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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 Friday, April 25, 2014
What to Watch for Today: We draw the curtain on a superb Keeneland stand and the Polytrack era with today’s 10-race card. The G2 $250,000 Elkhorn serves as the feature with a dynamite field of turf marathoners.
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: Morning showers and temperatures in the low 70s are forecasted, so keep an eye on the conditions as post time approaches.
Polycapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Race 1 kicks off the card with 2-year-old dashers, just our fourth baby race of the meet after several failed to fill. The Wesley Ward-trained duo of Banksy and Lamontagne merit much respect, as well as the Mark Casse-trained Conquest Tsunami. Only 2 of 62 past Spring Poly baby dashes have been won by horses running back second time at the meet (none since 2009), so the heavy focus is on the firsters.
Basement-level maiden claiming routers compete in Races 2 and 10. Gulfstream shippers have won 17 of 36 MCL routes in past Spring Meets including 3 of 6 held so far this season. Note rookies have won just 2 MCL routes in past Spring Meets from 36 offered. Mike Maker-Javier Castellano teamed to win a similar race here Wednesday with Sunquero and try to strike again with Perky Kitten in Race 2 – who wintered at GP and prepped at Turfway. Winter’s Gift looks solid in from Gulfstream off a turf route third. In the Race 10 division, Dreaming of Kitten comes in from Gulfstream for the aforementioned Maker.
Race 3 is an upper level $50,000 claimer and note favorites are just 5-for-26 in these past Spring races on Polytrack and 2-for-the-last 16. Fair Grounds preppers have won 6 of 13 past Spring $50k claiming sprints, so Chelsea Road making her second start in from FG at the meet might fit much better than she did in allowance company opening weekend.
Race 4 offers $16,000 claimers a sprint prize. All four sprints at the meet for $16,000 or less have been won by horses exiting sprint preps, within earshot of the early lead, and between 3-1 and 5-1 odds. Only 5 of 52 such races at the class-distance in Spring Meets have been won by horses exiting turf preps, with sprint preppers owning a 3-to-1 advantage. These have been fairly good places for late-season ‘run-backs’ making a second start of the meet. Truly Amazing, Tyree, Sasueno, Eye of the Eagle and Hancho all exit sprint races at the meet.
We get our second turf sprint allowance of the meet in Race 5. Since 2007, 7 of the 9 such races were won by turf preppers, 2 on synthetic and none from dirt preps. Meanwhile, 6 of 9 were won by sprint preppers with 3 turnbacks from routes winning, including Wednesday’s victor Liz Pendens. Joe Can Gallop appears well-drawn and placed for the comeback under Joe Rocco, who got off to a blazing start with turfers at the meet. It’s worth noting that big-time barns Graham Motion and Bill Mott have not won a turf sprint at Keeneland in our database, which goes back to Fall 2006 – and both figure to have horses well-backed in this race.
Race 6 is a 3-year-old maiden special weight sprint at 7 furlongs. These have been frequent spots late in Spring Meets for run-back winners in the Poly era, including a 1-3 finish by run-backers Crissy Field and Sea Shadow on Wednesday. Elysian looks VERY well-meant off a debut second here April 5, and Boom Boom Vroom chased her home third in that same race. This looks like a single to me with Elysian.
Race 7 is a maiden special weight route on the turf. Gulfstream preppers have won 11 of 19 since Spring 2007 in this situation, and 1 of 3 limited tries this meet. Miz Lee is the only GP rep in this field, and jockey Joe Rocco has ridden the turf exceptionally this meet. First-time starters only own 2 wins in these 19 such offerings so the lean goes to experience. Horses prepped on turf own an 11-5 edge over dirt-prepped runners, and 15 of 19 winners exited a route prep. Others prepped in turf routes include Hard Night’s Day, Humor Section and Taylor Lane. If Fashion Fund wins, she’ll be the first European import to score a turf MSW here in the Spring since the 2007 database inception.
Race 8 is for first-level allowance sprinters. Dirt-prepped runners hold a 24-15-8 edge over turf and synthetic preppers in 47 previous past Spring Meet chances. At this particular 7-furlong distance, 14 of 24 winners turned back from a mile or longer last prep. Eight times in 24 races at 7F at this class level in the Spring, the winner was making his or her first start of the year, so don’t be fearful of the long layoff horses. Horses like Flashy Gal, Keening and Kitty Wine should be dangerous while fresh and shortening distance – but the handicapper in me realizes how good Similu, Tap Twenty One and Sweet Shirley Mae look on paper. This should be a good betting race.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The consistent profile of a G2 Elkhorn winner has been about 5-1 odds and about 5 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. It’s uncanny how similar the winners have looked over the last 7 years, and we’ll see if that continues in Race 9. Four of the last 6 Elkhorn winners came off turf preps at Gulfstream, with 5 of the last 6 prepping at 1-3/8 miles or longer.
Temaraine, Suntracer, Tattenham, Royal Bench, Amen Kitten and Eagle Poise all hit the long-distance notes of this race’s profile. Suntracer, Tattenham and Amen Kitten did so via Gulfstream Park. As mentioned earlier this week, sire Kitten’s Joy has had little success at true routes on the Kee turf, so Amen Kitten might be the one of that trio to eliminate.
Let’s go with the class-rising Tattenham who fits the bill for Bill Mott with an ability to stay within earshot of the front, which should be set by Rapscallion and Tricky Hat. I’ll play Tattenham straight and use in exotics with Eagle Poise, Suntracer and Temeraine.
Thanks for a great meet – see you in Night School every Tuesday at 8:30 pm ET!
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.