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 Friday, April 7
What to Watch for Today: The 2017 Spring Meet welcomes horseplayers back to the show that rarely disappoints. A low industry takeout structure, top-class racing and a fantastic simulcast presentation are just a few of the reasons to love betting Keeneland. This is my 18th straight meet providing the stats blog and we’ll get right after it today with the G3 Transylvania Stakes featuring the 3-year-old return of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance. The envelope please …
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.
Get to the Windows: Be sure to open a Keenelandselect.com wagering account and play the action all meet long as well as great tracks worldwide. Dedicated to the sport. Dedicated to the players.
Weather: Thursday’s wet weather in Lexington is expected to push out by racetime and we’ll have a cool afternoon with temperatures in the upper 50s. Keep an eye on updated main track and turf course conditions.
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!
The meet opens in Race 1 with a 2-year-old “baby dash” at 4 ½ furlongs. Trainer Wesley Ward has won 8 of the 17 such races on the new Keeneland dirt and sends out both Kitty Kat Kate and Fairyland. Both are sired by Scat Daddy, who already has a pair of Kee baby dash winners. Note 13 of the 17 winners showed Keeneland workouts most recently, a lean I usually give and you’ll be surprised how many of these baby races have horses coming in without local drills.
Race 2 is a starter allowance at 6-1/2 furlongs and opens the pick four wager. Sire Flatter is represented by Color Me Blush as well as Annoy, and it’s notable that his 11 winners (including Annoy last Spring) on the Kee dirt are tied for fourth-most of any sire and that he’s had 3 major 7-furlong stakes winners here – so the extended sprint at 6-1/2 furlongs may suit. From a pace standpoint, Rhodium looks loose on the lead and highly dangerous. Note 3 of 4 starter allowance sprints on the main track over the past 2 Spring Meets have been won virtually wire-to-wire.
The 1-mile main track distance was put into play at Keeneland for the first time during the 2015 Fall Meet to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. It’s become more regular since, and that’s the trip for allowance performers in Race 3. Note that 12 of the 15 winners so far have been within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Crewman is by Candy Ride, whose 18 winners (10 routers) on the Keeneland dirt are most by any sire. December Seven is a son of Street Sense, not too shabby with his 10 offspring wins either. Don’t be afraid of a horse exiting a 1-turn prep as we’ve seen 8 of 15 miles won in that fashion (9 if you consider Ellis Park’s elbow start at a mile to be 1 turn). Clear the Mine’s mile score here last Fall Meet ranks second only to BC Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map for the fastest times (1:35.10) at the trip over the new surface. There are some good options here to spread in the early pick four.
Maiden claiming routers match up in Race 4. We’ve had 11 such races the past 2 Spring Meets on dirt with 5 winning favorites and 8 winners at 3-1 or less. All 11 exited 2-turn preps, which could be strikes against Summer O Fiftyfour, Starinthemaking, Wissam and Barry’s Swing if you subscribe to that angle. That’s half the field. Pace players have been strong here with 9 of 11 winners racing within 2 ½ lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Roustabout is the only horse exiting a 2-turn prep who looks remotely capable of staying within earshot of the pace.
Race 5 is a bottom-level $10,000 claiming sprint with a deep field of 10 primarily from Turfway Park. Favorites are 10-for-17 in these basement claimers the past 2 Spring Meets with only 2 double-digit odds winners. Delusional KK may be a solid favorite here on the class drop. He was second here in a much tougher starter allowance last Spring that went about 2 lengths faster than par for 6 furlong races at the stand. Of trainer Michell Lovell’s last 10 winners at Keeneland, 6 have been favorites.
The season’s first turf race is a 1-1/8 miles allowance test in Race 6. Gulfstream invaders have won 40 of 81 turf races at Keeneland the past 2 Spring Meets and nearly 50% dating all the way back to Spring 2007. And last Spring, 4 of 5 turf allowances at this trip were won via GP. You must begin your dissection with those runners, namely Chubby Star, Danceland, Talaaqy and Lipstick City. The latter goes for a Chad Brown barn with a gaudy 12 Keeneland turf wins the past 2 Spring Meets (no other barn more than 7). Also respect Joust off the layoff for a Christophe Clement barn that has won 9-furlong turf allowances here during the Spring Meets of 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2014.
Race 7 is for 3-year-old maiden special weight sprinters at 7 furlongs and kicks off the $200,000-guaranteed late pick four, presented by TVG. Only 3 of 25 MSWs for this age bracket the past 2 Spring Meets have been won by first-time starters, so lean toward experience. Oaklawn has produced 3 winners in this situation, which is noticeable given the overlap in their meet and huge purses in Hot Springs. People who run a maiden at Keeneland over Oaklawn really want to run at Keeneland for the prestige, in other words. That said, give an extra look toward True Boots and Fairybrook for respected trainers via Oaklawn. Favorites are only 2-for-10 (average winner nearly 7-1) in these races at 7 furlongs for 3YO MSWs, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. All 10 winners have been within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile and 7 of them were either on the lead or within a half-length. One more note: Defy and Noelle’s Mischief’s sire Into Mischief had 5 winners at the most recent Fall Meet, 4 of them maiden breakers.
Allowance sprinters clash at 6 furlongs in Race 8. Mutaraamy was third in a 7-furlong sprint here last Spring that ranks No. 14-fastest of 124 at the distance on the new dirt (5 of the times ahead of that race are graded stakes). His sire Tapit has 14 winners on Kee dirt, third-most, and notably 9 of those have been favorite. Tapits don’t get away at a price at Keeneland; their average winning odds just 2-1. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin won a very similar race here in 2015 Spring with Tapit runner Dancing House. Pedigree players also consider Town Classic’s sire Speightstown has 10 winners on the new Keeneland dirt, 9 of them in sprints. All 8 Spring dirt allowance races at 6 furlongs so far have been won by horses within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile and 6 of them by horses right on the lead. Keep close!
Opening day’s finale Race 10 will be 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. Over the past 2 Spring Meets on dirt, Fair Grounds shippers have done best in N2L claimers, winning 5 times, though Tengey from FG worries me as a vet scratch March 16. Maybe file that fact for another N2L at the meet. We have seen 5 turf preppers move to dirt and win N2L claimers the past 2 Springs, something Wind Cheater and Kirby’s Penny attempt.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The season’s first stakes race, the G3 $150,000 Transylvania for 3-year-old turfers, headlines the Friday card in Race 9. Gulfstream preppers have won this race 6 of the last 8 years, which is good news for backers of Ticonderoga, Makarios and Cowboy Culture. The former should vie for favoritism with Oscar Performance, whose 3-race win streak includes the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his most recent outing last November. In fact, this race has 3 of the top 5 finishers from the showcase at Santa Anita last fall.
Can Oscar Performance wow the crowd in his first start of the year? Past Transylvania Stakes history says don’t count him out. Not only did Shakhimat win last year’s edition off a November layoff, but Air Support did so in his seasonal debut of 2011 and Marcavelly before that in his 2007 return.
While there are quality players in the cast, I can’t see how the Transylvania gets beyond Oscar Performance vs. Ticonderoga. The former has the pace edge. The latter has the foundational edge going second-off-the-layoff. I will be using both equally in the multi-race wagers and gauge the tote for value. Either at 5-to-2 or more would offer value.
Head to Keenelandselect.com to send in your plays!
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.