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Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 20 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, creators 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 Saturday, October 25, 2014
What to Watch for Today: We bid farewell to autumn with closing day and the G2 Fayette Handicap topping the playbill. The main event includes Super Derby winner Departing looking for his first signature score of 2014 vs. a tough field of handicap division performers.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik paces the leading jockeys’ race into closing day with a 2-win cushion over a bevy of challengers. She rides 9 of 10 races and may prove tough to catch.
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live blog/chat at the Keeneland website (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) – also available on your mobile devices – or on Twitter @Keeenelandracing, where I provide up-to-the-minute picks and analysis.
Weather: Superb weather welcomes the final day of the meet with partly cloudy skies, temps in the low 70s and negligible winds.
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 is a $10,000 claimer sprinting 6 furlongs on the main track. It also, by the way, includes a Kentucky Derby alumnus in Homeboykris, now age 7 making his 50th lifetime start. The Kentucky-prepped runners have dominated the basement level at the meet with 5 of 6 winners prepping at CD, KD or running back from a Kee race at the meet. Trainers Ingrid Mason (Muazzaz) and Joe Sharp (Sandbar) have had outstanding Fall Meets and bring runners in who fit the profile with horses capable of pressing the pace.
Older maiden special weight sprinters match up in Races 2 and 5. All 5 older MSW winners at the meet were horses coming back off of modest layoffs from August or longer (no September/October preps). Taylor Lane, Hope Rules and Holiday apple fit that bill in Race 2. Heavy favoritism figures to go to Cali Star and note favorites are 3-for-5 in this division this meet with no winner above 4-1 odds. If not Cali Star, consider the layoff types. In the Race 5 division, keep tabs on Cosmo Blue and Penobscot running back second time at the meet to defy that layoff angle. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been masterful breaking maidens with well-spotted horses at the meet, while Kenny McPeek long has succeed with maiden routers running back second time at a Fall Meet.
Race 3 is for maiden claiming sprinters on the main track and historically this has been a bad spot for horses running back second time at the meet. Only 2 “run-back” winners since Fall ’06 have come in MCL sprints and both were Wesley Ward-Ramsey runners, so maybe you stretch to Artemusmailcarrier, but I’ll try to beat him. In all MCLs this meet, 17 of 20 winners have been 4/1 or less, so don’t fish too deep. The Churchill preppers have paced the way with 5 of the 20 winners, which bodes well for longshot Hot Prospect, but if you avoid him, the best options here are Mr Classic Seneca and Duke of Luke.
Juvenile turfers compete in Race 4 and Race 10 maiden special weights. The average winner in these races during Fall Meets in recent years has been 7-1, so you can get a price. First-time starters own just 3 of the 17 wins in these races since Fall 2006. Horses with tactical pace have excelled, as 13 of 17 winners were within 2-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. In Race 4, Twenty Gauge exits a second to eventual Bourbon Stakes winner Lawn Ranger, while Bourbon fourth Majestico is entered back after landing on the also-eligible list of a similar race on Friday. Only once has a 2YO MSW turf race since Fall ’06 been taken by a horse running back second time at the Kee meet. The Race 10 finale should see Market Appeal fit well on the stretchout with some experience and time between races. Macchiato also fits the bill in what could be a two-deep situation for multi-race players.
Favorites are 5-for-7 at the meet in non-winners of 2 lifetime claiming races like we have in Race 6, and the average winner has been just 2-1 odds. The “N2L” ranks have been totally dominated by Churchill-prepped runners and historically a fantastic spot for run-backs second time at the meet. Kenny McPeek could be jamming the entry box with Stroll to Victory on the drop in class in pursuit of a training title; he’s apt to dial in with these second-timers at the meet, but most of his run-back winners come in routes.
Race 7 is an open allowance for 3-year-olds and might as well be a stakes. Seven of the eight entrants have been in stakes races within their two most-recent starts. Trainer Kellyn Gorder has 4 wins at the meet, as many as he had in 2011, 2012 and 2013 Fall Meets combined. He’ll send out the tough pair of Bump Start and Bourbonize. Sire Tiz Wonderful has both Bourbonize and I Got It All in this race and note he’s already had a 7-furlong allowance winner at the meet (Rocket Time).
Turf allowance milers compete in Race 8. The wins in turf allowances at the meet have been evenly distributed among the 13 events with Kentucky Downs pacing the way with 3 winners. Surprisingly the New Yorkers haven’t dominated this category as in years past. Bill Mott has 4 turf wins at the meet, tied for most of any trainer, but his Dobra Historia is on the also-eligible list needing some help to get in. Don’t get caught up in post positions. In 10 turf miles at the meet, we’ve had as many winners from posts 10-11 (2) as we have from posts 1-2-3-4-5 combined (2). Nine of 10 turf mile winners at the meet raced within 4-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Favorites went 1-for-8 in the G2 Fayette during the Polytrack era, but we wipe the slate clean for the traditional closing day feature on the dirt for the first time since 2005. Fourteen of 16 stakes at this meet have been won by horses in single-digit odds with 5 of 6 dirt stakes going to horses at 7-1 or less. Surprising to many I’m sure is the fact that of the 6 dirt stakes this meet, 3 were won by horses exiting synthetic preps, 2 on dirt and 1 on turf.
New York invader Long River has faced some of the top handicap horses in the nation and should fit squarely as the horse to beat in the Fayette over a 9-furlong trip he will handle. I’m going to use him over Pick of the Litter and what appears the best speed horses in a race that doesn’t look to burn early – namely Call Me George and Coltimus Prime.
Thanks so much for another amazing meet! I’ll see you in Night School each Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.