Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Feb. 1

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February 1st, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Monday, Feb. 1 at Mahoning Valley, Parx Racing, and Turf Paradise, including a pair of trifecta tickets.

Mahoning Valley: Race 1: Allowance (One mile and 70 yards, 12:45 p.m. ET)

#1 El Marro (10-1) never fired in an allowance race over this track and distance on Dec. 19, but the son of Astrology has won three of his last four sprint starts in fine fashion. On Oct. 31 at Mahoning Valley, El Marro flashed excellent front-running speed over a muddy track, wiring a $6,500 claiming race by 2 1/4 lengths. The runner-up, #6 Powers Out (6-1), recently won a similar race at Mahoning Valley.

El Marro’s gate-to-wire triumph yielded a sharp 82 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in Monday’s field. There isn’t much speed in this race on paper, so El Marro will have every opportunity to shake loose on an uncontested lead. He may also benefit from catching another wet track.

In short, El Marro is worth betting to win at 10-1. We’ll also play him over morning line favorite #4 Spin Doctor (7-5) in a straight exacta.

  • $20 to win on #1 El Marro
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 4
  • Total: $25

Turf Paradise: Race 3: $30,000 Maiden Optional Claiming (One mile on turf, 3:26 p.m. ET)

#4 Grey Point (10-1) isn’t the most inspiring choice at first glance, considering he’s failed to finish better than fourth in seven starts against mostly easier competition. But I’m curious to see how the gray three-year-old fares in his first start on turf.

After all, Grey Point is a son of Point of Entry, an elite grass star who scored five Grade 1 victories on the lawn. Point of Entry’s progeny have largely followed their sire with success on turf, led by 2020 graded stakes winners Analyze It and Admission Office.

Point of Entry also sires a solid 15% winners from first-time turf starters, so I’m optimistic Grey Point will take a step forward while switching surfaces. At 10-1, we’ll bet Grey Point to win and call it a day.

  • $25 to win on #4 Grey Point

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (6 1/2 furlongs, 2:13 p.m. ET)

The stakes-experienced #2 Beren (3-1) has made steady progress under the care of trainer Butch Reid. Indeed, he’s improved his Brisnet Speed rating with every start and fired off a field-best 94 rating when finishing second in a Jan. 6 maiden special weight at Parx.

The latter effort was strong on every level. After dueling for the lead through quick fractions, Beren succumbed by just a neck while pulling 12 lengths clear of the rest.

Unless one of the first-time starters in Monday’s field shows a lot of early speed, Beren should be able to set or stalk a modest pace. From there, he’ll be tough to catch. If Beren performs anywhere near as well as he did on Jan. 6, his rivals are surely running for second place.

Let’s play Beren on top of two trifecta tickets. Underneath, we’ll emphasize #6 Marvalous Mike (7-2), who has cracked the trifecta four times sprinting at Parx. The son of Uncle Lino actually finished less than a length behind Beren in a Nov. 3 maiden race over this track.

  • $5 Trifecta: 2 with 6 with 1,3,4 ($15)
  • $5 Trifecta: 2 with 1,3,4 with 6 ($15)
  • Total: $30