Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for Mar. 2
Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Tuesday, Mar. 2 at Mahoning Valley and Turf Paradise, including three $10 win bets focusing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.
Mahoning Valley: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (Six furlongs, 2:36 p.m. ET)
Since 2016, trainer Penny Rone has gone 7-for-21 (33%) saddling first-time starters at Mahoning Valley. So why not take a shot with #6 Reno Touch (20-1), who has turned in seven workouts at Mahoning in preparation for her debut?
A daughter of Kentucky Derby (G1) third-place finisher Revolutionary out of a mare by Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) champion Point Given, Reno Touch is bred to be a classy sort and has shown a bit of speed in the mornings, breezing a bullet three furlongs in :36 2/5 on Jan. 13. These facts are encouraging, though at 20-1, Reno Touch is worth playing off Rone’s record alone.
In addition to our $10 win bet, we’ll box Reno Touch in the exacta with #1 First Kitten (6-1), runner-up over this track, distance, and class level on Feb. 8.
$10 to win on #6 Reno Touch
$5 Exacta Box: 1,6 ($10)
Turf Paradise: Race 4: $3,500 Claiming (One mile, 4:18 p.m. ET)
#9 Real Good Deal (2-1) consistently posts Brisnet Speed ratings in the mid-70s, stamping the five-year-old mare as the fastest runner in this low-level claimer for non-winners of three races lifetime. Formerly based in Southern California, Real Good Deal had no trouble winning a $3,500 claiming events for non-winners of two races over this track and distance last month, rallying strongly to score by 3 1/4 lengths.
Real Good Deal was claimed out of that victory by high-percentage trainer Jonathan Wong, who wins at a 31% rate with new claiming acquisitions. Hot jockey Luis Negron takes the mount, so Real Good Deal should be difficult to deny even while stepping up against slightly tougher competition.
#1 Miss Wine Topper (8-1) and #3 Moms Favorite (3-1) can battle for the minor awards.
$10 to win on #9 Real Good Deal
$5 Exacta: 9 with 1,3 ($10)
Turf Paradise: Race 5: $7,500 Claiming (Five furlongs, 4:46 p.m. ET)
#1 Ishka Baja (6-1) looks like a live contender at a nice price in her first start for hot trainer Dick Cappellucci, who strikes at a 28% rate when teaming up with jockey Luis Fuentes.
A well-bred daughter of Constitution out of a stakes-winning Awesome Again mare, Ishka Baja wasn’t disgraced in her debut against $32,000 maiden claiming company at Santa Anita, weakening after a slow start to finish 16 1/2 lengths behind the winner. The runner-up, Warren’s Memorable, came right back to win her next start against $35,000 company by 5 1/2 lengths.
Ishka Baja has only run once since then, clipping heels and losing her rider at Golden Gate Fields. Thus, she arrives at Turf Paradise with somewhat muddied form. A clean trip while dropping in class might be all that’s necessary to place Ishka Baja in the hunt for victory.
#6 Humorous Legend (9-2), a speedster who has finished second twice over this class level at Turf Paradise, can tussle with Golden Gate Fields shipper #9 Fiera Canela (7-2) to complete the exacta.
$10 to win on #1 Ishka Baja
$5 Exacta: 1 with 6,9 ($10)