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Please note that selections typically are available about 48 hours in advance of the race.
Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 22 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 ESPN.com 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.
Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Saturday, October 22
What to Watch for Today: The G2 Lexus Raven Run highlights the card for 3-year-old sprint fillies in the ninth of 10 races. With yesterday’s quagmire track conditions, we will want to settle in a few races before our boldest opinions. Drying-out tracks can prove funkiest of all.
Today’s Keeneland NOW live podcast: Join Caton Bredar and me from noon-12:30 pm ET as we preview the entire day’s action in a 30-minute daily preview at Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage). Miss the live premiere? Get the archive immediate thereafter with a link from @Keenelandracing on Twitter or at Horseplayernow.com under “The Latest.”
My Selections: For the first time, my top 3 picks in each race are available in the Keeneland.com consensus page, and you can get final, up to the minute adjustments by following @Keenelandracing.com as I live Tweet throughout the card.
Chat Us Up: Join the live chat at Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) each day beginning at 12:45 pm ET through the end of the card and converse with other horseplayers as well as me and my team from Horse Player NOW.
Get to the Windows: Be sure to open a Keenelandselect.com wagering account and play the action all meet long as well as great tracks worldwide. Dedicated to the sport. Dedicated to the players.
Weather: A crisp autumn day with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 50s is forecasted. We should be dried out much better by post time.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to help you unearth the trends. Most information is gleaned from the free Keeneland Handicapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Race 1 gets us going with $20,000 open claimers at 1 mile. Churchill preppers have won the first 3 mid-level open claimers between $20k-$32 at the meet. Note that 12 of the first 21 winners this meet in races at 1 mile or 1 1/16 miles (both using the sixteenth pole finish line) have been won by horses exiting 1-turn preps. So don’t fear a stretch-out in trip. A Gala Day may fit well on all counts and last out was runner-up to Samsonian, who won an open $25,000 claimer here on Thursday. Luvthatmustang goes for top Kee dirt sire Candy Ride as an alternative.
Keep some of that stretch-out knowledge in mind for Race 2, a maiden claiming route at 1-1/16 miles. Of the first 15 maiden claimers at the meet, all 15 winners were forwardly placed with only rarely any of those coming from more than a length or so off the lead after the first half-mile. Cookies Are Good is by Into Mischief, who has sired a pair of MCL winners at the meet including Hunka Burning Love at this same distance. Eddie Kenneally saddles two in here, Aviator Parks and Wild Scat Blue, in search of adding to Friday’s MCL opening race win and another MCL score here during week two of the meet.
Starter allowances historically have been good spots to spot a run-back winner at Keeneland, so file that away in Race 3. Just Friday we saw Favorite Coach come back on short rest in his second start of the meet and win a STR race for red-hot Phil Sims. Well, it’s Winkatdawat’s turn to run-back in today’s STR race in an interesting spot. Owner Danny Caldwell has a massive operation in Oklahoma and Arkansas, so the little-known trainer listed in the program should not be blindly disreraded. Ironclad won a mile race here in the Spring that was about 3 lengths slower than the par for the limited 6-pack of dirt mile races at the meet.
Look speed, speed, speed in the 6-furlong maiden claiming sprint in Race 4. Sire Street Sense has two runners in here, Bird Street and Street Smart, but note that only 1 of his 10 Kee dirt winners has been at a trip less than 7 furlongs. Pretty Greeley was fourth here last Fall Meet in a race that ranks second-slowest of 12 such 2YO MSWs at 6F held on the new surface. I love how aggressive Robby Albarado has been from the gate in recent days and look for him to put Heavenly Daze right into the race from the start.
Maiden special weight 2YOs go 7 furlongs in Race 5. In 12 such races on the new Kee dirt, 10 of the winners have been 9/2 or less on the board – and the trio held this meet have been won by horses 6/5, 2/1 and 9/2. It’s been pretty simple – 6 Churchill preppers, 6 first-time starters and that’s that. Such a factor could be at risk though as Laurel shippers Sneaky Betty and Tequilita both exit a race in which they ran decently behind Dancing Rags, who already shipped here this meet to win the G1 Alcibiades. Rookie Bold Lady is from pedigree royalty as her mama Weekend in Seattle is sister to the greats A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.
Race 6 keeps it with 2YO MSWs, but we go to the turf. It’s been feast or famine in the 5 such races at the meet – 2 favorites joined by longshot bombers at 21-1, 29-1 and 46-1. All 5 races were won by horses forwardly placed (average less than a half-length off the pace after the first half-mile). First-time starters account for only 5 of the 30 races held like this in past Fall Meets. Sire Lemon Drop Kid’s 2YOs have run well here on the turf historically and he’s got Court of Love and La Mantas Gris representing. Mark Casse has won an incredible six 2YO races at the meet and takes two swipes with Tamit and Picasso Moon.
Allowance runners go 1-1/8 miles in Race 7. Only 8 of 43 races run at 9F on dirt at Kee have been won by the half-mile leader (0-4 so far this meet) and the average winner sits about 2 ½ lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. Flashing Tradition exits a third at Churchill Downs behind Goats Town, who already has returned to win at this meet. Belmont Stakes fifth-place finisher Gettysburg looks for class relief for trainer Steve Asmussen, who has won 3 route N1X ALW races at Kee in the last 2 Fall Meets. He will also send out Battle Tap.
Race 8 is a N3X allowance/optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Tale of Life’s Spring Meet win here at this same distance was easily the fastest race of the meet by nearly 2 lengths and remains the track record on the new dirt. He will be tough to beat as a horse-for-course. Grande Shores will try to give Mark Casse his first win of the meet with an older horse (it’s been all 2YOs so far). Ami’s Holiday is stakes-placed over this course when third in the 2015 Ben Ali.
Turf sprinters clash in a rare allowance in Race 10. We typically see about 2-3 of these per Fall Meet. Power post positions 3-4-5 have won 9 of 19 turf sprints at Keeneland with 12 or more starters at double-digit odds on average. Posts 1-2 have been shut out. Casual Cocktail, Hone In and Titfortat hold the power posts if there are no scratches. Julien Leparoux has more turf sprint wins than any rider here the past decade and pilots Casual Cocktail. Robby Albarado rides full-field turf sprints exceptionally and partners with Titfortat.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Race 9 is the G2 $250,000 Raven Run Stakes and it’s paid to be close to the pace in this race. Only once in the last decade has the winner closed more than 5 lengths to win on any surface over the final half-mile. On dirt the past 2 years, it’s been Taris and Sarah Sis right up on the pace. Favorites have won just 2 of the last 10 editions of this race and the average winner has been 11-1 odds during that time. Unbeaten Prioress winner Lucy N Ethel hasn’t done much wrong, but she’s never been 7 furlongs and never been to Keeneland. Maybe we explore a bit.
Lightstream won the Beaumont Stakes here in the Spring Meet and is the only filly with a win over this track in the race. She doesn’t really fit on the trends so much, but she’s a high-quality runner and my tepid top pick. Sophia’s Song was upset at Charles Town last out in the CT Oaks, a race that produced last year’s Raven Run winner Sarah Sis. I don’t like the prices we’ll see on this pair honestly, but have struggled to come up with a sound opinion.
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Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.