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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 Wednesday, April 27
What to Watch for Today: Jockey Corey Laneries takes a 14-13 lead over Javier Castellano into the final 3 days of racing as closing week opens with an 8-race card. Lanerie accepted 5 mounts on the card to Castellano’s pair. Both have 5 mounts on Thursday, while Castellano’s 6 outnumber Lanerie’s 5 on closing-day Friday. Today could be a make-or-break day in the rider’s race with the spread in the top pilots’ mounts.
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live podcast/chat at the Keeneland website (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) – also available on your mobile devices – or on Twitter @Keeenelandracing, where I provide up-to-the-minute picks and analysis.
Weather: A 60-percent chance of scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast with temperatures tempting the 80-degree mark on Wednesday. Keep a close eye on the updated conditions, especially in multi-race wagers that span several hours.
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 opens the action at 1-1/8 miles on dirt for $10,000 claimers. Favorites his a striking 43% on the Keeneland dirt in races at this distance or farther, so quality tends to win out the longer they go. Leading meet trainer Mike Maker looks to ice the title early in the week and Tapanna gives him a huge chance to do so. He won a 9F claimer earlier in the meet with Inspire Courage.
Two-year-olds dash 4-1/2 furlongs in Races 2 and 4 today and obviously this is Wesley Ward country. He’s had 4 wins and 2 seconds in the 6 baby races of the meet. But you can’t get rich with an average winner at 3-5 odds. Ward has Spellker and Dangerous Dan in the Race 2 edition, where John Hancock, who has pulled 1 Ward upset this meet with the babies, offers Mr. D’s Way. Ward then goes for a fifth 2YO win by an offspring of Scat Daddy (2 so far this meet) in Race 4 with Price Too High.
Race 3 is a starter allowance, and so far this meet, Fair Grounds shippers have won 3 of the 8 offerings at this class level. It’s a rematch of a similar race here last fall in which Donita’s Ruler, Rusticana and Cleo’s Krewe finished first, second and fifth, respectively. That race went about 3 lengths slower than a same-day 6F starter allowance. If looking for a fresh face, Miss Cobblestone goes for a Bernie Flint barn that notched its biggest Keeneland win in more than a decade last week when Brooklynsway upset the G3 Doubledogdare Stakes.
Maiden claimers sprint the tough 7-furlong distance in Race 5. This is a race loaded with barns who have popped surprisingly strong meets – Ignacio Correas with Francesa di Fiori and Flatter Chatter; Vickie Oliver with Street Smart; Gail Fox with Hats Off. Street Smart and Flatter Chatter from that group could be the ones best-bred to relish 7F on the Keeneland dirt. The MCL races this meet have been evenly distributed among all circuits.
Races 6 and 8 are turf allowances, where Gulfstream preppers have won 13 of 19 such offerings at the meet – and note 3 of the ‘others’ were horses making their first starts of the calendar year. Favorites are only 5 of 19 in these races, so you don’t have to settle if you find something off the beaten path. Top Keeneland turf sire Giant’s Causeway is represented by Pine Needles in Race 6, and note the Christophe Clement barn has a pair of 5-1 turf winners at the meet so far from just 4 starters. Kitzy’s Rocket is the only Gulfstream invader in race 6. As for the Race 8 finale, Verbouwen, Shiawassee, Silky Girl, Gone Away and also-eligble Castor represent the GP scene. The aforementioned Clement counters with Amnicalola and he’s had excellent success in past Spring Meets in these 9-furlong turf ALW heats.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Race 7 is our featured allowance on the card sprinting 6 furlongs, and speed has been deadly at this class and distance. The average winner is just a half-length back after a half-mile and 13 of 16 winners were within 2 lengths of the front at that juncture. You don’t want to be far off this tempo, even if it looks rather quick on paper – which it does.
Brewing was second last fall in the fastest 6-furlong allowance run over the new Keeneland dirt to date (third-fastest race overall behind the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Phoenix). He will bring speed from the rail. No Hiding Place will deliver pace from the outside of this short field of 6 after battling in the toughest edition of the G3 Commonwealth that I can recall.
Favorites are a very solid 14-for-31 (45%) on the Keeneland dirt in short-field, 6-furlong sprints. This race likely comes down to Brewing and No Hiding Place trying to outfoot the other. When that happens, often a closer can make a late dent to split the more brilliant pace players in the exacta. Grande Basin has won 3 in a row and should be coming late for Dallas Stewart. I’ll play No Hiding Place over Grande Basin in a cold exacta.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.