Monday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Curlin’s Lil Gal is live on debut

March 31st, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Monday, April 1 at Mahoning Valley, Will Rogers Downs, and Turf Paradise, including a 6-1 first-time starter with hot connections.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Mahoning Valley: Race 6: Allowance (six furlongs, 3:14 p.m. ET)

#6 Cagua (4-1) enters in winning form for hot trainer Jay Bernardini, having posted back-to-back victories in a $5,000 starter allowance and a $5,000 claimer at Mahoning Valley. Bernardini has won with 15 of his last 37 starters (41%) at Mahoning, and jockey Jose Leon has gone 3-for-5 (60%) teaming up with Bernardini over the last two months, so there are plenty of reasons to support Cagua at nice odds.

Since morning line favorite #1 Joya Del Sur (2-1) has done her best work running longer, a win bet on Cagua is in order.


  • #6 Cagua (4-1)
  • #1 Joya Del Sur (2-1)
  • #5 Miss Shady (3-1)


  • $25 to win on #6 Cagua

Will Rogers Downs: Race 5: Maiden Special Weight (six furlongs, 4:03 p.m. ET)

#1 Rebelena (7-5) ran well when debuting in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on Dec. 8 at Remington Park, tracking and then setting the pace before weakening in the final furlong to finish second by three-quarters of a length. The form was flattered when third-place finisher Short Stretch returned to win her next start at Will Rogers Downs.

Rebelena has put together a decent work tab in preparation for her three-year-old debut and is adding Lasix, so the stage appears set for victory. First-time starter #6 Cheeky Kiss (5-1) can battle with #3 Gospel Blossom (3-1) for a spot in the exacta.


  • #1 Rebelena (7-5)
  • #6 Cheeky Kiss (5-1)
  • #3 Gospel Blossom (3-1)


  • $12 Exacta: 1 with 3,6 ($24)

Turf Paradise: Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (5 1/2 furlongs, 6:51 p.m. ET)

Trainer Kevin Eikleberry wins at a 47% rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights and has gone 3-for-3 saddling first-time starters at Turf Paradise since 2023. For these reasons, Eikleberry’s unraced three-year-old #5 Curlin’s Lil Gal (6-1) is appealing in this 5 1/2-furlong maiden dash for fillies and mares.

A daughter of Curlin to Mischief (who sires a respectable 13% winners from first-time starters), Curlin’s Lil Gal has shown serious speed during morning training, most notably clocking a bullet five furlongs in :58 at Turf Paradise. Throw in the fact jockey Luis Contreras has gone 2-for-4 (50%) teaming up with Eikleberry over the last two months, and Curlin’s Lil Gal is well worth betting to win.


  • #5 Curlin’s Lil Gal (6-1)
  • #6 Sweet and Ez (5-1)
  • #4 Lotsa Steel (3-1)


  • $25 to win on #5 Curlin’s Lil Gal

Good luck!