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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 Thursday, October 9, 2014
What to Watch for Today: Fundamentals of handicapping 2-year-old races will be on the docket today as races 1,3,4, and 9 all are for the juveniles. And today’s Race 7 turf allowance feature includes Barbaro’s kid brother Margano, fresh off a stakes win in the President’s Cup at Parx.
Jockey James Graham exits a 3-win day to start the week on Wednesday.
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: A cloudy day with temps in the high 60s is forecasted with no rain or major wind in the mix. Should be a great day for racing with a fast/firm situation after the turf was listed “good” on Wednesday.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. 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 opens the card with 2-year-old claimers sprinting 6 furlongs. Early speed dominated all the sprints opening week, so look for a horse with some early foot to factor. No trainer has won more 2-year-old races at Keeneland since Fall 2006 than Wesley Ward and he’s got fleet-footed Truth in the Lies hoping to go wire to wire. That runner’s recent fifth looked much better when Paige came back here to run third in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity on Saturday. Favorites won 6 of the first 11 juvenile races at the meet, but we’ve had 3 bombers at 10/1 or more in those races, too. So it’s been feast or famine.
Starter allowance routers compete on the dirt in Race 2. Little Face looks to be a short-priced favorite going for 6 wins in a row. But surprisingly favorites have lost 8 straight Fall Meet starter allowances at Keeneland and 19 of the last 22 dating back to 2010. Rusticana pulled a mild 5/1 upset in the only starter held opening weekend. Trainer Mike Maker’s 6 Fall Meet starter allowance wins since 2006 are easily best of any trainer and he goes for No. 7 with Majestic Shores. Note that this filly was last seen chasing Tiz Windy at Churchill, who came back to win Saturday night’s G3 Indiana Derby.
Maiden claiming sprinters dash 6 furlongs in Race 3. This should be another speedy profile to look for up front success, and note Golden Moon wired the first MCL at this distance of the meet. Mariano Intheninth showed speed at Saratoga last out, and if trainer Joe Sharp doesn’t ring a bell – he’s the assistant for Mike Maker and husband of jockey Rosie Napravnik. Trainer Wayne Catalano won MCL 6-furlong sprints during the ’11 and ’13 Fall Meets and Keeneland and should have Power Nap dropped into the proper level after being outrun by future stakes player Holy Boss at Churchill.
We stick with the baby heats in Race 4, but head to the turf for a mile MSW. This full field is loaded with potential. Favorites are 5-for-13 in Fall Meet 2YO MSWs since 2006, but several longshot bombs make the average winning odds in that baker’s dozen a juicy 8/1. Arlington shippers impressively own 5 of those wins, and we’ve already seen an AP 2YO turf allowance winner at the meet in the next class up. Give some extra looks to Chicagoans Wilnosperfection and also-eligibles Macchiato and Mi Fiori if either or both can get into the field. Sire City Zip’s daughter Dayatthespa won Saturday’s G1 First Lady over this turf course and is represented here by La Rambla. Race 10 on the card also is a 2YO turf mile MSW, so many of the same trends apply, though no Arlington raiders are present. First-time starters have won only 2 of 13 such 2YO turf MSWs during this span, so give credence to those with some experience (8 of 13 exited a route prep).
Race 5 on the card is for older maiden claiming routers on the dirt. Trainer Ken McPeek has won more Fall Meet MCL routes (7) than anyone else since Fall 2006 – no other trainer has more than 3. McPeek offers first-time starter Parabens and veteran Penobscot. Todd Pletcher already has broken 3 maidens on the dirt this meeting and seeks another with class-dropping Fruit Ludt.
Look for Kentucky flavor in Race 6, an open $20,000 claimer on the main track. Of the 5 claiming races offered opening weekend, Churchill Downs (3) and Kentucky Downs (2) preppers swept all 5. That’s good news for Run Hide My Girl, Something Blue and Beautiful Dancer in from Louisville.
Race 8 is an entry level allowance sprint at 7 furlongs on the dirt. Churchill preppers won 2 of 4 dirt allowances during opening week, including Grand Elmendorf in this N1X condition. Trainer Kellyn Gorder got the meet off to a fast start with 2 wins on opening day and looks to add to it with CD-prepped Bourbon Sense. Trainer Ian Wilkes’ runners have been proficient in 7-furlong races at Keeneland over the years as potent closing sprinters, so give extra looks at Demander.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a well-bred horse or famous sibling as a fan, so today’s Race 7 turf allowance feature is extra special with Margano, full-brother to the great Barbaro, in the lineup. And while we don’t see many Parx-prepped runners at Keeneland in the Fall, it’s notable that a pair of such invaders won 2012 Fall Meet turf allowances such as this.
Be careful not to overinflate the NYRA shippers in these Fall Meet turf allowances. Going back to last season, they’re just 3 wins from 20 races. Presque Isle synthetics preppers crossed over to win 2 turf allowances during the ’13 Fall Meet at Keeneland at 6/1 and 16/1. Allies Event, Joha and Triple Crown all make that surface switch from Erie. Julien Leparoux’s 10 wins at 1-1/8 miles on turf since Fall 2006 are most of any rider, and he partners with Joha. You might remember Joha at this meet 2 years ago wiring the G1 Breeders’ Futurity on the Polytrack.
This is a brutally tough race with scant few toss-outs. Go deep in the pick 4 and pick 5. I’ll take a win-place shot on Joha in a very difficult decision.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.