Let our experts help you handicap the day's races at Keeneland. To see the analysis provided by each handicapper, choose a handicapper name on the left, then choose a date.
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 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.
Money Management at Keeneland
Keeneland’s full fields, competitive racing and low takeout all conspire to make it the most attractive race meeting in America to bet. And like most things highly attractive, they often can play hard to get.
Hit at Keeneland and be handsomely rewarded.
Flail at Keeneland and be forewarned: wallet-optional is a bad look in any fashion discussion.
What makes Keeneland unique in terms of money management is that the length of the meeting – just 15 days in the Spring – can cause impatience among horseplayers. You don’t get many chances before another six-month absence in Keeneland racing, so passing up races can tear at your psyche.
But that doesn’t mean you have to bet less; in fact, I think it means you bet more. But in far fewer installments than most folks who lack the discipline to wait for the right spots.
A nine or 10-race card at Keeneland likely will have 3-4 races in which you have no clue – those so-called “brain-busters” that really challenge anyone to find legitimate reasons for separation. And, we’ll likely have about 2 per day where the standout favorite looks awfully strong.
If you can discipline yourself not to overspend in those 5-6 races per day – and focus the rest of your money on the 3-4-5 races that really do provide you the best chance for return, you’ll be a few lengths ahead of the game.
Let’s say you have $100 to play with today as a nice, even number. I would consider playing $25 of that money on the 3 races you like the most on the card, and that leaves $25 for the remaining 6 or 7 races – or about $4 per race. This keeps you have from having to sit out races altogether, which can be hard to do in a short meet like Keeneland where you want to be involved. But it focuses your money in the best places you have to make a score.
What are those 3 best races to play each day? You need first a strong opinion on a horse or two you like. And, you need a good field size: I prefer races with 10 or more. It’s really as simple as that. Maximizing your money is about playing the most of your bankroll on your strongest opinions and in the races that return the most for your investment. Larger fields pay far more than smaller fields in the exotics – it’s fact and simple math. Want proof? The average tri payoff at Keeneland in an 8-horse field is $456 for a $2 play. It’s $952 in 10-horse fields, $1546 in 11-horse fields and $1789 in 12-horse fields. Look at that for a moment: just 2 more horses in the field from 8 to 10 more than DOUBLES the average payoff.
While I thoroughly enjoy the pick four as a wager in my year-round arsenal, I have come to grips that these plays simply are too difficult for me to consistently deliver at Keeneland. On days where I can really narrow my focus down with 2 horses I love in the sequence, I will dabble on a small ticket with about 12 combinations (1x1x4x3, for instance), but experience and past losses have proven to me that this is not where I need to be swimming. Stringing together 4 straight winners at this high-caliber meeting is extremely difficult.
I know the response from many of you is, “If you don’t swing big, you can’t hit big!” I agree with that. But big swings don’t mean you spread a million combinations, all of which hoping to land one 50-cent increment that boggles the toteboard. Take your same $20 investment and hit a sensible combination you actually like multiple times at that 50-cent mark and your wallet will be boggled all the same, even if the lights on the toteboard don’t look as flashy.
Always bet in the lowest possible denomination offered and buy multiple tickets. If you want a $2 trifecta, bet a 50-cent trifecta four times. The average trifecta pays $899 for $2, which is taxed on winnings. That same average payoff for $1 or 50-cent plays would not be taxed because it’s less than $600. It’s an important distinction for anyone playing tris, supers, pick 4s and sometimes even pick 3s at Keeneland.
Good luck in your wagering – be disciplined in races you don’t like or where the money won’t work for you in returns. That’s the best money management advice I can give anywhere – including Keeneland!
Friday’s blog kicks off our daily stats analysis of each race throughout the season. We'll post that later today to give you a headstart. See you then!