Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Jan. 25
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Monday, Jan. 25 at Delta Downs, Mahoning Valley, and Turf Paradise, including three exacta plays.
Delta Downs: Race 2: Allowance Optional Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs, 2:22 p.m. ET)
Veteran stakes winner #1 Gotta Go (1-1) boasts a 3-for-4 record at Delta Downs and enters off back-to-back sprint wins over this track. The Shane Meche trainee was particularly dominant two starts back, crushing a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths with a 92 Brisnet Speed rating.
Gotta Go will stick to the same track and distance on Monday while facing slightly easier company. Meche has been on fire, going 9-for-20 (45%) since the beginning of 2020, and jockey Gerard Melancon (a 20% winner overall) retains the mount. Any way you slice it, Gotta Go looks poised for a third straight victory.
#5 Scarlettsblackjack (9-2) and #6 Extirpator (4-1), both stakes-placed at Delta Downs, can battle to round out the exacta and trifecta.
$12 exacta: 1 with 5,6 ($24)
$3 trifecta: 1 with 5,6 with 5,6 ($6)
Mahoning Valley: Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (1 mile, 12:45 p.m. ET)
#4 Skipshot Lilly (7-5) is favored after hitting the board in three straight races over this class level at Mahoning Valley, posting competitive Brisnet Speed ratings in the 61-64 range. But the late-running daughter of Skipshot has never run farther than 6 furlongs, so stretching out over a mile is a big question mark. There’s virtually no speed entered in Monday’s race, so Skipshot Lilly is unlikely to receive a quick pace to enhance her rally.
In contrast, #7 Cause of Love (8-5) employed pace-tracking tactics to finish second by a length over this track, distance, and class level on Dec. 9. Cause of Love likewise brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix, and a runner-up effort sprinting 6 furlongs on Jan. 6 suggests she’s still in good form.
We’ll bet Cause of Love over Skipshot Lilly in a straight exacta.
$25 exacta: 7 with 4
Turf Paradise: Race 2: $30,000 Maiden Optional Claiming (1 mile on turf, 2:58 p.m. ET)
Four of the seven starters in this maiden optional claiming test are exiting an identical race held at Turf Paradise on Jan. 4, in which #7 Macedonian Ruler (8-5) gained three lengths through the final furlong to finish third by just a nose. Formerly based in Southern California, the Neil Drysdale trainee is a logical favorite to win his second local start.
But another Southern California expatriate—#4 Squared Straight (9-5)—also warrants respect in his first run over the Turf Paradise grass. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the son of Square Eddie has been competing primarily against California-bred maiden special weight foes, most notably finishing third in a mile test last year.
Squared Straight has tactical speed, so in a race without much pace, he may hold an advantage over Macedonian Ruler. We’ll bet the race accordingly, playing Squared Straight over Macedonian Ruler in a cold exacta.
$25 exacta: 4 with 7