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    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.

    Thursday, April 20, 2017

    Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Thursday, April 20


    What to Watch for Today: Trainer Wesley Ward’s barn is loaded for bear today with potential favorites all over the card. He’s got entrants in 5 races overall, including a pair of baby dashes.


    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: Potential overnight showers should give way to a great day of racing and clearer skies. Temperatures are expected to top 80 degrees.


    Keeneland Handicapping 101: Most information is gleaned from the free Keeneland Handicapping database ( that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!


    Race 1 opens the action with maiden claiming routers. We’ve had 13 in Spring Meets on the dirt and 11 of those winners were within 2 ½ lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. All 13 exited preps at a mile or longer. Trainer Neil Pessin scored a maiden claimer here in 2015 Spring via Fair Grounds with some turf form, just as we see with Jemrose. Sire Harlan’s Holiday has the second-most wins on the Kee dirt among his offspring. As a 3YO vs. elders, she gets in 7 pounds lighter than many of her chief rivals. Inside speed is very good going 1-1/16 miles. Stormfield moves turf-to-dirt and we’ve seen a couple of nice-priced Tampa shippers take that same approach at the meet and score at 9-1 and 22-1.


    Races 2 and 4 are 2-year-old dashes. In Race 2, Kenny McPeek sends out Classy Music following a smoking-hot debut winner here Thursday in a similar spot. Ultima D for Wesley Ward must be respected, but he’s now lost the last 3 baby races after winning the first 3 of the meet. Ward has won 4 baby races in recent Spring Meets with offspring of Scat Daddy like Ultima D. In the Race 4 division, eyeball McPeek’s runner True Dream and Ward’s She Stays Rollin. John Hancock, winner of 2 baby races at the meet, sends out Waki Patriot, but it’s extremely rare a run-back horse wins a 2YO dash here historically (4 times in last decade).


    Races 3 and 7 are turf route allowances. Gulfstream preppers won 4 of the first 8 offered at this meet with the other 4 winners all making their 2017 season debuts off long layoffs. In Race 3, Kitzys Rocket, Puca and Shaan come via Gulfstream to meet last year’s G1 American Oaks runner-up Sassy Little Lila. As for the Race 7 heat, Conquest Babayaga and Insta Erma bring the GP form. This race has a ton of early pace to it. The average turf mile allowance winner at the meet has been 3 ½ lengths back at the half-mile point, so think closers here given that and the pace scenario.


    Race 6 is a maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and older, and our first of the meet at this level where the sophomores meet elders on the dirt.  Coal Front comes from a very successful win-early female family. Todd Pletcher already has a MSW score at the meet with Moana. He hasn’t won with a Keeneland rookie aged 3 or older since 2010, however, so don’t take too short of a price. Speed is what is needed here – 10 of the 11 past Spring Meet MSWs at 6 furlongs have been won by a horse on the lead or dueling for the lead. Class Won may be scooting early from the inside. Northern Goes for a Wesley Ward barn hitting well at the meet even with elders – like Spellker in allowance company on turf Wednesday. Northern was runner-up at Saratoga last year to eventual multiple G1 winner Practical Joke, runner-up in this year’s G2 Blue Grass.


    Race 8 is for $32,000-level claimers. Oaklawn shippers have produced a pair of 7-1 winners in similar upper-end dirt sprints during the 2016 and 2017 Spring Meets. Circle Unbroken, Ray’swarrior and Go Vo all come in via OP. This race is LOADED with speed, but not a formidable late closer to fall in love with. Pablo Del Monte has been a Keeneland dynamo over the years and goes for the aforementioned Ward barn. He’s won here 3 times, twice on the Polytrack in 2013 and again in 2015 on dirt.


    Turf maidens go a route of ground in the Race 9 finale. Trainer Chad Brown has won similar turf MSW routes at the 2015 and 2016 Spring Meets and saddles the formidable Kahrumana. Gulfstream Park preppers have won 23 of 43 Spring Meet turf MSWs since 2011, and the likely favorite hails from GP as does Ladies’ Privilege, Bourgeois and Pounds to Pennies.


    Feature Race Play, courtesy of the BUZZ Report:


    Race 5 today is a full-field turf sprint and we love the power posts 3-4-5 in these heats, which perform extraordinarily well, including Wednesday’s winner Spellker from the 3-hole. Those posts are now a remarkable 10-for-20 with fields of 12 or larger in Kee turf sprints the past decade. Though Spellker was bet, the average winner from those posts is more than 12-1. Caribou Club, Oso Ready and Keep Talking occupy those key posts barring any scratches.


    Caribou Club – just like Spellker a day ago – is sired by City Zip. That same sire also produced a similar-race winner here during the 2016 Spring named Brinkley. Both Caribou Club and Keep Talking are trained by Tom Proctor.


    I don’t like the wide draw, but have a ton of respect for Kiss the Toad, one of the most impressive MSW winners I saw at a very deep Fair Grounds meet this winter. I’ll be using him along with the well-drawn Proctor pair. But anything above 3-1 and I am diving headfirst into Caribou Club.


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