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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 Keeneland Keys for Friday, October 16, 2015
What to Watch for Today: Trainers Joe Sharp and Wayne Catalano, who struggled while missing the winners’ circle the first two weeks of the Fall Meet, appear to have loaded hands today in hopes of reversing their fortunes. Each has chances in four races on the Friday card.
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Weather: Sunny skies and temperatures forecasted to reach 64 degrees should make for a fantastic Friday. Zero percent chance of rain, so we’ll be fast and firm again!
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 is a 7-furlong maiden claimer, and the Churchill shippers have done very well in these MCL races at the meet – winning 7 of 13 offerings. Nine of those winners have been 7-2 or less. Trainer Paul McGee brings Handiwork back after a third-place finish opening weekend. If successful, it would be McGee’s first run-back winner (second time at the meet) at Keeneland since the start of our database in 2006.
We stay at 7 furlongs in Race 2 and this offering is for mid-level claimers. Note in the 2 limited claiming sprints we’ve seen this meet at this distance, both winners cut back in distance from mile preps. Trainer Wayne Catalano’s barn had been ice-hold going 0-for-10 in the money the first two weeks of the meet, but perked up Wednesday with a winner and a second-place finish. He sends out Forge Ahead Franki.
A steady diet of 7-furlong sprints continues with allowance performers in Race 3. Trainer Ken McPeek, who was on fire to start this week, looks to continue as the king of the “run-back” when Miss Cobblestone returns off a disappointment a week ago. He typically has had much more success with route run-backs than sprints (16 route wins, 5 sprints). Trainer Joe Sharp has yet to win a race at the meet and never has won a sprint on the new Keeneland dirt (only routes). So the two favorites in this race may have holes. Half of the 14 dirt allowances at 7 furlongs have been won by horses turning back from a mile or longer prep such as Affect will attempt.
Race 4 is a basement level $7500 claimer at 6 furlongs. Among the six races this meet at the bottom claiming level so far, 2 were won each by Indiana Downs and Churchill preppers. Again here, Joe Sharp tries to win his first dirt sprint at Keeneland with two well-backed options, Ground Force and Shimmy Tinjo.
Non-winners of 2 lifetime races match up in the claiming ranks in Races 5 and 10. Favorites are 3-for-5 in N2L claimers at the meet and no winner has been over 9-2. In fact, the chalk is 10-for-17 on the new dirt in 2-1/2 meets in this N2L condition with an average winner under 3-1. In Race 5, Jrock is the morning line favorite an a winner here in April. Trainer Eddie Kenneally won a similar race here last Fall with Southern Blessing. Murat Sancal (Starship Zeus) scored a N2L claiming route this Spring with The Conception. Already 6 times at this meeting alone we’ve seen Churchill 1-turn milers stretch out beautifully to 1-1/16 miles to win like Starship Zeus and Duval St. attempt. In the Race 10 N2L claimer, note Apocalypse goes for a hot Chris Hartman barn sprinting and sire Candy Ride has racked up a new-dirt best 13 winners over this surface. Reeder makes a lot of sense for sharp Kee dirt sprint sire Speightstown, too.
In 2011, we began seeing some 3-year-olds and up turf maiden special weights at Keeneland, and since get about 2-4 per Fall Meet. Race 6 today offers us the 13th such race, and so far favorites are a lowly 1-for-12. All but 1 of those 12 winners was between 2-1 and 7-1, so they are prime betting chances. New York (Saratoga/Belmont) and Kentucky Downs have combined for 9 of the 12. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin brings Cavalucci in from Saratoga as the barn already has 3 wins at the meet and twice in the past scored in these turf MSWs for the elders. Graham Motion (Ras Abrouq) is the only other trainer to saddle 2 winners in these elder turf MSWs. All 12 winners had preps in August or September, so be leery of the multiple horses in this race coming off extended layoffs.
Our fourth sprint today at 7 furlongs goes as Race 7 and it’s for 2-year-old maiden special weights. Of the 7 such races offered to date, 4 were won by Churchill preppers and 3 by first-time starters. Trainer Kenny McPeek (Seeking Gold) has 2 of those wins, including I’m a Chatterbox last Fall and Lady Day Blues on Wednesday this week. The latter filly is sired by young stallion Uncle Mo, who already has 3 juvenile wins on his growing Keeneland dirt resume, topped by Gomo in the G1 Alcibiades. Peggy In Motion represents Uncle Mo in this spot.
Did I mention 7 furlongs? Back to that trip we go in Race 8 in allowance company. Horses turning back from route preps have been very strong at this class/distance, so give an extra look to Milehigh Butterfly, Mary Mahoneys Girl, Private Estate and Elusive Checkers. Sire Speightstown has Private Estate and there are few things going there. Parx shippers already have 3 wins at the meet, and Speightstown has a pair of ALW sprint winners this Fall as well as local dirt sprint sensations Rock Fall, Speightster and Barbados.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The few-times-a-meet turf sprint allowance offering headlines our card today in Race 9. A full field of 10 appears likely with four also-eligibles (note the turf rail is up, so 10 is capacity for sprints unlike 12 when the hedge is the inner rail).
The average winner in turf sprints with fields of 10 or more is 10-1, and favorites are only 6 for 37 this situation since Fall 2006. Jockey Robby Albarardo has 4 full-field, turf sprint victories during that time – tied with Julien Leparoux and Jamie Theriot for the most among active riders. Albarado teams with well-drawn Toutsie Rules in post 3, while Leparoux is far outside on the AE list with Anusara.
Trainer Wesley Ward sends out Asa, filly whose mama One Hot Wish not only set the track record here on Polytrack in a baby sprint in her racing days, but also has produced G1 Blue Grass third-place finisher Pablo Del Monte. Asia certainly has some Keeneland history on her side. Ward and Todd Pletcher are the only trainers in our database to win Kee turf sprints with 5 different horses.
I’ll be working Toutsie Rules and Asia into my plays with the wide-drawn Rap. The latter could provide the exotics key for a shrewd Tom Drury barn if he can work out a trip.
The only place where you can get my full-card selections every day is in the BUZZ Report at Horseplayernow.com – subscription plans cost approximately $2 per day and bring me and my team of 9 handicappers to your service.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.