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    Jeremy Plonk

    Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 23 years and has been a statistical consultant to Keeneland, Del Mar and Oaklawn Park, as well as NBC Sports and ESPN. He has been a national racing columnist for and Daily Racing Form and is the owner of Horse Player NOW, creator of the Night School national fan education program. A former chart caller for Equibase, he continues to be a public handicapper in the Horse Player NOW BUZZ report.

    Friday, April 21, 2017

    Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Friday, April 21


    What to Watch for Today: The G3 Doubledogdare Stakes will be our final main track stakes of the 2017 Spring Meet and is part of today’s $200,000-guaranteed late pick four pool. The remaining showcase races of the meet are slated for the turf. The Friday undercard includes the anticipated return of 2016 Shakertown Stakes winner Undrafted in allowance company.


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    Races 1 and 7 are in the starter allowance ranks. The average winner has been only 5-2 odds in the previous starter allowance races at the meet. Rhodium was an impressive starter allowance winner on April 7 and in Race 1 Sugar Cube will try to follow that path from Oaklawn to similar success. Kate N Abs Reward was a distant fourth to Rhodium here on opening weekend, but had to chase the lone speed that day and do the “dirty work” as we say. She may get a much better trip today. In the Race 7 starter allowance, Gladtobehear may be overbet coming out of the maiden win that was more than 4 lengths slower than par for this distance this meet. Gorse will look to follow the turf-to-dirt Tampa transition that worked for G1 Ashland upsetter Sailor’s Valentine over this same distance earlier in the meet.


    Allowance routers go 9 furlongs in Race 2. Sire Curlin already has had an allowance winner this meet going 1-1/8 miles on the main track, Society Beau, and looks to double with Our Track. Bernardini’s son Watershed rocked the Ben Ali Stakes at this trip last weekend and has both Sail Ahoy and Howell Mountain to consider. Sail Ahoy trainer Shug McGaughey won a similar race here during the 2015 Spring Meet via Gulfstream. The 14 dirt allowance races at the meet have been spread evenly in terms of prep locales: Gulfstream 4, Fair Grounds 3, Tampa 2, Churchill layoffs 2.


    Turf sprint allowance runners are scheduled in Races 3 and 8, so let’s hope we stay on the grass. In Race 3, The Great War is entered main-track only. He’s Plan B for Wesley Ward stablemate Undrafted, who is making his first start of the year. The Ward barn has dominated the turf sprint ranks this meet with stakes winner Lady Aurelia and allowance winners Wednesday and Thursday this week named Spellker and Bound for Nowhere. Expected Ruler won a turf sprint allowance here last Spring at 16-1 and is drawn in one of the perfect power posts (3-4-5) for this trip. As for the Race 8 division for the fillies/mares, Ward looks for another T-S victory with Lamontagne. Most Beautiful goes for a Tom Proctor barn that ran a good second in turf sprint company on Thursday behind the Ward bulldozer Bound For Nowhere.


    Race 4 is a 6-furlong allowance sprint. All 11 races we’ve seen in recent spring meets at this class/distance have been won by horses within 2 lengths of the lead after a half-mile and the average winner has been ON THE LEAD – a very rare occurrence at any distance/class at Keeneland. Look for front-end speed in this one. Runway Doll should be fresh and fast off the layoff. Favorites are 5-for-11 in these races and an average winner just 5-2 odds. True Romance won a similar race here opening weekend while making a 2017 return just as Runway Doll attempts. Champagne Problems will try to give sire Ghostzapper his fourth winner of the meet as he’s had a sharp stand.


    Race 5 is for maiden claimers at 6-1/2 furlongs. Favorites are only 3 for 14 in these races on the new Kee dirt at this lower level and distance. We’ve had as many 10-1 or more winners as chalks. Speed remains key with 12 of 14 winners within 1-1/2 lengths of the front after the first half-mile. Trainer Eddie Kenneally owns 3 of those victories and sends out Stormin Maclean. He won a similar race here in the Fall Meet going turf-to-dirt like this colt. Only 7 of 74 races at this distance on the new dirt has been won by a horse exiting a 2-turn prep like Unstabled bids to do.


    Maiden special weight turfers match up in Races 6 and 10. Regardless of surface, the Tampa Bay Downs shippers have held very strong this meet in the elder MSW ranks, trailing Gulfstream’s big numbers just by a 5-4 margin. In Race 6, Salkonnet makes his second start of the meet after wintering at Tampa. Trainer Shug McGaughey has had Kee turf success with sons of Smart Strike before winning the G3 Transylvania with Air Support a few Springs ago, and looks for more with Sentry. As for Race 10, On John offers the Tampa influence as past champion meet trainer Mike Maker looks to finally get off of the duck at the 2017 Spring Meet. The Graham Motion barn won an elder turf MSW here in the 2013 Spring Meet with a son of Smart Strike and will look to repeat that with Intent to Strike.


    Feature Race Play, courtesy of the BUZZ Report:


    Favorites have won only 2 of the last 7 editions of the Doubledogdare Stakes and last year’s winner was 25-1 bomber Brooklynsway. So feel free to be creative in Race 9 this afternoon even if you’re staring at a 4-5 shot in the morning line in Unbridled Mo. Given a field of 5, you’re not going to find big balloons anywhere, but you may not have to just accept the chalk.


    With small fields (5-6) at this trip, we’ve seen 80% of winners within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Dear Elaine potentially could be lone speed the way this race sets up on paper. Her Fall Meet win at this distance was almost 5 lengths faster than par for the distance, so perhaps she just needed the race when tiring to third here opening weekend. I’m giving her the shot to upset the favorite and will go two-deep in the late pick four and pick five.


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