Keeler Johnson’s picks and plays of the day for March 29
Mahoning Valley: Race 4: Maiden Special Weight (one mile, 2:08 p.m. ET)
#2 Grand Deal (7-2) is the fastest of the experienced runners in this one-mile maiden special weight, and he looms as a logical contender after finishing third in three straight races over this class level and distance. But the three-year-old gelding is 0-for-12 lifetime, and his late-running style suggests he’s more of a “pick up the pieces” type than a reliable win contender.
I’m more intrigued by #1 Kulp (9-2), a sprinter with just four starts under his belt. A well-bred son of Munnings out of a graded stakes-placed Tapit mare, Kulp didn’t run badly in his Mahoning debut three weeks ago, rallying strongly to finish third by 1 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight.
Kulp may show improved tactical speed while stretching out over one mile, which would be beneficial since Monday’s field contains very little speed on paper. At 9-2, Kulp strikes me as a live contender at a fair price.
- $20 to win on #1 Kulp
- $5 Exacta: 1 with 2
Mahoning Valley: Race 7: Allowance (six furlongs, 3:33 p.m. ET)
#8 Cacki (6-1) fired off a career-best effort in her first start for high-percentage trainer James McDonald last month. Showcasing improved tactical speed in a six-furlong allowance sprint at Mahoning, Cacki led all the way to trounce her rivals by 8 1/2 lengths.
This effort produced a solid 81 Brisnet Speed rating, and I’m optimistic Cacki can keep her momentum going on Monday. McDonald has gone 5-for-16 (31%) this meet and strikes at a 37% rate with last-out winners, so there’s no reason to think Cacki will regress in her second start under McDonald’s care. Furthermore, she figures to enjoy a perfect trip pressing the stakes-placed #2 Penny Shots (5-2), who is cutting back in distance for her first run since last August.
We’ll bet Cacki to win and play her over Penny Shots and #4 Fricka (3-1) in the exacta.
- $20 to win on #8 Cacki
- $5 Exacta: 8 with 2,4 ($10)
Turf Paradise: Race 9: $7,500 Maiden Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 7:40 p.m. ET)
#6 Bingos System (3-1) is easily the fastest entrant in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings. The daughter of Curlin to Mischief has posted five figures in the 60-73 range, while her 10 rivals have combined to exceed the 60 plateau only once.
Formerly based in Southern California, Bingos System enters off a decent fifth-place effort in a $20,000 maiden claiming sprint at Santa Anita. She looks tough to beat in her first start for hot trainer Justin Evans, a 32% winner at this meet and a 37% winner when dropping horses down two or more class levels. For good measure, leading jockey Luis Negron (a 28% winner at Turf Paradise) is named to ride.
We’ll bet Bingos System to win and play her over the improving #3 Ez Queen (4-1) and the first-time starter #4 Our Time to Shine (8-1) in the exacta.
- $20 to win on #6 Bingos System
- $5 Exacta: 6 with 3,4 ($10)