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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 13, 2017

    Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Thursday, April 13


    What to Watch for Today: The G3 $125,000 Appalachian Stakes features the return of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner New Money Honey and last year’s local turf dazzler La Coronel. It’s a 3-year-old filly grass match-up as good as any we’ve seen here in years. Meanwhile, last year’s Preakness runner-up and Blue Grass third-place finisher Cherry Wine lends a big name to a Race 6 allowance.


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    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 perfect day with no rain in sight and temps in the upper 70s is forecasted.


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    Thursday action opens in Race 1 with a baby dash at 4-1/2 furlongs. Trainer Wesley Ward sends out Girl’s Night and Zodacious with local drills, win-early pedigrees and the right barn. He won both 2YO races opening week as well as Wednesday’s opener with 1-5 shot McErin. Girl’s Night is by Dunkirk, who has an impressive 6 wins on the Kee dirt among his offspring, including a debut sprinter. Bodemeister, sire of Zodacious, uncorked a sharp 2YO winner here during the Fall Meet named Speedmeister.


    Race 2 is a $20,000 claimer at 7 furlongs. Fair Grounds shippers own a 16-11-9 edge over Gulfstream and Turfway runners in Spring Meet dirt races the past 2+ seasons – including 2 of 3 opening weekend this stand. Shoot From The Hip is the only FG raider here, so it opens up beyond that. We saw a pair of Oaklawn invaders take opening weekend sprints on the main track, and Tisdale for Ron Moquett appears dangerous on a significant class drop. The rail was just 1-17 opening weekend in dirt sprints, however.


    Race 3 is a starter allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Both starter allowance winners opening weekend were well-backed, a 3-5 favorite and a 2-1 second choice. Overall 12 of 15 Spring Meet starter allowance winners on the new dirt have been 5-1 or less, so it’s not a race to look for chaos. Trainer Joe Sharp sends out Seeyouatthedisco in search of 4 straight wins. Sharp’s 10 wins on the Kee dirt included 5 favorites and an average winning price of just 5-2. While Lucy’s Revenge did run second at this distance here in the Fall Meet, it was the slowest 1-1/16 miles race of the meet in a non-maiden race. The upset threat is Zarcat with inside speed, which is preferred over this distance/configuration.


    Maiden claimers sprint 6 furlongs in Race 4. In the 12 Spring dirt MCL races at this distance, the average winner is less than a half-length off the lead after the first half-mile. Only 2 winners closed more than 2 lengths at that juncture. First-time starters have 3 of the 12 wins, so lean toward experience. Wesley Ward sends out 3YO debut runner Heavy Roller, but note Ward’s 36 debut winners at Keeneland over the past decade all have been 2YOs. Eddie Kenneally won 3 races opening week and looks to continue hot ways with El Mundo.


    Turf mile allowance runners meet in Race 5, and we must respect the Gulfstream shippers who account for about 50% of all grass races at Spring Meets. Holidays Saratoga, Be My Baby and Prudence make up a small group of GP raiders. Be My Baby may be the strongest of that group. There are 3 first-time US runners from overseas: Spiga, Grand Jete and Midnight Crossing. Chad Brown won with 2 such runners at the 2015 Spring Meet and saddles Grand Jete. While Christophe Clement has 3 first-time US winners at Kee in the Spring, those winners came in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He looks to rekindle with Spiga. We’ve seen 27 win “off-the-boat” here in Spring Meets the past decade like this, averaging just 4-1 on those victories.


    Race 6 is an exciting allowance route that I can’t wait to see. Cherry Wine returns, third in last year’s G1 Blue Grass before rounding out the exacta in the Preakness. He is a deep, home-run closer and that’s not a good recipe at 1-1/16 miles, so he likely will be an underlay. The same goes for Frammento. Only 6 of the first 157 races on the dirt at this distance have been won by horses who were 10 lengths or more back after the opening half-mile. In fact, 129 were within 5 lengths – that’s 82%. Posts 1-2 account for more than one-third of all 1-1/16 miles winners on Kee dirt, so JS Bach figures prominently up front and you have to think Tour De Force gets a similar, inside, front-running trip.


    Allowance sprinters clash in Race 7. Half of the 8 entrants have already won on the Keeneland dirt. Banree set and still holds the 4 ½ furlong track record on the new surface in Spring 2015 debut win, while Tia Flor’s score ranks the slowest clocking to win a baby race on the new dirt. Sea Cloud’s win last Fall Meet was more than 3 lengths slower than the meet average for 6 ½ furlongs and ranked 14th of 19th fastest. Carolina Jasmine ran the 6th-fastest 28 races at 6 furlongs last Fall Meet despite being in the claiming ranks, about 4 lengths faster than par. Tia Flor’s sire Archarcharch has been a good longshot price sire in limited strikes at Kee, however.


    Basement $10k claimers wrap the card in Race 9. We’ve only had 4 of these in the Spring Meets at 7 furlongs, and all 4 were won by horses exiting 6-furlong preps and the average winner was 1 ¾ lengths back after the first half-mile. Resist the urge for turn-back routers. It’s rare to see a Tapit in for $10k anywhere, but Tapitsphere likely will continue the heavy betting of Tapits at Keeneland. You don’t get a price on these runners. The basement claimers on dirt have been evenly spread between those from Turfway, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn and Gulfstream with no edges. Favorites are a whopping 11-for-18 in these spots.


    Feature Race Play, courtesy of the BUZZ Report:


    The G3 $125,000 Appalachian Stakes goes as Race 8 today and should be a beauty! Favorite have won this race 5 of the last 10 years and horses 5-1 or less have won it 9 times in that decade. The favorites figure to be awfully strong and history tells us not to fish here. Only Winter Memories in 2011 during that span won this race in her first race of the year. That could give La Coronel and Coated the edge with a race under their belts this year vs. main rivals New Money Honey and Lull, both away since the Breeders’ Cup in November.


    La Coronel was as visually impressive as any 2YO turfer I’ve seen at Keeneland in years when winning last year’s Jessamine. She’s my play and my BFF until proven otherwise.


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