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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 10, 2013
What to Watch for Today: With no Joel Rosario (injury) or Julien Leparoux (relocated to California) in the jockeys’ room, and John Velazquez back in New York for the weekdays, the Keeneland colony has taken on a different look at the top. Rosie Napravnik has taken full advantage and landed six mounts on the nine-race card.
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 beautiful week is expected to continue with mostly sunny skies and temperatures nearing 77 degrees for the high. For up-to-the-minute weather updates for Keeneland, including the track surface temperature and today’s maintenance, click: http://www.keeneland.com/racing/track-conditions.
Polycapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Just as we had Wednesday, the Race 1 opener is a maiden claiming route event at 1-1/16 miles on the main track. Horses with a route prep have a nearly 3-to-1 edge (30 of 47 all-time) in Fall Meets at this class and distance, so lean toward those with a mile or longer last race. Also note 29 of 47 winners had at least 1 prior start on a synthetic surface. I realize neither of those trends held up in Wednesday's opener, but the 23-1 upsetter was hard to find in any scenario. Only Bolting Brown, Ceebett’s Soul and Conserve in Race 1 have made a prior start on synthetics. Horses in from Arlington and Kentucky Downs have had success at this class/level in the past, and both Conserve and Dilio took both paths to get here.
Race 2 is a $16,000 claimer at 6 furlongs. We’ve seen 32 previous sprints in Fall Meets at 6 furlongs or shorter for claiming prices between $16-$25k, and it’s been a good place for Presque Isle Downs shippers, who own 6 of the wins, most of any circuit. 23 of 32 winners prepped at 6 furlongs or shorter, so not even a mild turn-back in distance has been preferred. PID dashers Coronet of a Baron and Heywoods fit the profile. Hokes Hope was second last year in a similar event at Keeneland, one whose time rates smack-dab average for the class and distance all-time here. Trainer Merrill Scherer (Santo Gato) used to be a strong claiming sprint trainer on this surface, but has fallen on dry times in recent meets, winning just 3 races over the past 4-plus Kee meets and two of those with the same horse. I’ve tried Santo Gato both times he’s run here in the past to no avail and am going to jump ship on a continued class drop.
Race 3 is the route counterpart to the day’s second event, this one a $16,000 claimer at 1-1/16 miles. With 40 past Fall Meet route races between the $16-$25k levels, we have a decent sample size to look at the trends in a field that, on paper, is very difficult for me to separate. Only 4 of 40 winners exited a dirt prep with synthetic preppers a mild edge over turf preppers but pretty evenly split. Bill of Rights, a full-brother to G1 Travers and Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John, will get plenty of attention for the Ramsey-Maker-Rosie troika. Maker’s won 9 times at this class/distance with no other trainer winning more than 3 such races in the Poly era. Another famous sibling in this race is Amazing Results, half-brother to turf route star Ioya Bigtime. This race features four last-out winners and, to be honest, I’m as confused now as I was when I first looked at it on paper. Tough race, spread in the pick four and grab a burgoo.
Two-year-old claiming sprinters match up in Race 4. We started seeing these juvy claimers in the 2010 Fall Meet and we get one or two per season. Wesley Ward owns 2 of the wins, both with Kentucky Downs preppers coming off turf races. Ward shoots twice in this event with turf-prepped horses from Calder (Tomei) and Churchill (Pearl of a Girl). Look for early speed to be effective as the average winner of these races has been ahead by nearly three-quarters of a length after the opening half-mile. Even though it’s limited data, that’s about as strong of a front-end edge as you’ll see at Keeneland at any class/distance. No winner has been more than 2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. None of the 6 winners prepped at a distance longer than 6 furlongs, which might help eliminate some well-backed horses in here like Richies Sweetheart, Pearl of a Girl and Habeebee. For movie buffs, Tomei is named for Marisa Tomei, co-star in “My Cousin Vinny” with the filly’s owner, renowned actor Joe Pesci.
The juveniles stay in the spotlight in Race 5, a 2-year-old turf mile for the maiden special weight set. This heat was so popular that it was split into divisions, the latter going today as Race 9. Keeneland hasn’t run many 2YO turf races in recent years, just 3 in 2011 and 5 last Fall. These races have played WAY more toward early speed than traditional grass races here. The average winner in the 8 baby turf races has been a mere half-length off the lead after the opening half-mile. Not a single winner closed more than 2-1/2 lengths after the first half-mile, and only 1 of the 8 winners was more than 1-1/2 lengths back at that juncture. Only 1 first-time starter has won, important to note in a Race 5 where 5 of the 11 entered are rookies. Five winners exited turf preps, while none last raced on dirt. In Race 5, Ameliatheaviator, Coronette, Amore Grand and Commercial Flight would fit best on past results with the latter showing the most early speed of that quartet. As for the Race 9 division, Candy Crush exits a sharp try routing on turf and showing speed and would appear well-placed. Expect Cello to appreciate the turn to turf. First-timers Fawaarek, by Smart Strike out of champion Golden Apples, and Babe’s Ruler, with a super win-early pedigree Roman Ruler-Leo’s Gypsy Dancer, merit long looks in the paddock and toteboard.
Deep closers have dominated Fall Meet route races at the $30,000 non-winners of 2 lifetime (N2L) condition in recent years, so look for a finisher in Race 6. Of the 7 such races held here in the previous 3 Fall Meets, the average winner has been 6-1/2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile and only 1 was closer than 4-1/2 lengths back at that juncture. Often we see these races later in the meet and they are dominated by “run-back” horses making their second start of the short season. Surprisingly we get a “run-back” in this race despite it being Day 5 of the meet as Jump For Kitten returns on very short rest for Ramsey-Ward. The apprentice rider Dylan Davis allows for a light, 113-pound assignment which can be important over 9 furlongs. He might be a tad bit short on damside pedigree as his damsire is Poly sprint star producer Tale of the Cat. One runner not lacking for this Poly trip is Conspiracy, by Giant’s Causeway out of a Quiet American mare. Her trainer Wayne Catalano won a similar race here in the 2011 Fall Meet for owners Gary & Mary West with the fellow Giant’s Causeway offspring Photo Shoot.
First-level (N1X) allowance sprinters dash 6 furlongs in Race 8. Favorites are 0-for-11 in Fall Meet 6F N1X allowances all-time on Polytrack with the average winner 7/1 odds. Nine of those 11 winners were less than 3 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile, so speed has been important. More than half (6/11) of the winners had been off since at least July, so don’t be afraid of a layoff runner. This is a good spot to return historically. None of the 11 winners exited a turf prep, while dirt (4) and synthetic preppers (7) accounted for the wins. I like the profile here of Miffed, a horse freshened since June with sharp workouts, some early speed and who ran a decemt third here in the Spring Meet, albeit in a modest time.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report: No N2X allowance races had been run on Polytrack over the past five Fall Meets at Keeneland until Wednesday’s seventh race, and in today’s Race 7, we get the male counterpart to this rarity.
Trainer Mark Casse got off to a rousing start to the meet with 3 winners opening weekend, including the G1 Alcibiades, and tries to continue his hot hand with Dynamical. It’s worthy to note that all 5 of Casse’s wins during Keeneland Fall Meets in the Polytrack era have come with the 2-year-olds, and this would be his first with an older horse. Doc Almon carries a 2-race win streak into the race, but has been away since February. Note that Ire won a similar allowance sprint here Saturday off a nearly identical February layoff from Fair Grounds, so it’s possible. Watch the tote on Muppet Man. Trainer Jimmy DiVito’s 5 career Keeneland wins in the Poly era all have been 3-1 or less with 4 favorites.
I give the sophomore Doc Almon a big chance to run these down late coming off a bullet workout and being a grandson of Polytrack sprint super-sire Distorted Humor. He beat a dandy named Abstraction this past winter, tipping his class.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.