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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 Sunday, April 24
What to Watch for Today: Jockey Corey Lanerie used a 4-win Saturday to storm to the front of the jockeys’ standings in the absence of Javier Castellano and Luis Saez. Castellano returns with 5 mounts today after winning the Grade 2 $1,250,000 Charles Town Classic on Saturday in West Virginia. Lanerie counters with 4 mounts as he leads the chase for the riding title, 14-13-13, over his closest rivals.
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: Sunny skies and temps in the uppers 70s approaching 80 degrees are in the forecast with a 0% chance of rain. Expect superb conditions.
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 is a non-winners of 2 lifetime claimer and these races have been easy pickings for the favorites, who have won 6 of 8 at the current Spring Meet. In fact, 7 of 8 winners have been 5-2 or less and all 5-1 or less. Trainer Mike Maker has won 3 of the 8 offerings, including 1-2 favorite Successful Runner on Saturday. He’ll send out Smilingsundae as the favorite today.
We have $16,000 claiming sprinters going 6-1/2 furlongs in Race 2. Del Mar Sunset will try to become the fifth Candy Ride offspring to win this meet and pad his total as the leading sire on the new Keeneland dirt. Bracigliano exits a third April 8 opening day in a split division of a $10,000 claimer that went .40 faster (about 2 lengths) than its rival race. But note the opening half-mile of that race was about 5 lengths faster than par, so Bracigliano got a dynamite set up for his late rally.
Claiming sprinters continue in Race 3, where Flatter Me Big looks to continue a sharp meet for sire Flatter, who already has had 4 winners at the stand. Claimed by Tom Amoss, he could become the first 2-time winner of this Spring Meet. When Amoss wins, they’re usually very short prices. Five of his 6 training wins on the new Keeneland dirt have been 6-5 or less odds. Forest Mist comes in with solid form from Mahoning Valley, but only 1 Mvr shipper has won in the first 114 races of the meet to date.
Race 4 with maiden claiming sprinters in action. Note favorites are 4-for-9 in these races at the meet with 7 winners at 9-2 or less. Speed has been deadly with 7 of 9 winners within 1-1/2 lengths of the lead and the average winner just ¾ of a length off the lead at that juncture. Sires Harlan’s Holiday (Bankers Holiday) and Curlin (Duke of Denver) deserve extra consideration with their offspring on this surface. Mountain Cry exits a runner-up for Nick Zito and subsequent claim away to a John Wells barn looking for its first Keeenland win in our database (’06-present).
Turf allowance performers meet in Races 5 and 7. Gulfstream shippers have won 12 of the 17 such races this meet at an average GP winning price of 5-1. In Race 5, note Vickie Oliver has won a pair of turf ALWs at the meet and has an entry of Freethinker and Wild Covey. Tom Proctor (Sister Blue) has knocked on the door this week with 3 runner-ups and could be due for a breakout soon. For more on Race 7, check out the Feature Race Play section.
Races 6 and 8 are maiden special weight sprints. Mark Casse has trained an incredible 5 winners this meet in 3YO MSWs like we see in Race 6. Conquest Streetwar could give him a half-dozen and is the likely favorite. Power Driven offers pedigree intrigue by top Kee dirt sprint sire Harlan’s Holiday. That sire already popped in an identical 3YO MSW 7F race this meet with Conquest Harlequin. As for the Race 8 MSW sprint, this one is for 3-year-olds and older. Short-priced early speed has dominated these races on dirt in Spring ’15 and ’16. Five of 6 winners were 2-1 or less and 5 of 6 also raced within 1-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile (average winner 1 length behind at that juncture). Stylish Quality and Delay of Game figure to duke it out as favorites.
Maiden special weights on the turf wrap the week in Race 9. Favorites are only 1-for-8 in these spots this meeting, but 7 of the 8 winners were 7-1 or less. A trio of runners in this race are by Kitten’s Joy. It’s almost shocking to see that he’s had only 1 maiden winner on the Keeneland turf since Fall ’06, making you double-check the accuracy of that before believing. That came with a 2YO in 2012! Tapit looks for a second turf MSW winner of the meet and his 4th overall when Kismet’s Heels starts as the likely favorite. Gulfstream preppers have won 5 of the 8 turf MSWs so far this meet. Trainer Ignacio Correas has 15-1 and 30-1 turf winners at the current stand and looks for another via Baires Boy.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Today’s Race 7 turf allowance feature measures 1-1/2 miles and follows Saturday’s superb edition of the Grade 3 Elkhorn over this trip.
Sire Dynaformer has a very notable 10 winners at 1-1/2 miles on the Keeneland turf since Fall ’06. Consider no other sire has more than 3. Of those 10 Dynaformer winners, only 1 was the post-time favorite, so it’s not like we’re talking about a coincidence of the best horses just happening to be by the same sire. This is really almost a blind bet for me when I see the Dynaformer pedigree over this assignment and so Circus Performer will be the play.
If you like Circus Performer, and I do, then it’s hard not to like Bokelia Island. He outran that rival by 2-1/2 lengths in their opening day match-up. It’s Pletcher vs. McGaughey, who between them have equally put up 10 victories in these Kee turf marathons since Fall ’06.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.