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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 22 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 Keeneland Keys for Sunday, October 23
What to Watch for Today: Week 3 of the meet wraps with a 9-race card headlined by the G3 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes. Trainer Graham Motion seeks his fifth major stakes win of the meet on the heels of Rachel Wall. He’s already tallied the G1 Shadwell Mile, G1 Alcibiades, G3 Franklin County and Friday’s G3 Valley View.
Today’s Keeneland NOW live podcast: Join Caton Bredar and me from noon-12:30 pm ET as we preview the entire day’s action in a 30-minute daily preview at Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage). Miss the live premiere? Get the archive immediate thereafter with a link from @Keenelandracing on Twitter or at Horseplayernow.com under “The Latest.”
My Selections: For the first time, my top 3 picks in each race are available in the Keeneland.com consensus page, and you can get final, up to the minute adjustments by following @Keenelandracing.com as I live Tweet throughout the card.
Chat Us Up: Join the live chat at Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) each day beginning at 12:45 pm ET through the end of the card and converse with other horseplayers as well as me and my team from Horse Player NOW.
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Weather: We were back to fast and firm early in the day Saturday. Except more of the same with sunny skies and temps around 70 degrees forecasted.
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 and 9 are for maiden claiming routers. Churchill preppers have won 6 MCLs at the meet with no other circuit producing more than 2. Horses exiting 1-turn preps continue to excel at a mile or 1-1/16 miles this meet, so give Zerimar, Sensational Ride and Saturday Fun long looks in Race 1. As for the Race 10 finale, Cateybug does CD 1-turn mile to Kee route and Dahlia’s Foxy Lady goes 1-turn mile at Kentucky Downs to Kee route. Spanish Art makes plenty of sense and we’ve seen sire Dialed In score with 2 maiden breakers at the current meet.
Basement-level $7500 claimers route 1-1/16 miles in Races 2 and 4. Don’t go digging for diamonds here as we’ve seen all 8 bottom-end claimers the past 2 Fall Meets go to horses 4-1 or less, half won by the favorite, and at an average price of just 5-2. Race 2 is a really tough race to grasp anything that fits on trends and they all look similar on paper. Good luck! Use anything that’s logical to start the pick four, perhaps just the top three favorites. As for Race 4, Love Your Humor does tempt at a price after running in a faster-than-par sprint in the Spring and the 1-turn mile preppers from CD draw me in at this Kee distance. Only 1 of the first 73 dirt races at the meet has been won by an Arlington-prepped runner, so morning line favorite Gimmeadrink looks vulnerable and at least under-laid on the projected odds.
Turf sprinters dash in a Race 3 allowance. When you see short field sizes in turf sprints, think early speed. It dominates these situations going 6-for-6 in limited samples the past decade. Cort, Cha Mano and Mr Business appear to be the best of the early speed. Favorites also are 5-for-6 in these short-field turf sprints.
Two-year-old maiden special weights sprint 7 furlongs in Race 5. We had a similar race for fillies in Saturday’s fifth won by favorite Tequilta, coming out of a Maryland maiden tussle with eventual G1 Alcibiades winner Dancing Rags. 12 of the last 13 such races run during Fall Meets have been on by Churchill preppers (6) or first-time starters (6). Some interesting pedigrees here are Local Hero, who’s dam is half-sister to Distorted Humor, and Minefield, a half-brother to star sprinter Gayego. Our Stormin Norman goes for a Mark Casse barn that has lit the 2YO scene afire this meet with 6 winners in the juvenile ranks.
Older maiden turfers battle in Race 6. Ben Colebrook sends out Timido, while Charlie LoPresti has Yearning on the also-eligible list. Both of those trainers have won 2 elder turf MSWs at Keeneland in recent Fall Meets, tied with Graham Motion and Kiaran McLaughlin for most. Sistine Sista should like the course/distance as a granddaughter of Dynaformer. Beware also-eligible runners Vagabond Princess and Brooks house running back second time at the meet. They both rallied well here on opening Sunday of the meet when speed was very tough to tackle on the turf.
Race 7 is an allowance sprint on the main track and should be a good betting race. We’ve had favorites win 3 of 11 such events this meet with the average winner 4-1 odds. No winners have been over 8-1, so there are logical horses right in a juicy wheelhouse to bet typically. All 11 winners have been within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Seven of the 11 winners interestingly were actually adding a bit of distance from their previous prep. Gorgeous Bird and Totally Drenched fit that profile very well. I have to think Scary Charly is much better than the first start of the meet and comes back quickly for Larry Rivelli with a sharp workout in-between. Expect more.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The G3 $125,000 Dowager Stakes in Race 9 matches an insanely even group of 13 turf marathoners. While it is true favorites have won this race six of the last 10 years – and 3 of the last 4 – but taking a short price here is tough to do.
Don't be afraid of a deep closer as the average Dowager winner has been nearly 6 lengths back after the opening half-mile the past decade and four were deep, deep, deep closers. Seven of the last 10 exited a prep at 1 ¼ miles or longer.
I’ll lean to Oakley Girl at 12/1 with a late move after finishing third to Al’s Gal at Kentucky Downs. Her last rival came back to upset the G1 EP Taylor at Woodbine to underline that effort. Apple Betty is by the world’s foremost turf route sire Galileo and brings French Group 3 form to the table. Freethinker will be another deep-closing longshot to consider for the exotics for a barn going very well right now.
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Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.