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Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 21 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 24
What to Watch for Today: A capacity field of 14 in the G3 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes headlines a 10-race program that wraps the ‘traditional’ portion of the 2015 Fall Meet. Of course, as the marketing slogan says, ‘The Best is Yet to Come!’ with 3 days of Breeders’ Cup Week racing next week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in this historic Keeneland season. Note our daily stats/trends blog – as well as our online live chats -- will continue next week as well!
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live blog/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: After several weeks of glorious weather, a 60-percent chance of showers is forecasted today with temperatures in the upper 60s. Keep an eye on conditions throughout the day.
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 maiden claiming sprint at 7 furlongs, and note Churchill Downs preppers have accounted for 12 of the 22 MCL races this meet (Kentucky Downs next with just 3, so there’s a wide gap). While horses turning back from route to sprint have had much success in the higher-class races at 7 furlongs, at this low MCL level, only 1 of 7 such races the past 2 Fall Meets has been won by a horse exiting a route. Believe I Can exits a sprint; Majestic ride exits a Churchill prep. They may fit as well as anyone here.
Favorites are 5-for-8 this meet in starter allowance races like we see in Race 2, and every STR ALW winner this season has been forwardly placed within 2-1/2 lengths of the lead regardless of distance. Big Legacy was one such winner on Oct. 7 and looks to double down at the meet in a rematch with Slan Abhaile. The latter goes for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who enter today deadlocked for the meet’s leading owner title with Maggi Moss – each has 5 wins. Remarkably, perennial Keeneland training stalwart Mike Maker has only 1 win on the meet.
The aforementioned Moss could strike in Race 3 with her Voodoo Storm. Her trainer Chris Richard has 6 wins at the meet, including 5 sprints, and all in the claiming or starter allowance ranks. The Ramseys counter with Big Kick, a recent claim via Santa Anita. The last horse with a Fall Meet win to prep most recently at SA was Great Hot in the 2011 Raven Run. On the new Kee dirt, we did see Kobe’s Back in the Spring Meet win the Commonwealth via Santa Anita.
Juvenile turf allowance runners match up in Race 4. We don’t get many of these, 1 or 2 per Fall Meet, and trainer Chris Block has dominated them via Arlington – winning 3 of the last 4 offered. While he’s absent from this race, there are Arlington shippers worth a look in Wake the Dawn, Felt the Pocket and Marquee Miss, the latter making her second start at the meet. Felt in Pocket is sired by Hat Trick, already with a 2YO turf win at the meet with longshot Cotton Town. For those looking at Harmonize in next week’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, this race will be an interesting barometer as to how Jessamine Stakes alumnae Carleigh Belle, Lilly’s Dream and Moms Choice. However, the latter 2 are on the also-eligible list and need some luck drawing in.
The new 1-mile main track distance will be used for the third time in Race 5 as 2-year-old fillies go in a maiden special weight route. Posts 3 and 4 have won the two offered so far with 6 and 8-horse fields, including Friday’s front-end score by Donegal Moon in the finale. Corey Lanerie has won both and will guide Bound For Dixie. Two of the top 3 dirt sires at the meet are represented with Curlin (5 winners, second to Candy Ride’s 7) and Tiznow (4 winners). Curlin is represented by Pick Pocket for the Ramseys, while Tiznow has Tizcara in this spot.
Race 6 also is a 2YO MSW, but this one at 6 furlongs. Pedigree players will love Scarecrow, a Summer Bird colt out of G1 winner Jostle. Sire Harlan’s Holiday has had 4 more winners on this meet and trails only Candy Ride in victories overall since the new dirt has been put in place. His son Hot Squad exits a nice debut second and should love it here. Steve Asmussen has really turned it on after opening weekend with 8 wins at the meet and is contending for the title. He’ll have Patton Proud in this spot. The barn has broken 4 maidens at the meet, including a pair of 2YO MSWs.
Barbaro’s brother Margano is one of the highlights of Race 7, a turf allowance, as well as the return of millionaire turfer Imagining. The 2014 G1 Man o’ War winner seeks some class relief at age 7 for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. New York shippers (12) and Kentucky Downs preppers (9) have accounted for two-thirds of the turf races this meet at all levels. Also note Dannhauser trainer Kathleen O’Connell has run only 4 horses at the meet but 3 of them ran first or second, and turf has been her forte.
Race 8 is an allowance route on the dirt. Tiger Moth could be solidly favored for Todd Pletcher. He’s had a solid meet with 6 wins, but averages just 2-1 on those returns. Sire Street Sense has been strong with 4 dirt wins at the meet, 3 in routes and all at 7 furlongs or more. And you can’t talk sires without Candy Ride, having another exceptional meet on the Kee dirt. His daughter Rhiana’s Candy looks live again after a troubled third here opening Sunday.
Race 10 wraps the card with a non-winners of 2 lifetime claimer. None of the 10 N2Ls at the meet has produced a winner higher than 8-1 and have averaged a 3-1 return. Horses from 9 different prep locales have accounted for the 10 winners. While run-backs (those making a second start of the meet) have been abnormally quiet late in this Fall Meet, traditionally it’s a been a strong suit for the Kenny McPeek barn at Keeneland and he’ll have ML favorite I’mbettergood back off a runner-up here Oct. 7.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The fillies flock to the G3 Valley View and this year is no exception with a capacity field of 14 plus 2 also-eligibles entered in the Race 9 feature. In fact, the 2009 and 2012 Valley View editions were split into two divisions.
Favorites have been blanked in the last 8 renewals of this race and the average winner during that span was … get this … 14/1 odds! Feel free to step up your game in this race for a longshot given the field size and history. It promises to be one of the best betting races of the meet.
G1 winner Include Betty tries turf for just the second time, but I have a soft spot in my heart for her. She’s the 2015 Horse of the Year for me in the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report. We tabbed her at 18-1 in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and 18-1 in the Fantasy in victories. When a horse helps your ROI like that, you don’t soon forget!
Kiaran McLaughlin swept both divisions of this race in 2009 and has Gap Year entered with a very live shot. The regally bred Bernardini-Dubai Escapade filly exits a win at Saratoga in allowance company. I’ll be using her with Prado’s Sweet Ride, a course winner here at a mile last Fall at 2 and more recently a close third in the G3 Pucker Up at Arlington for Chris Block, a trainer who excels here in the Fall with limited turf strikes.
The only place where you can get my full-card selections every day is in the BUZZ Report at Horseplayernow.com – subscription plans cost approximately $2 per day and bring me and my team of 9 handicappers to your service.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.