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Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 21 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 Breeders' Cup Keys for Saturday, Oct. 31
ABOUT FRIDAY'S RESULTS
Reviewing Friday’s races, horses fairly close to the pace or on the lead had solid success on the main track. Deep closers didn’t fire great shots. Speed held reasonably well on the turf, but expect course conditions to continue drying to begin the day Saturday. Trainer Todd Pletcher had his groove on with 3 stakes wins – the Fayette, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and BC Distaff.
Last year marked the fifth time since 2000 that the Breeders’ Cup pick six did not get solved by bettors tabbing all the winners. The consolation paid $114,472 – a record payout for having five. The pick six with a $1 minimum and several short-priced favorites should be considerably more ‘get-able’ today.
Only 2 Breeders’ Cup races of the 283 held all-time have been won by double-digit lengths. Inside Information won the 1995 Distaff by 13-1/2 lengths, while Street Sense strolled in the 2006 Juvenile by 10.
NOTE QUITE 50/50
Odds-on favorites (4-5 or less) are 24-for-51 in the history of the Breeders’ Cup following the win by Liam’s Map in Friday’s Dirt Mile.
Post position 4 has the most Breeders’ Cup victories all-time (35) regardless of distance, surface or venue – including Stopchargingmaria’s Distaff score on Friday. Notables from the 4-hole today (barring scratches) are headlined by Classic favorite American Pharoah.
The Keeneland meet produced 3 Breeders’ Cup championship winners a year ago at Santa Anita – most of any prep locale. They included Work All Week in the Sprint, Take Charge Brandi in the Juvenile Fillies and Dayatthespa in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Of the 10 largest payoffs in Breeders’ Cup Mile history, 5 of those have come in events held in Kentucky (at Churchill Downs). Court Vision’s $131.60 stunner in 2011 tops that list.
R3 – JUVENILE FILLIES
Seventy percent of 1-1/16 miles race winners on the Keeneland dirt have been 3 lengths or less off the lead after the opening half-mile (average winner 2.4 lengths back at that stage). The chalkiest division in Breeders’ Cup history has been the Juvenile Fillies (55% winning favorites).
R4 – TURF SPRINT
In Keeneland turf sprints with 10 or mores starters, the average winner rallies from 3-3/4 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile (only three-sixteenths of a mile left to run). Only about 1 in 7 such races are won by the horse leading after the first half-mile.
R5 – F&M SPRINT
In 7-furlong Keeneland dirt races, 50 of 74 winners (68%) on the new surface have been within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Only 1 in 8 winners rally from more than 5 lengths back at that juncture.
R6 – F&M TURF
Front-running horses have had much recent success in this race. But only 3 of 27 races on the Keeneland turf at 1-3/16 miles since Fall 2006 have been won on the front end. The average winner has been 4 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile.
R7 – SPRINT
While fast fractions may lead conventional handicapping to assume a pace meltdown, keep in mind the 3-fastest opening half-miles run on the new Keeneand dirt all came by front-running major stakes winners – Work All Week, Leigh Court and Runhappy.
R8 – MILE
Before you dismiss wide draws in this race, recall the 14-hole for Hit It a Bomb in Friday’s Juvenile Turf at a mile on grass and note the G1 First Lady in 2011 and 2015 being won from the 11 and 12 posts. And the Breeders’ Cup Mile has a LONG history of wide-drawn runners firing well. Note 12 straight Mile trifectas have sported at least one horse who broke from post position No. 10 or wider (when we’ve had at least 10 Mile starters).
R9 – JUVENILE
As mentioned in the Juvenile Fillies, 70 percent of 1-1/16 miles race winners on the Keeneland dirt have been 3 lengths or less off the lead after the opening half-mile (average winner 2.4 lengths back at that stage).
R10 – TURF
Only 3 of 74 turf races at 1-1/2 miles since Fall 2006 have been won by the half-mile leader and these races are prime for big closers. The average winner has been 6 lengths back at that juncture and that grows to 6-3/4 lengths back when you look at just the 36 stakes races over this trip. And with field sizes of 12 or more, that balloons to 8-1/2 lengths back on average for the winners. Posts 1-2 have accounted for a noteworthy 27 of those 74 wins (36%) despite an average field size of more than 9.7 per race.
R10 – CLASSIC
We don’t get much by way of Keeneland 1-1/4 miles dirt races to determine – only 2 have been run so far. Eight straight Kentucky Derby winners to race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at age 3 have lost. California Chrome’s third a year ago was the best finish since Unbridled’s 1990 victory. The BC divisions that currently have gone the longest without a winning favorite are the Turf and Classic. Both Saturday late-card staples have witnessed 5 straight losing chalks.