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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 Wednesday, October 14, 2015
What to Watch for Today: Heavily favored Love The Kitten appears to be the exotic wagering keystone on an 8-race card in which her Race 4 appearance touches the early pick four, the pick five and pick six. If she wins, many will be advancing. If she loses, you could be looking at boxcars in all the sequences due to the overlap.
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Weather: A lovely autumn day is in the air with temps in the mid-60s forecasted and a zero percent chance of rain. Expect conditions to be fast/firm.
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!
Bottom-level “basement” claimers route 1-1/16 miles in Race 1 today, and the Randy Morse barn aims for its third two-turn win of the meet with Al’s Rosie. One of the leading Keeneland dirt sires, Harlan’s Holiday, is at play here, but as we’ve noted all 7 wins by HH offspring on this surface have been sprints. Still, this one figures. Kentucky Downs and Indiana Downs preppers have been effective at this class/trip on the new surface in the Fall Meets.
Maiden claiming routes later in the Keeneland meet are the prime real estate where we see “run-back” winners making their second start of the meeting. We get 2 such races in today’s Race 2 and Race 4. In Race 2, I’ll be shocked if that factor doesn’t play out again with either Deep in a Dream or Say Hey Kid, both returning from opening day MSWs and dropping in class. Kenny McPeek has had an astounding 21 run-back winners during Kee Fall meets since 2006, and tries with Say Hey Kid again. Wesley Ward’s 6 run-back winners are a third-best in the colony (Mike Maker has 7), and he saddles Deep in a Dream coming out of a MUCH faster split division on opening day. As for the Race 4 division for the fillies, Wesley Ward counters with Love the Kitten who looks tough. The aforementioned Randy Morse barn could have a big day with another route contender Game Trail. I’ll stand against Peppermint Ice as trainer Ingrid Mason has yet to win a route on the Kee dirt, and even her sprinters this meet have been cold as, well, peppermint ice.
Favorites are 8-for-12 in Fall Meet non-winners of 2 lifetime claimers on the new dirt, and the average winner has been just 2-1. Don’t stray too far from the expected in Race 3. Of those dozen winners, 5 came off Churchill Downs preps. While Curlino will tempt many – his daddy Curlin sired 3 winners on the Sunday card alone! – note only 4 of 54 on the new dirt at 6F during the past 2 Fall Meets have been won by horses turning back from a route prep. Keep close to the pace as 42 of those 54 winners were within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile.
Race 5 kicks off the late pick 4 and ends the early pick 4 the way these 8-race menus play out. A rare turf mile starter allowance will be offered, just the third starter allowance on turf at Keeneland. The trainers who won the first two – Mike Maker (Beside Still Water) and Buff Bradley (Factory of Faith) – both are represented. Secret Stash, a winner opening Saturday on the dirt, runs back on the turf for Vickie Oliver. The barn pulled this same move successfully from 7 furlongs to a route allowance with Drama Drama in the 2013 Fall Meet on short rest. Angel Haze is by City Zip, whose daughter Dayatthespa is a 2-time major turf mile stakes winner over this course and may like the trip.
Race 6 is a 2-year-old maiden special weight at 7 furlongs. Of the 6 such races run on the dirt, 3 were won by first-time starters and 3 by Churchill Downs preppers. Ironically, too, 3 were won by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who pilots Sweetwater for a Mark Casse barn having a big meet with the juveniles. Kenny McPeek won a similar race here last fall when I’m A Chatterbox was in his barn, and counters with likely heavy choice Lady Day Blues, who exits two very key races.
Race 8 concludes the action with a 6-furlong maiden claimer. Of the dozen of these run on the dirt, none have been won by a horse turning back from a route prep. Pedigree players may be lured to Belisama following sire Curlin’s huge 3-win Sunday that’s fresh on the memory. They also may like Avenue of Roses, by Street Sense, a sire with a sharp 7 winners on the new dirt – but note only 1 of those 7 came at a trip shorter than 7 furlongs. You want to be forwardly placed going 6 furlongs on this main track when it’s fast.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The Wednesday main event goes as Race 7, a 1-1/8 miles turf allowance. We have seen very few front-end successes on the Keeneland turf this season, so even in a short field of six, the natural feeling is to find the finisher.
All 10 winners in 9-furlong turf races with short fields of 6 or less in our database were won by horses 3-1 or less. There’s enough time, and enough open space, for the best horse to prevail in these situations. And remember Keeneland doesn’t run cheaper races on the turf. Quality rises to the top in smaller fields at extended distances.
Annulment drops out of 3 straight stakes efforts and looks to have found a good spot. She looks to punch home late past the speedy Analog Girl in a rematch from an allowance this spring at Tampa Bay Downs.
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Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.