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Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 20 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, creators 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 Thursday, April 24, 2014
What to Watch for Today: The G3 $150,000 Bewitch takes its traditional spot on the penultimate card of the Spring Meet, spotlighting marathon distaffers on the turf. Meanwhile, Frankel’s little brother, Morpheus, is set to make his US debut in a Race 7 allowance.
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Weather: Partly cloudy skies and temps in the low to mid-70s are forecasted on a great day for racing.
Polycapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Race 1 opens the day with 2-year-olds and it’s just our third of the meet – typically we’ll see 7 or so of these in a Spring season. Wesley Ward and Mark Casse have split the pair offered so far and Ward sends out a pair in the opener with Beauty Sisters and Spanish Pipedream. This is a very peculiar lot of trainers not used to running babies at Keeneland, including Al Stall Jr., Graham Motion and Barclay Tagg runners. Beauty Sisters is well-bred for the Poly for Ward, as is Motion’s Anniebear. With 12 of the last 13 winners of these baby races going off 9-2 odds or less, keep an eye on the tote.
We have seen run-back winners in $25,000 claimers in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Spring Meets, so beware those making their second start of the meet in Race 2. Bowman’s Causeway, Foolhardy, Niederzel, Lay It Down and the 11-year-old Tahoe Warrior all reappear at the meet. Fair Grounds shippers have done well in these races at the class and distance in the past, which bodes well for Sky Alert and makes Foolhardy perhaps the most dangerous of the run-backs having come in prior from FG.
Non-winners of 2 lifetime races sprint in a Race 3 claimer. Since 2009, the last 8 such winners at this class and distance all have exited sprint preps. But there are few discernible winning trends here among the division. Note that Wednesday’s similar race winner Simon Eyes was making his second start of the meet, as will attempt Olympic Avenue and Brief Reign. Longshot sire Indygo Shiner hasn’t popped yet this meet with limited starters but has Indygo FMA coming in off a recent claim in California for Ramsey-Ward.
Race 4 is a 1-1/8 miles maiden special weight on the turf. Gulfstream preppers have won 11 of 19 since Spring 2007 in this situation, and 1 of 3 limited tries this meet. Hines, Blarp and Slip By come in from GP, while Stroll to Victory makes his second start of the meet via Gulfstream. Keep an eye on also-eligible Majestic Sunset if he draws into the field as he ran a very good 2nd from an impossible post with no pace help April 6 when speed was holding on grass. Trainers Ken McPeek and Michael Matz both own multiple MSW turf Spring Meet wins at Kee in recent years, so Slip By and Stroll to Victory could be well-prepped and placed.
First-level allowance sprinters square off in Race 5. Dirt-prepped runners hold a 24-15-8 edge over turf and synthetic preppers in 47 previous past Spring Meet chances. At this particular 7-furlong distance, 14 of 24 winners turned back from a mile or longer last prep. Treasury Bill and Cold Facts may fit well on the trends coming out of dirt routes. Eight times in 24 races at 7F at this class level in the Spring, the winner was making his or her first start of the year, so don’t be fearful of the long layoff horses.
Race 6 is an entry level turf allowance route and Gulfstream shippers win exactly half of these historically in Spring Meets and that’s held true in 2014 to date as well. About 70 percent of the winners exit turf preps and 90 percent exit route preps. Can’thelpbelieving, Morning Calm, Scoria, Mr Candy and Proud Azteca all hail from GP. Clearly to me the strongest of that group is Can’thelpbelieving a very good mover over this course last October. Horses running back second time at the meet have been highly effective in long-distance turf races in past Spring Meets, which bodes well for Manaus if he draws in off the also-eligible list at a big price.
It doesn’t get much more interesting than Race 7, a third-level allowance featuring the US debut of Morpheus, kid brother to international superstar Frankel. He meets last year’s G1 Blue Grass third Charming Kitten, stakes winners Code West and Cerro, and perhaps as impressive a winner as we’ve seen all meet in Bellarmine. The 8 Poly route allowance at the meet have gone to 8 different trainers, with Gulfstream shippers winning 4 and Oaklawn raiders doing well with a pair of wins. Seven of the 8 winners have been with 2-3/4 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile, so some early speed has been beneficial. With the sixteenth-pole finish line in play here, expect that to be helpful again. Bellarmine, sitting just off the lead likely today, can win right back from this eye.
Bottom-level claiming sprinters round out the card in Race 9. Turfway raiders won 14 of the 34 wins in this category in past spring meets including 2 of 3 so far this stand. Horses running-back second time at the meet have been successful in such races late in the season in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Potrtrature and Wakes Week look the stronger of the TP raiders, while Bergman and Exultant both run back second time at the meet and look to fit very well on paper.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Over the last 7 editions of the G3 Bewitch, which goes Thursday as Race 9, the average winner has closed from more than 6 lengths behind after the opening half-mile. Favorites are 3-for-7 during that time with only 1 winner above 9-2 odds.
Left A Message was second in the Fall Meet’s counterpart to this stakes, the Dowager, and her trainer Tom Proctor saddled Keertana to victory in the 2011 Bewitch. Angel Terrace also has run well over the course, winning the Valley View in 2012 and finishing just behind Left A Message when third in the Dowager. Also with good course experience is Caroline Thomas, third in the G1 QE2 Challnege Cup last fall, but she’s not won in some time and has yet to beat elders.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Romantica makes her Keeneland debut, but the daughter of superstar Banks Hill strictly rates the one to beat if she’s ready to go. I’ll key her over the Dowager alumnae Left A Message and Angel Terrace.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.