Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Jan. 29

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January 29th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Friday, Jan. 29 at Fair Grounds, Sam Houston, and Turf Paradise, including trifecta tickets for the City of Phoenix S.

Fair Grounds: Race 9: $12,500 Maiden Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 5:52 p.m. ET)

Only one runner in this maiden claiming sprint for Louisiana-breds has cracked the 60 Brisnet Speed rating plateau on multiple occasions: #2 G’s Squeeze (3-1). The daughter of Bind has run twice against state-bred maiden special weight company at Fair Grounds, most recently dueling for the lead in a 6-furlong sprint before weakening to finish fifth.

This decent effort produced a 66 Brisnet Speed rating, matching the par for Friday’s class level and distance. Dropping down to the maiden claiming ranks should make G’s Squeeze tough to beat for jockey Mitchell Murrill and trainer Joseph Foster, who have teamed up to win at a 21% rate over the last two months.

#4 Miss Laughalot (9-2) and #6 Our Starlet (9-2) can battle to round out the exacta.

$20 to win on #2 G’s Squeeze
$5 exacta: 2 with 4,6 ($10)
Total: $30

Sam Houston: Race 5: Allowance (1 mile on turf, 9:33 p.m. ET)

#4 Valdolobo (6-1) enters off two easy victories sprinting on Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs, but there’s no reason to think the 6-year-old gelding can’t handle stretching out over a mile on turf. He hasn’t missed the board in five North American runs between 7 1/2 furlongs and 1 1/16 miles on grass, including a victory in a $16,000 claiming race at Gulfstream Park.

Valdolobo hasn’t run since October, but he did breeze a bullet half-mile in :47 3/5 on Dec. 30, suggesting he’s still in good form. He also owns the two highest Brisnet Speed ratings in Friday’s field, so if Valdolobo brings his A-game, he can spring a mild surprise at 6-1.

Let’s place a large win bet on Valdolobo. Thanks to the TwinSpires Build Your Stakes Day Bankroll offer, if you bet $100 or more at Sam Houston on Friday, you’ll earn $5 to wager on Sam Houston’s stakes-packed Sunday card.

$30 to win on #4 Valdolobo

Turf Paradise: Race 5: City of Phoenix S. (1 mile, 4:21 p.m. ET)

#2 Mongolian Lotus (5-1) showed an affinity for this track and distance when employing pace-tracking tactics to dominate a Jan. 11 allowance optional claiming race by 4 1/2 lengths. This eye-catching effort produced an 86 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest last-out number posted by any horse in the City of Phoenix field.

In general, Mongolian Lotus has been in hot form for high-percentage trainer Justin Evans. The daughter of Graydar has won four of her last five starts and is 2-for-2 under the guidance of jockey Isaias Enriquez (a 35% winner at Turf Paradise), who will retain the mount again on Friday.

Evans and Enriquez have gone 3-for-7 (43%) teaming up together over the last two months, so from a connections standpoint, Mongolian Lotus warrants a lot of respect. She’s also versatile in terms of running style, combining tactical speed with the ability to rate off the pace if necessary. In short, Mongolian Lotus looms as an excellent value play if her 5-1 morning line odds hold up.

We’ll bet Mongolian Lotus to win and key her on top in the trifecta.

$15 to win on #2 Mongolian Lotus
$2.50 trifecta: 2 with 6 with 3,4,5 ($7.50)
$2.50 trifecta: 2 with 3,4,5 with 6 ($7.50)
Total: $30

Good luck!