Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for March 15

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March 15th, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson kicks off the third week of March with picks and plays for Monday, March 15 at Mahoning Valley, Parx Racing, and Turf Paradise, including a trio of exactas.

Mahoning Valley: Race 3: Allowance (Six furlongs, 1:40 p.m. ET)

#2 Fangirl (8-5) is shipping in from Aqueduct, where she trounced a $30,000 claiming race on Nov. 8 by 11 1/2 lengths. The daughter of Dialed In earned an eye-catching 100 Brisnet Speed rating and looms as a logical favorite in her first start for trainer Eric Reed, who strikes at a 21% rate with horses running for the first time under his care. For good measure, leading rider Sonny Leon has been assigned the mount.

But Fangirl hasn’t run in four months, and it can be tough to trust big speed figures earned over the slow track at Aqueduct. For these reasons, #7 Honorable Memory (5-2) might be the more reliable play. Trainer Mark Hubley has gone 2-for-4 (50%) at Mahoning since the start of the year, which includes an easy allowance victory from Honorable Memory on Feb. 10. Sprinting six furlongs, Honorable Memory dueled for the early lead through solid fractions, then kicked away to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

Let’s bet Honorable Memory to win, then play her over Fangirl in a cold exacta.

  • $15 to win on #7 Honorable Memory
  • $10 Exacta: 7 with 2
  • Total: $25

Parx Racing: Race 1: $12,500 Claiming (Six furlongs, 12:55 p.m. ET)

#5 Communication Fail (99-1) has been competing admirably against equal or slightly tougher company on the Florida circuit, most recently finishing third for a $12,500 tag at Gulfstream Park. The son of Violence brings solid Brisnet Speed ratings to the equation and boasts versatility in terms of running style, setting the stage for a competitive effort in his first start as a gelding.

I’m not sure why Communication Fail is listed at 99-1 on the morning line when he appears to be one of the main players in a small field. But in any case, we’ll bet Communication Fail to win and play him over #2 Spirit Wolf (8-5) and #6 Hollywood Jet (2-1) in the exacta.

  • $15 to win on #5 Communication Fail
  • $5 Exacta: 5 with 2,6 ($10)
  • Total: $25

Turf Paradise: Race 2: $30,000 Maiden Optional Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 4:52 p.m. ET)

#1 Blame It On Rio (5-2) wasn’t disgraced when sprinting six furlongs over this track and class level on Feb. 23. After tracking the pace, Blame It On Rio advanced into contention before weakening late to finish fifth, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths in his first start off a 25 1/2-month layoff.

Blame It On Rio is eligible to take a step forward in his second start back for ultra-hot trainer Robertino Diodoro, who has gone 12-for-32 (38%) at Turf Paradise this winter. The son of Blame will race with blinkers for the first time, opening the door for a pacesetting effort while breaking from the rail. Considering 40% of 5 1/2-furlong sprints at Turf Paradise are won in gate-to-wire fashion, this would be an appealing strategy.

#6 Secret’s Double (4-1) and #7 Limited Offer (3-1), who finished second and sixth in the Feb. 23 maiden heat, can battle to complete the exacta behind Blame It On Rio.

  • $15 to win on #1 Blame It On Rio
  • $5 Exacta: 1 with 6,7 ($10)
  • Total: $25

Good luck!