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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 Wednesday, October 15, 2014
What to Watch for Today: We kick off Week 3 of the 4-week Fall Meeting in an 8-race card and a chance for Corey Lanerie to open up a lead in the race for top jockey at the stand. He’s got mounts in 6 races and holds an 8-7 lead over Joel Rosario and John Velazquez, both of whom are back in New York on this Wednesday.
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: Heavy rains Tuesday could linger into the return of racing with a 50% chance of showers forecasted for the afternoon under breezy conditions with winds around 15 mph. Keep an eye on updated conditions and the flags (to the left favors speed, to the right gives closers their best chance). The turf races on the card could be in jeopardy.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: As is our Wednesday custom, we’ll recap the meet trends and put you in action for the new racing week. Our race-by-race format returns Thursday. 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!
Let’s look first at the dirt races at this 2014 meet, which total 58 after 8 days of racing. Favorites are winning 43% on the main track with an average winner of 4.3-to-1 odds. Field sizes have averaged 8.2 starters per race on the dirt. Churchill Downs-prepped runners have accounted for 16 wins, Saratoga 10 wins, Arlington 8 and Kentucky Downs checks in next-best at 4.
Among the 37 dirt sprints at the meet, the average winner has been .9 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. Of those, 31 were within 2 lengths of the lead at that juncture, and no horse has closed more than 4 lengths to win a sprint that point forward to date. Only 7 of 37 sprint winners turned back in distance from a most-recent route prep. Meanwhile, 57% of those 37 winners exited preps on dirt. Chris Richard (4) and Mark Casse (3) lead all trainers in dirt sprint wins, while Corey Lanerie (6) leads the jockeys in this category.
Among the 21 dirt routes offered so far, the average winner has been 2.77 lengths behind after the opening half-mile. Of those, 18 were within 5 lengths of the lead at that juncture, and the two major closers to win routing at the meet came in high-profile Grade 1s that might skew perception – Don’t Tell Sophia in the Spinster and Peace and War in the Alcibiades – from 10 ½ and 13 ¾ lengths back, respectively. Exactly two-thirds of the route winners exited a route prep and those same two-thirds prepped most recently on dirt. Todd Pletcher (4) tops all trainers in dirt route wins, while John Velazquez (3) and Joel Rosario (3) pace the riders in this category.
Only 22 of 58 winners on dirt so far this meet have had a local Keeneland work most recently, so don’t over-emphasize that on the new surface. No sire has produced more than 2 winners on the new dirt track to date. Those with 2 include Malibu Moon, Lookin At Lucky, City Zip, Tiznow, War Front and Dunkirk.
Now let’s peek into the doings on turf this meet. Favorites are winning at a 32% turf clip through 19 races with average winning odds of 3.9-to-1. The grass winners have been formful with 18 of 19 going off 6-to-1 or less (high 12-to-1). Field sizes have average 9.8 starters per race on turf. Saratoga preppers easily lead the way with 8 of the 19 wins, followed by Kentucky Downs (4), the only other circuit with more than 1 turf score.
Among the 17 turf routes held so far, the average winner has been 4.26 lengths behind after the opening half-mile with 2 winners leading at that point. Four turf winners have closed more than 10 lengths to win, while 15 of the 19 turf races at any distance were won by horses exiting turf preps. Only 1 horse has stretched out from a sprint prep to win a turf route at the meet. Dynaformer offspring have won 4 turf routes at the meet already, including 2 at 1-1/2 miles, while Kitten’s Joy has 3 turf route winners all between 1-1/16 miles and 1-1/8 miles. Bill Mott (3) leads all turf trainers at the stand while Graham Motion, Mike Maker and Wesley Ward also have won twice each on the lawn. Top turf jockeys to date are Joel Rosario (4), John Velazquez (3) and Joe Rocco, Jr. (2).
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Given the uncertainty of the turf conditions for Wednesday’s co-featured events on grass in Races 4 and 7, let’s adjust this blog space and try to get you off to a winning start on Wednesday.
Race 1 is for maiden claiming routers going 1-1/16 miles on the main track. As mentioned above, sire Dunkirk’s offspring already have 2 wins at the meet on the new dirt and rail-drawing Aldean could make that 3. Shawn Bridgmohan is riding very well and underrated at the meet with 5 winners. His principal challengers appear to be Unrivaled, whose trainer Kellyn Gorder has quieted a bit since winning twice on opening day; and Lanier, who lures the meet’s top pilot Corey Lanerie. Lanier was second last out at Churchill to a well-bred, maiden special weight class dropper from Saratoga and should fit with these.
Start the week with an Aldean-Lanier exacta box and use both in the daily double to Voodooville in the second.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.