Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares his weekday picks and plays for Tuesday, Jan. 26 at Mahoning Valley and Turf Paradise, including a pair of plays capitalizing on the TwinSpires Winter Midweek Bet Back promotion.

Mahoning Valley: Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (1 mile, 1:40 p.m. ET)

#4 Mymonstersforreal (4-5) brings strong Brisnet Speed ratings to the mix, most recently putting up a field-best 68 when rallying to finish second by a neck in a 6-furlong maiden dash on Jan. 2 at Mahoning Valley. The 3-year-old gelding will be widely expected to prevail under hot jockey Sonny Leon, a 23% winner at Mahoning.

But Mymonstersforreal has never run farther than 6 furlongs, and his two best efforts by far came over muddy tracks. There’s no guarantee he’ll produce the same effort while stretching out significantly in distance and facing older rivals for the first time, especially if the track comes up dry.

So why not oppose Mymonstersforreal with #2 Family Jet (9-2)? Granted, the 7-year-old gelding brings a 0-for-19 record to the mix. But he was beaten just half a length over this track, distance, and class level on Dec. 12, so at least we know he can handle the one-mile trip.

We’ll bet Family Jet to win and play him over Mymonstersforreal in a cold exacta.

  • $20 to win on #2 Family Jet
  • $10 exacta: 2 with 4
    • Total: $30

Turf Paradise: Race 6: $30,000 Maiden Optional Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 4:50 p.m. ET)

#1 Spicy Sommelier (6-1) has been competing against much tougher company on the Southern California circuit. Two starts back, she carved out the pace in a 5-furlong, $50,000 maiden claiming race at Los Alamitos before settling for third place.

Spicy Sommelier is the only horse in Tuesday’s field to have cracked the 60 Brisnet Speed rating plateau, actually doing so twice. She’s been training sharply at Turf Paradise in preparation for her first start since July, and hot jockey Enrique Garcia (a 20% winner over this track) takes the mount. Adding Lasix and dropping blinkers could also trigger improvement from this speedy front-runner.

In short, Spicy Sommelier looms as a great bet at 6-1. Taking advantage of the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer, we’ll place a $10 win bet on Spicy Sommelier. But we’ll also bet her in the exacta over the first-time starters #3 Point Break (6-1) and #8 Ms Sally (12-1).

  • $10 to win on #1 Spicy Sommelier
  • $5 exacta: 1 with 3,8 ($10)
    • Total: $20

Turf Paradise: Race 8: $5,000 Allowance Optional Claiming (5 1/2 furlongs, 5:46 p.m. ET)

#7 Lode the Gold (7-2) has cracked the exacta in 23 of his 43 starts, including four of his last six runs. The 7-year-old gelding was particularly sharp in a $10,000 allowance optional claiming race at Turf Paradise on Jan. 15, leading all the way to dominate the 5 1/2-furlong sprint by six lengths.

On Tuesday, Lode the Gold will stick to the same track and distance while facing slightly easier company. There’s a ton of speed in the entries, so the versatility Lode the Gold has shown in the past (he’s perfectly capable of rallying from off the pace) should come in handy. We’ll place a $10 win bet on Lode the Gold, but we won’t panic if he settles for second—we’ll simply get our money back thanks to the Winter Midweek Bet Back offer.

We’ll also bet Lode the Gold in the exacta with #5 Master Ruler (4-1) and #9 Awesome Image (8-1).

  • $10 to win on #7 Lode the Gold
  • $5 exacta: 7 with 5,9 ($10)
    • Total: $20

Good luck!