Let our experts help you handicap the day's races at Keeneland. To see the analysis provided by each handicapper, choose a handicapper name on the left, then choose a date.
Please note that selections typically are available about 48 hours in advance of the race.
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 Sunday, April 9
What to Watch for Today: The G3 Beaumont for 3-year-old filly spinters tops the marquee in Race 8, but it’s a world-class allowance route on the turf in Race 7 that I can’t wait to see.
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: Sunny skies and warming temps in the mid-70s mark the best weather day of opening weekend. Should be great conditions for racing and fans on-track.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to help you unearth the trends. 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!
Race 1 opens the action with allowance sprinters. Shackin Up returns off nearly a year for Larry Rivelli, top trainer at Arlington. He’s had some success at Keeneland in the fall usually with speedy front-end sprinters; but only 1 Spring Meet winner here in his career, that being starter allowance marathoner Helicopter back in 2011. We’ve had limited N2L allowances on dirt in the past 2 Spring Meets, but note twice we saw turf-to-dirt and route-to-sprint winners, something you can embrace with Phone Chick, as well as Five Star Factor and Dial Me. Tough race to get a handle on to start out!
Two-year-olds dash in Race 2 and Wesley Ward has won 9 of the 18 such races on dirt the past 2+ Spring Meets, including Friday’s opener. He has Paris Cruise and Happy Like a Fool. Mike Maker has a baby race victory each of the past 2 Spring Meets on dirt and his Our Girl Abby looks extremely live to me in the debut, though I much prefer statistically to see a 2YO here debut with local works – 14 of 18 winners had prepped at Keeneland in the a.m. Maker’s 2 winners were part of those 4 exceptions, however.
Nearly 80% of the winners in 1-1/16 miles races with short fields (6 or fewer) have been within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. So look for speed or tactical speed in Race 3 today as allowance runners battle over that trip. Dear Elaine won in a very similar situation wire-to-wire lst Fall Meet under Julien Leparoux and the tandem returns drawn perfectly in post 3. Only 4 of 53 Spring Meet 1-1/16 miles dirt winners the past 2 years have been horses making their seasonal returns off layoffs – Romantic Vision, Dear Elaine, Lady Fog Horn and Lavender Chrissie all try that here. That only leaves Silent Ronin with early speed and current form. Something’s gotta give.
Races 4 and 9 are turf MSWs at 9 furlongs. We don’t see these often. In fact, only 2 Spring Meet such races were run in 2014 and that’s it. Mike Maker has 3 Spring Meet MSW turf wins, tied with Kenny McPeek for most, and sends out Tipsy Kitten in Race 4. Gulfstream preppers have accounted for 22 of 38 such races, so that’s good news for Im the Captain Now, County Court, Cicerone, Tipsy Kitten and Any Questions. As for the Race 9 event, Hour City, Brooklyn Bobby, Morocco and Marscapone represent GP. Brooklyn Bobby and Morocco are classy turf players. Arklow drops back into the maiden ranks and tries turf after tempting the Louisiana Derby trail.
Starter allowance sprinters battle in Race 5. Four of 5 Spring Meet starter allowances on dirt have been won virtually wire-to-wire, including Rhodium on opening day at short odds. Newfound Gold aims for 7 straight victories and employs that front-running style. Trainer Michelle Lovell had a strong winner opening day and fires on point with favorites at Keeneland. Harlan’s Howling is by Harlan’s Holiday, the leading sprint sire on the new Keeneland dirt.
Race 6 is a non-winners of 2 lifetime sprint. Favorites went 6-for-9 last meet in these races with 8 of 9 winners at 5-2 or less. That continued opening day with favored Kirby’s Penny for Wesley Ward. Fair Grounds shippers do well in these spots historically, so consider Forty Acres, Aztec Sense and Silverdollardreams (the latter 2 also-eligibles). Aztec Sense’s sire Street Sense has been particularly viable with 7-furlong runners at Kee.
Stakes-caliber allowance turfers clash in Race 7, one of the most interesting races of opening weekend. G1 winner Divisidero meets a quartet of G2 stakes winners. What a race! Take The Stand could be lone speed for Javier Castellano, the best front-running turf rider in the game. Castellano already this meet has a turf win in the G3 Transylvania Stakes on opening day. Kaigun’s trainer Mark Casse uncorked a pair of stakes wins on the Saturday card. This is more of a traditional handicapping exercise than trends. Take The Stand is my play on the lead.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The G3 $150,000 Beaumont Stakes tops the card in Race 8. Five of the last 7 Beaumont winners have been 2-1 or less with 4 favorites. The last 3, including 2 on dirt, have exited Gulfstream Park preps during the month of March. While Laney has a Tampa race most recently, she does have the GP winter form that’s worked in this race in the past.
The last Beaumont winner making her 3-year-old debut was Gypsy Robin in 2012. That was also done in the past decade by Street Sounds in 2006. Sweet Loretta and Dancing Rags both would be applicable and capable here. The edge going around 1 turn goes to Sweet Loretta with a chance to get Laney underneath for the exacta.
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Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.