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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 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 2014 FALL MEET PREVIEW (Pt 2 of 2)
The change in surface at Keeneland to dirt not only will dominate the headlines this season, but likely have a similar stranglehold on the toteboard. Horseplayers everywhere will jump at the first sign of a perceived pattern or track bias.
So while most waste energy on what they don’t know and can’t control, here are 5 things you can count on this season, regardless of the footing.
1. Keeneland is still a melting pot. The last time we had a dirt surface during the Fall 2005, the 156 races were won by horses exiting preps at no less than 27 different tracks! That’s even more diverse than the low to mid-20s we were used to seeing during Polytrack meets.
2. The wind doesn’t know the surface changed. Keeneland’s geography and layout often means we see strong winds that clearly impact those horses racing into them, or with them. Remember this no matter what track you’re at: Flags to the left favor speed. Flags to the right give closers their best chance to fire. That’s because the backstretch run into or with a tailwind or headwind impacts how much is left in the tank. If you’re not at the track, check out the live webcam link at Keeneland.com for direction.
3. Ken Ramsey can still be Ken Ramsey. We think owner Ken Ramsey’s litter of kittens is the only reason he wins races and they’re all bred for turf and Polytrack. But the guy has set wins records in recent years at places like Gulfstream, Saratoga and Churchill Downs without the presence of Poly. Ramsey loves to have his picture taken at Keeneland, and his class drops without conscience are what makes him a win machine, not the surface. The facts are, Ramsey’s Keeneland wins in the Poly era only included just less than 30 percent sired by Kitten’s Joy.
4. Field size makes for boxcar payoffs, not surfaces. Show me a track consistently with 12 and 14-horse fields and I’ll show you one that can compete with Keeneland in the price department. Focus your exotic wagers (trifectas, superfectas especially) on the races with the biggest fields and avoid the smaller fields except for win bets, focused exactas or multi-race wagers. Payoffs are about the math. A 12-horse field has 11,880 different ways a superfecta can be sliced and diced. An 8-race field has just 1,680 – more than 10,000 less with just removing 4 horses.
5. “Run-backs” will be dangerous late in the meeting. Even though Keeneland is only 4 weeks long, the shrewd player knows that the last 2 weeks of the meeting are havens for horses making their second start while coming off short rest at the meet. We saw no less than 12 such winners at the 2013 Fall Meet, and if you think that was surface-dependent, note that the 2005 Fall Meet on dirt had 14 run-back winners.
You can get more of Jeremy Plonk's insight and his exclusive daily Keeneland wagering strategies in the Horse Player NOW BUZZ report.