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E.g., September 22

    Jeremy Plonk

    Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 23 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 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.

    Saturday, April 22, 2017

    Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Saturday, April 22


    What to Watch for Today: Wet conditions make advance handicapping tenuous as the G2 $250,000 Elkhorn Stakes tops the marquee for marathon turf performers. It’s the final Saturday card of the season, which winds down next Friday, April 28.


    Today’s Keeneland NOW live podcast: Join Caton Bredar and me from noon-12:30 pm ET as we preview the entire day’s action in a 30-minute daily preview at ( Miss the live premiere? Get the archive immediate thereafter with a link from @Keenelandracing on Twitter or at the live racing page at


    My Selections: You can get my top 3 picks in each race on the track simulcast feed before each race as well on the handicappers’ consensus page. Also look for final, up to the minute adjustments by following @Keenelandracing as I live Tweet throughout the card.


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    Weather: A 100% chance of rain is forecasted, so keep abreast of all the changes and updates – especially for races slated for the turf.


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    Maiden claimers go 7 furlongs in Race 1. Fair Grounds shippers have won 4 of the first 8 MCL races at the meet, which is good news for Giovanna Point and Awesometastic. The latter is sired by Harlan’s Holiday, responsible for more Kee dirt sprint winners than any other sire on the new surface – yet has bene shut out this meet so far.


    Race 2 is a 7-furlong claimer. Julien Leparoux rode 4 of the first 17 winners at the meet at 7 furlongs and pairs with Kapellmeister for Brendan Walsh. They’ve already teamed for a 7F win at the meet. Malibu Sunset has back class, but was scratched earlier in the meet and drops in class in a risky trust situation. Mesoma intrigues coming back to Kee for the first time since Fall 2015 when third in a race that was second-fastest of the meet at 6.5 furlongs and still rates 8th-fastest of 74 conducted. Forty Acres was the deepest closer to win a 7F race this meet when he rallied from 7 back to win April 9, and he did so with little early pace help.


    Race 3 is a 6-furlong allowance featuring elite Keeneland sprinter Limousine Liberal in a class drop. He’s the track record holder here at 6-1/2 furlongs, and a nose away from having the 6-furlong track record as well when second to AP Indian the 2016 Phoenix. Meanwhile, Saturday rival Silver Ride ran the fastest 7 furlongs of the 2016 Fall Meet. These two look stout.


    Basement-level $10k claimers go in Race 4 and it’s our fourth at this class level for Spring ‘17. Five of the eight entrants are running back for the second time at the meet. Blonde in the City chased impressive, loose-leading, odds-on favorite Rhodium on opening weekend and drops significantly in class. She should be tough. A few of these exit a week race April 7 in which Delusional KK was a big favorite against a rather suspect field with no other options. The final pair of $10k claimers last Spring Meet were won by run-backs, so don’t be afraid of those on short rest – it’s that time of the meet.


    Race 5 is a turf allowance in serious jeopardy of coming off the grass due to weather. If it were to stay on wet turf, give Kyllachy Queen a long look with foreign pedigree and experience in those kind of conditions.


    Race 6 is a 1-1/18 miles maiden special weight winner. Trainer Andrew McKeever has had some streaky success at Kee over the years and appears to have his barn on point again with a big turf sprinter winner Friday. Beware Encrypt in this spot for a barn on breakout. Sire Tapit has a trio of 9F dirt winners at Kee, tied for most of any sire, and has Tapsolute and Encrypt in this field. Note that Vandelay scratched Thursday in order to run in this spot, usually a good sign.


    Claiming sprinters go 7 furlongs in Race 7. Westfest is an interesting Keeneland legacy as her mama Dr. Zic won the G1 Madison here at 7 furlongs in the Polytrack era and also broke her maiden here. The 7F riding ace Julien Leparoux pairs with Entertainer here for trainer Ron Moquett, who unleased a sharp sprint winner here Friday via Oaklawn. Ian Wilkes’ barn also is heating up very nicely of late and has Stone.


    Race 8 is a 6-furlong entry-level allowance. Favorites are a woeful 3-for-23 in Spring Meet dirt N1X allowances (1-for-5 this meet). That’s a disappointing stat when I handicap this race and look at Aquamarine and Lenstar with such respect. I’m tempted to go against what I see on paper and fish for a price. But I don’t see that as an option here. Nine of the first 11 winners this meet at 6 furlongs have been within 1 ½ lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. You need to keep in touch. Sire The Factor had 2 winners here Thursday and offers Bam Bam Bryan.


    Yet another 7-furlong race on this card closes things out with Race 10 for MSW performers. Awestruck figures to be a very short-priced favorite by Tapit. Of the 15 offspring by Tapit to win on the Keeneland dirt, 10 have been favorites with average winning odds of just 2-1. Tampa Bay Downs turf/dirt movers have performed well at the meet in spots, so Billboard could be one to watch under. And give a paddock look to Naples Mist for a William Harrigan barn that popped a first-time starter winner at 46-1 here last Fall Meet at Keeneland. Sire Medaglia d’Oro does good things here, too.


    Feature Race Play, courtesy of the BUZZ Report:


    Da Big Hoss became just the second favorite to win the Elkhorn in the last decade when taking the 2016 renewal, so you don’t have to feel committed to the chalk in today’s Race 9 feature. The previous 3 winners were 30-1, 13-1 and 9-1, after all. Only once in the last decade has the Elkhorn winner been less than 2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile, and the average winner has been just under 5 lengths back at that juncture. Gulfstream shippers have won this race 6 of the last 9 editions.


    Mike Maker’s Elkhorn honor roll not only includes Da Big Hoss, but also Dark Cove in 2013. Maker got off the duck with his first win of the meet on Friday. He sends out Charming Kitten, Roman Approval, Bigger Picture and Taghleeb trying to surround the field. Roger Attfield has won a trio of recent Elkhorn editions and has Danish Dynaformer in with a shot. It’s been a slow meet for the Canadian legend, however.


    I’m going with price play Interpol, who makes his second start off the layoff after an easy mile return at Gulfstream could have him ready to leap forward. He’s bred to run all day with international G1-winning form over this long haul in 2015.


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