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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 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 Wednesday, April 19
What to Watch for Today: Four maiden races comprise half the eight-race card as week three kicks off this afternoon. The Wesley Ward juvenile show appears to have some big-barn company today when Steve Asmussen and Kenny McPeek dabble into the baby races.
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 Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage). Miss the live premiere? Get the archive immediate thereafter with a link from @Keenelandracing on Twitter or at the live racing page at Keeneland.com.
My Selections: You can get my top 3 picks in each race on the track simulcast feed before each race as well on the Keeneland.com handicappers’ consensus page. Also look for final, up to the minute adjustments by following @Keenelandracing as I live Tweet throughout the card.
Chat Us Up: Join the live chat at Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) each day beginning at 12:45 pm ET through the end of the card and converse with other horseplayers as well as me and my team from Horse Player NOW.
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Weather: Rain is in the forecast and puts the turf racing today in jeopardy. Consult the updated conditions before investing.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: 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!
As is our annul custom, the Wednesday blog takes a look at past trends of the week so that we can look ahead with a sense of understanding of the recent events.
A 4-day race week ended Saturday in observance of the Easter holiday. A total of 38 races were held, 28 on the dirt and 10 on the turf. The Keeneland melting pot was in full effect with 12 last-out prep locations represented among the winners – not to mention the trio of first-time starters to score.
Favorites went 9-for-28 on the dirt and are now 16-for-50 at the meet. Single-digit odds horses won 25 of the 28 on the main track last week at average winning odds of 4.3-to-1. That was down markedly from nearly 6-to-1 opening week as the public settles in. Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park shippers both won 8 races on the dirt and are still knotted 13-13 for the meet on dirt. Sires Curlin, Munnings and Tiznow each produced a pair of main-track winners last week. Trainers hitting two winners last week included Wesley Ward, Brendan Walsh, John Hancock, Brian Lynch and Kiaran McLaughlin. Joel Rosario led all riders on the dirt with 4 wins, followed by Julien Leparoux and Robby Albarado with 3 apiece. Albarado had started the meet frigid before having a big end of the week.
Pace-wise, 15 of 18 dirt sprints were won by horses within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile (only 1 closed more than 5 lengths). Only 2 of 18 sprints were won by route-to-sprint movers. Route races played very fair front-to-back, the Lexington won from the clouds by Senior Investment while the average winner routing on dirt was 3 lengths back after the first half-mile. Only 1 of 10 routes was captured by a horse exiting a 1-turn prep and that came a 1-turn mile. There still hasn’t been a true sprint-to-route winner on the main track yet this meet.
On the turf, favorites went 3-for-10 while we had as many double-digits odds winners (3) on the grass as chalks. Gulfstream runners stubbed their toes with only 2 wins in those 10 races, typically averaging 5 over such a run. Tampa Bay Downs preppers stepped to the fore with 3 turf wins last week, as well as a trio of winners exiting European races. All 10 turf winners regardless of distance were at least 2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile and 8 of them were between 2 and 4 ½ lengths back at that juncture. Chad Brown and Kiaran McLaughlin paced the turf trainers with 2 wins, while Javier Castellano rode 2 grass winners to lead the jockeys.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Wednesday’s Race 7 turf allowance feature has a capacity field size and is a super betting race. The lineup includes three runners who last out pursued American Patriot in a Gulfstream Park allowance race. All that runner has done since is come back to win Keeneland’s G1 Maker’s 46 Mile last Friday. Nipigon, Tale of Fancy and Conquest Typhoon exit that key matchup and all finished within 2 lengths of American Patriot in Florida.
Favorites are only 4-for-18 on the turf so far this meet, so don’t feel obliged to follow the public. Javier Castellano partners with Turbo Street in search of padding his meet-high turf win total of 4. Joel Rosario also looks for a fifth grass win of the stand aboard High Noon Rider for unfathomably cold connections of the Ramseys and trainer Mike Maker.
Before you get too upset over posts, at 1-1/16 miles on turf at Keeneland over the past decade when there have been 12 or more starters, posts 1-3 have 18 wins and posts 10-out have 17. There are some appealing horses drawn wide in here and perhaps their draw will help cause overlay prices.
I like Conquest Typhoon even in post 12 as the play and will use in exotics with Special Ops, Arties Silver Mane, Tale of Fancy and Nipigon. Please consult the track conditions and updates if the weather transfers this race off the turf.
Head to Keenelandselect.com to send in your plays!
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.