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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 Wednesday, October 22, 2014
What to Watch for Today: Typically we see 16-18 “run-back” winners during the final days of the Keeneland Fall Meets, so expect several runners today and all week to be live making their second starts of the short meeting. Eight jockeys appear to have a say in the leading rider title, which is led by Rosie Naprvanik and Shaun Bridgmohan’s dueling11 wins after 3 weeks. Bridgmohan has just 2 calls on Wednesday, whereas Rosie has 5 and pursuers like Julien Leparoux and James Graham ride 7 of the day’s 8 races.
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Weather: Partly cloudy skies with autumn-like temps in the high 50s are forecasted with light wins reaching 8 mph. Should be a great day for racing!
Keeneland Handicapping 101: As is our Wednesday custom, we’ll recap the meet trends and put you in action for the new racing week. Our race-by-race format returns Thursday. 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!
Let’s look first at the dirt races at this 2014 meet, which total 95 after 13 days of racing. Favorites are clicking exactly 40% on the main track with an average winner of 4.8-to-1 odds. Those totals saw an influx of prices during week 3 to lower the winning favorites and increase the average win odds (were 40%, 4.3-to-1 during Weeks 1-2). Field sizes have averaged 7.9 on dirt for the meet (7.4 during Week 3). Churchill Downs-prepped runners have won 28 races on dirt – including 12 in Week 3 alone – easily outpacing all other circuit feeders. Next up for dirt preps are Saratoga at 12, Kentucky Downs 9 and Arlington 8. Places like Belmont, Ellis, Indiana Grand and Presque Isle all check in with just 3 wins on the dirt.
Among the 60 dirt sprints at the meet, the average winner has been 1.3 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. This is a big shift from Weeks 1 and 2, and closers were much more effective sprinting during Week 3 than at any time of the meet. The seven deepest-closing sprint winners of the meet (all 4-1/2 lengths or more behind after the opening-half mile) all occurred during Week 3. Not coincidentally they averaged more than 14/1 odds on those 7 winners as horseplayers had become heavily reliant on early speed during Weeks 1-2. Average times were almost identical last week compared to the first part of the meet, so there was no apparent change in the track from that standpoint. Of the 60 sprints, 10 have been won by horses turning back from a route prep (16%). Dirt preppers own a 30-12-10-8 advantage over turf, synthetic and first-time starters in dirt sprints at the Fall Meet. Sire Harlan’s Holiday has been rep’d by 4 dirt sprint winners at the meet, no other sire has more than 2. Chris Richard leads all trainers with 4 dirt sprints wins, followed by Mark Casse, Ingrid Mason and Wesley Ward (each with 3). Corey Lanerie tops the dirt sprint jockeys with 8 wins, followed Shaun Bridgmohan, Paco Lopez and James Graham with 6 apiece.
Among the 35 dirt routes offered so far, the average winner has been 2.84 lengths behind after the opening half-mile. Of those, 12 were less than 1 length behind after the opening half-mile and only 9 closed from more than 5 lengths back at that juncture. About 69% off all dirt route winners exited a route prep. Dirt preppers have a 19-13-3 edge over turf and synthetics preppers in route distances on the main track, must less advantageous than in sprints. Todd Pletcher’s 4 dirt route wins pace the trainers while Phil Sims, Graham Motion and Joe Sharp are next with 2. Rosie Napravnik has 6 dirt route wins, best among the jockeys, followed by John Velazquez and Julien Leparoux with 4 each.
Now let’s talk turf. Grass favorites are 8-for-28 at the meet (just 29%) with average win odds at 5.4-to-1. Favs went just 1-for-9 on grass during Week 3 and Sweet Nkosi blew up the averages with a 37/1 upset score Saturday. Field sizes have been a robust 10.2 per race on turf at the meet. Saratoga preppers hold a 9-7 edge over Kentucky Downs raiders among the circuits proving turf winners at the meet with KD closing the gap during Week 3.
Among the 14 turf routes held so far, the average winner has been 4.4 lengths behind after the opening half-mile with only 2 winners leading at that point. Four turf winners have closed more than 10 lengths to win. Dynaformer offspring have won 4 turf routes at the meet already, including 2 at 1-1/2 miles, while Kitten’s Joy has 3 turf route winners all between 1-1/16 miles and 1-1/8 miles. Graham Motion and Bill Mott each have 4 turf training wins. Shawn Bridgmohan and Joel Rosario lead the turf jockeys with 4 wins, followed by Joe Rocco, Jr. and John Velazquez with 3.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The co-featured Race 6 allowance route in on the main track has lured a tough-to-separate field of 8. Horses moving turf-to-dirt have won 5 of the dirt route allowances at the meeting compared to 2 each for dirt and synthetic preppers. That bodes well for Monmouth debut turf winner Chip Leader, the only turf prepper of the field. It’ll Be Fine also is a turf type whose Oct. 3 bid at Keeneland opening day was washed off the turf to the main track, but otherwise has turf form. Kenny McPeek excels with run-back horses at the meet and I look for him to have live wires throughout the card Wednesday.
It’ll Be Fine just may live up to his name. He’s the win play with an exacta box with Chip Leader.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.