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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 Sunday, October 11, 2015
What to Watch for Today: A very juicy late pick four is in the works with 12x12x8x12 field sizes that provide 13,824 combinations to choose from – and almost ensures a fantastic payoff for those successful. With 16 of the last 20 winners 7-2 or less (9 favorites), this looks like a second half of the card to attack for value players even if it remains formful.
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Weather: A perfect day in the low 70s is forecasted with a zero percent chance of rain. Look for fast track and firm turf conditions.
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 brings together starter allowance performers for a group of trainers with 10 combined wins at Keeneland since our database began in Fall ’06 – with 6 of those coming from trainer William Connelly (Makoo). Of the 12 starter allowances on dirt during the past 2 Fall Meets, 5 have been won by Churchill preppers, 3 by those via Indiana Downs and 2 by Arlington Park. Chelia is the lone to exit a CD prep and appears a logical favorite in search of 7 straight wins.
Race 2 is a non-winners of 2 lifetime claimer on the main track. This has been a very chalky condition on the dirt during the Fall with favorites going 7-for-11, an average winner of 2-1 odds, and no winners above 4-1. Five of those 11 winners came via Churchill preps. Favorite Rare Medal goes for a Wesley Ward barn whose two wins at 7 furlongs on the new dirt both came with horses turning back in distance and making surface changes, just as this filly tries.
Race 3 is a mid-level claimer at 1-1/16 miles on the main track. In these races ($25k-$50k open CLM), Churchill preppers own 8 of the 13 wins including Bold Shot and Control Stake on Saturday’s card. All 3 mid-level claiming routes have been won by CD-prepped runners. Cerro, Escape Artist, Eton Blue and Tarpy’s Surprise carry the CD banner here. Eton Blue’s win here in the Spring was the 9th-fastest of 25 races at this 1-1/16 miles distance for the meet.
Juvenile turf routers meet in maiden special weight company in Race 4. Six of the 22 winners in these races have been 13-1 or more longshots, so don’t feel afraid to step out if you like something. First-time starters have 4 of 22 wins, so lean toward those with some experience, though note the wins are very evenly distributed: 5 via Arlington, 3 via Kentucky Downs, Chuchill and Saratoga each. Only about half the winners had a turf prep, or a route prep, so don’t over-emphasize that. Five barns in this race have won previous 2YO turf MSWs at Keeneland – Ben Colebrook (M Forty Four), 21-1 upsetter Princess Princess this meet; D. Wayne Lukas (Cotton Town), who won 2 such races last Fall; Todd Pletcher (Ranscak), who also did it last Fall with a first-time starter like this one; Dale Romans (Cherry Wine); and Kenny McPeek (Summer Spice), though it’s been since 2012.
Bottom-level “basement” claimers compete in Race 5 at 1-1/16 miles. Favorites are 2-for-11 in these races on dirt in the Fall, but the biggest price has been 13-1. They are solid, playable horses averaging 5-1. The 11 wins are led by 3 Kentucky Downs preppers, 3 Churchill preppers and 2 from Indiana Downs. At a route distance, this class level has been owned by deeper closers who were 4-3/4 lengths off the lead on average after the opening half-mile from 4 such races. Also note 3 of those 4 winners were horses exiting 1-turn preps and stretching out around 2 turns. Pedigree players note Jacksoncountyflash comes in from Indy boasting the Candy Ride genes that have produced a leading 9 winners on the Keeneland dirt – 3 already this meet.
Race 6 is a 2YO maiden special weight sprint at 7 furlongs. Last Fall we had 5 such races on the main track and favorites were shut out with an average winner at 8-1 odds. No wire-to-wire winners and horses 3-1/2 lengths back after the opening half-mile on average were significant. Trainer Eddie Kenneally goes for his third 2YO winner of the meet with Silvertown after winning with dirt sprinters Dan the Go to Man and Metal Magic. Pedigree players will appreciate both Congrats Given, half-brother to Horse of the Year Point Given, and Synchrony, a Tapit colt out of the $950k earner and multiple graded stakes winner Brownie Points.
Race 7 is a rare starter allowance on turf, only the second we’ve seen in a Fall Meet. Posts 1-4 have had a strong statistical edge in full-field turf miles at Keeneland, so keep that in mind. Sire Giant’s Causeway picked up his 22nd career Kee turf winner on Saturday with Tennessee, pushing ahead of Dynaformer by 1 as the leader since the start of our database in Fall ’06. But note only 2 of the 22 wins came in turf miles. He’ll be represented by A Step Ahead and Apostle Paul. Other pedigree notes here, Tapit offspring have won 5 Kee turf miles since 2012 alone, and Hart Hills Road could add to that. Mister Maestro’s sire Bernstein already has been responsible for the meet’s most impressive turf miler, G1 First Lady heroine Tepin. Mission Driven goes for a Wayne Catalano barn that has won 3 Fall turf miles since 2012.
The card concludes with a turf route allowance at 1-1/16 miles. When we have a full field of 12 going this trip/surface, the average winner has rallied from a whopping 5-1/4 lengths off the pace after the opening half-mile. Only 4 of those 57 winners were within a length of the lead at that point. Think closers, and Saratoga preppers have won 3 of 4 grass allowances at the meet and 7 of 13 turf races at any level. While no direct shippers from Sar are present, note Queen of Scat did run there this summer before the Dueling Grounds Oaks and has the deep-closing profile that fits this situation. Julien Leparoux (Nancy Ride) already has 3 turf wins at the meet, while the Ben Colebrook-Joe Rocco, Jr. tandem (Sunset Knoll) orchestrated a 21-1 upset already at the stand on turf.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Race 8 is a 1-1/16 miles allowance on the main track, where it’s notable that half of the 14 such races held so far in Fall Meets have been won by Churchill Downs preppers. One-turn CD horses have done very well at this distance on the new Keeneland dirt and Eagle, Jack Tripp and War Point will carry the CD torch.
Jack Tripp ran the fastest 2-year-old route MSW on dirt at the 2014 Fall Meet for trainer Dale Romans and returns off a victory at CD last out. His sire Flatter has had 5 winners overall on this surface, a strong number, including stakes victors Taris and Kobe’s Back.
Hazards of Love and Eagle also have won over this dirt going 1-1/16 miles. Note with the former that he scored with Tom Amoss as his trainer in the Spring. Current condition Chris Richard added his sixth Kee dirt sprint winner on Saturday (5 with Corey Lanerie up), but has yet to win a route.
I like Eagle making his second start off of a layoff and chance to finish late behind a good pace. Turf-to-dirt angles in these route allowances have been very solid, too, so consider Zambian Queen a player for the exotics.
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.