Keeler Johnson's picks and plays for Jan. 4

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January 4th, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares $120 worth of picks and plays for Tuesday, Jan. 4 at Mahoning Valley and Parx Racing, including a ticket for Mahoning’s $1,654 Pick 5 carryover.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Midweek Bet Back: Receive refunds on win bets (up to $10) if your horse finishes second in select races at Mahoning Valley.
  • Trifecta Tuesday: Receive a 15% bonus (up to $25 per day) on winning trifecta tickets.

Picks and Plays

Parx Racing: Race 4: $16,000 Maiden Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 1:31 p.m. ET)

#3 Verrazano Bridge (9-5) fired off a career-best performance in his first start on dirt last month. Tackling a $10,000 maiden claimer racing 1 1/8 miles at Parx, Verrazano Bridge dueled for the early lead before staying on to finish second, 23 1/4 lengths clear of the third-place finisher.

This effort produced an excellent 82 Brisnet Speed rating, and since Verrazano Bridge looms as one of few speed horses in Tuesday’s paceless field, a repeat could be in the offing. We’ll place a large win bet on Verrazano Bridge, then key him over #7 Enano (3-1) in a cold exacta.

  • $25 to win on #3 Verrazano Bridge
  • $10 Exacta: 3 with 7
    Total: $35

Mahoning Valley: Race 4: $5,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs, 2:08 p.m. ET)

#9 Eagles Palace (6-1) has been competing against tougher competition than he’ll encounter on Tuesday. The five-year-old gelding exits a pair of maiden special weights, including an Oct. 27 event at Mountaineer where he ran third behind a pair of next-out winners.

Dropping down the class ladder should help Eagles Palace produce a competitive effort at a solid price, so we’ll take advantage of the Midweek Bet Back offer and place a $10 win bet on Eagles Palace.

#6 Strapping (3-1) and #7 Fatterthanme (4-1) can round out the exacta and trifecta.

  • $10 to win on #9 Eagles Palace
  • $4 Exacta: 9 with 6,7 ($8)
  • $1 Trifecta: 9 with 6,7 with 6,7 ($2)
    Total: $20

Mahoning Valley: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 2:36 p.m. ET)

#10 Kleona (3-1) ran nicely in her debut over this track and class level last month. After opening up a five-length lead sprinting six furlongs, Kleona gave way in the final furlong to finish fifth with a respectable 56 Brisnet Speed rating.

You can make a case Kleona ran too fast, too soon in her debut. If she secures a more relaxed lead on Tuesday, she can make her second start a winning one for hot trainer Robert Cline. Keep in mind, Edgar Paucar is named to ride, and Paucar and Cline have gone 3-for-7 (43%) teaming up together over the last two months.

Stretch-running #6 Sweetasahoneybee (2-1) can complete the exacta, but our first play will be a $10 win bet on Kleona, in order to capitalize on the Midweek Bet Back promotion.

  • $10 to win on #10 Kleona
  • $10 Exacta: 10 with 6
    Total: $20

Carryover Watch

Mahoning Valley, Race 1: $1,654 Pick 5 carryover (12:45 p.m. ET)

The Monday card at Mahoning Valley was supposed to feature a $1,654 carryover in the 50-cent Pick 5. But since Monday’s card was canceled due to unsuitable track conditions, the carryover will roll over to Tuesday’s card instead.

Let’s take a race-by-race look at Tuesday’s Pick 5 sequence, then assemble a ticket for less than $50:

Race 1: $4,000 Claiming (one mile)

This low-level claimer for fillies and mares drew eight entries, and you can make a case for pretty much anyone in the field. We’ll take a scattershot approach with #2 Kitty Express (6-1), #3 Manhattan Lady (10-1), #4 Wicked Love (8-1), #6 Annmaria (3-1), and #8 Orbiting the Sky (2-1) while hoping for a semi-unpredictable result.

Race 2:  $25,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (one mile)

#3 First Citizen (6-5) wired a one-mile and 70-yard allowance at Mahoning last month, setting a quick pace before going on to win by 2 1/2 lengths with a 94 Brisnet Speed rating. But #1 Double Deep (6-1) and #6 Latin Spice (4-1) have run just as fast or faster, and Latin Spice actually finished ahead of First Citizen in a $40,000 allowance optional claimer on Dec. 4. We’ll use all three to be on the safe side.

Race 3: $5,000 Claiming (one mile)

#2 King of the Ring (7-2) ran second in a $6,500 claimer at Mahoning last time out, earning a sharp 74 Brisnet Speed rating. But #7 Pompey’s Rule (2-1) ran even faster in a $5,000 claimer two weeks ago, throwing down a 78 when finishing second by a neck. One or the other should get the job done.

Race 4:  $5,000 Maiden Claiming (six furlongs)

As outlined earlier, we have to support #9 Eagles Palace (6-1) while dropping in class. But for Pick 5 purposes, we’ll use #6 Strapping (3-1) and #7 Fatterthanme (4-1) in equal strength.

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs)

We’ve already made our case for #10 Kleona, and that’s where we’ll make a stand, singling Kleona to conclude the Pick 5.

  • 50-cent Pick 5: 2,3,4,6,8 with 1,3,6 with 2,7 with 6,7,9 with 10 ($45)

Good luck!