a six-furlong allowance sprint. Three-time stakes winner #5 Liberate (2-1) is the morning-line favorite, but he hasn’t run since last August and seems destined to wind up in a speed duel. Six of the seven entrants in this competitive field are speed horses, including the flashy #4 Big Trip (3-1), who brings back-to-back 100 Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix.

I’m inclined to oppose Liberate with Big Trip, recent Mahoning allowance winner #3 War Act (7-2), and the stretch-running #7 Lazarus Project (6-1), who stands to benefit if there is a pace meltdown.

Here is how I recommend playing the Buckeye Pick 6:

20-cent Buckeye Pick 6: 4,6,7 with 1,2,5 with 3,4,7 with 1,2,5 with 1,7 with 3 ($32.40)

Good luck!