Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for March 22

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March 22nd, 2021

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his picks and plays for Monday, March 22, at Mahoning Valley and Turf Paradise, including exacta and trifecta tickets.

Mahoning Valley: Race 5: Allowance (Six furlongs, 2:36 p.m. ET)

In terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, #4 Morestride (9-5) is a clear standout in this allowance sprint for Ohio-breds. Whereas none of his rivals have earned a figure higher than 83, Morestride posted ratings of 90 and 84 in his first two starts, most recently finishing second as the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile S. at Mahoning Valley.

Cutting back to six furlongs should suit Morestride just fine, considering he posted his 90 when dominating a maiden special weight over this distance by 10 lengths. For good measure, trainer Penny Rone wins at a 38% rate with horses beaten as the favorite in their previous start, and at a 20% rate with horses returning form layoffs of 90 days or more.

Morestride is a deserving favorite, and 9-5 is a fair price, so we’ll bet Morestride to win and play him over the capable allowance competitor #5 Kissinger (8-1) in a cold exacta.

$25 to win on #4 Morestride
$5 Exacta: 4 with 5
Total: $30

Mahoning Valley: Race 8: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 4:02 p.m. ET)

Did you know 40% of 5 1/2-furlong sprints at Mahoning Valley are won in gate-to-wire fashion? Speed is dangerous in these short dashes, so we’ll take a shot betting #11 Awesome Ox (15-1).

If you toss out a fading last-place finish in a one-mile maiden race on Feb. 22, the form of Awesome Ox looks solid—he hasn’t missed the trifecta in five sprint starts, all against maiden special weight company at Mahoning. Awesome Ox set the pace in three of those efforts while posting respectable Brisnet Speed ratings, and he figures to be forwardly placed again while adding blinkers.

Drawing the far outside post is a concern, but Awesome Ox’s 15-1 morning line odds make the risk vs. reward equation worthwhile. We’ll bet the son of Oxbow to win, then key him for first and second in the trifecta.

$18 to win on #11 Awesome Ox
$1 Trifecta: 11 with 8,9,10 with 8,9,10 ($6)
$1 Trifecta: 8,9,10 with 11 with 8,9,10 ($6)
Total: $30

Turf Paradise: Race 5: $7,500 Maiden Claiming (One mile, 6:16 p.m. ET)

#7 Club Champ (5-2) owns three of the highest Brisnet Speed ratings in this low-level maiden claimer, including a field-best 68 earned when rallying to finish second for a $10,000 tag at Turf Paradise just 13 days ago.

The latter race was contested over six furlongs, a distance arguably too short for Club Champ. The Juan Silva trainee had previously finished second in a one-mile, $8,000 maiden claiming race over the Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths after carving out the pace. Stretching back out over one mile can produce a winning effort from Club Champ, especially since Silva wins at a 25% rate with horses transitioning from sprints to routes.

#3 Mandrew (7-2) and #4 Bad News (4-1) can battle to complete the exacta.

$18 to win on #7 Club Champ
$6 Exacta: 7 with 3,4 ($12)
Total: $30

Good luck!