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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.
KEENELAND PRESEASON BLOG, PART I
By Jeremy Plonk, @Horseplayernow
So where will the winners come from? Over the last 8 spring meets, 1155 races have been run and horses from an astounding 51 last-out prep locations have tallied. Those who follow my work know that I call Keeneland the "great melting pot" of American racing, and nothing could be truer.
Let’s look at the leading circuits for producing winners and their details how they got there.
349 wins – Gulfstream Park – 257 of these wins came in allowance, maiden special or stakes races. Top trainers with the most GP-prepped winners at Keeneland? Kenny McPeek 34, Todd Pletcher 20, Mike Maker 18, Shug McGaughey 17, Michael Matz 16, Rusty Arnold 16, Graham Motion 16, Bill Mott 16, Wesley Ward 15, Kiaran McLaughlin 13, Christophe Clement 12. (Note that McPeek wintered at Oaklawn this year vs. his typical Gulfstream base). Average GP-prepped winner is 4.9-to-1 odds.
158 wins – Fair Grounds – 85 of which were claiming, maiden claiming or starter allowance races. The trainer with the most FG-prepped winners? Merrill Scherer with 11; Tom Amoss, Dallas Stewart and Mike Maker each have 10. Average FG-prepped winner is 7.3-to-1 odds.
132 wins – Turfway Park – Only 8 of these wins came on turf at Keeneland, so obviously the former Polytrack-to-Polytrack surface similarity was a boon. Only 46 of the wins came in maiden special weight, allowance or stakes, so this is another obvious feeder to the claiming program. The average TP-prepped winner is 11.6-to-1, so it’s a juicy proposition. Only 16% of the Turfway winners were bet to favoritism. Mike Maker led all trainers with 13 TP-prepped winners; Eddie Kenneally 4, Charlie LoPresti 4 were next-best in widely spread-out victories.
55 wins – Tampa Bay Downs – Wins are evenly distributed among all classes. Over 56% of the wins come in routes vs. sprints, a testament to Tampa’s reputation as a demanding, tiring surface that legs horses up. Average Tam-prepped winner is 5.6-to-1 odds, a surprisingly low number that shows the public dials these runners in properly. In fact, 83% of the Tampa-prepped winners were single-digit odds and NONE above 17-1. Trainer Joan Scott’s 5 wins are most of any barn from Tampa, while Graham Motion (3) and Bill Mott (3) are next-best. Trainer Tim Girten won a pair of claimers via Tampa last Spring.
38 wins – Churchill Downs (Fall) – 8 of these wins came in turf mile allowances/stakes, a favorite angle of mine in the Keeneland Spring. In fact 34 of the 38 winners were maiden special weight, allowance or stakes performers (only 4 claimers). These are classy comebackers. Average CD-prepped layoff winner is just 4.8-to-1 odds, well-backed despite the vacation with 16 of the 38 post-time favorites. Trainers Tom Proctor and Charlie LoPresti each own 4 such victories.
36 wins – Santa Anita – All but 1 winner came in allowance, stakes or maiden special weight races. Average SA-prepped winner is a paltry 3.3-to-1 odds and 19 of the 36 winners were post-time favorites. 19 of 36 posted a local Keeneland work. Top trainers with SA raiders include Todd Pletcher (8 wins) and Bob Hess, Jr. (3 wins).
34 wins – Oaklawn Park – Wins are evenly distributed among all classes. Note 12 of the 34 winners came directly in off Oaklawn works and no local or Kentucky drills. Trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Kenny McPeek each have 4 wins to pace OP-prepped trainers, and look for those McPeek numbers to rise this year as he wintered at Oaklawn with more emphasis in 2015. Trainer Mike Tomlinson has 3 wins from a limited outfit. Typically see 2-6 winners from OP each Spring meet, but since Oaklawn has no turf course, it’s dirt-based population may fare better this year than during the Polytrack era. Average OP-prepped winner is 8.7-to-1 odds.
21 wins – Woodbine (Winter) – Like Churchill, these are layoff horses who did not winter in the south. Only 3 were in claiming ranks, 18 in maiden special weight, allowance or stakes races. 10 came on the turf. Average WO-prepped returning winner is 7.1-to-1 odds with only 4 of 21 going off the race favorite. Roger Attfield leads this brigade with 5 wins, while Tom Drury, Mark Casse and Eric Coatrieux have turned the trick twice each.
Final notable on circuits:
Check back Thursday for Part 2 of the Spring Meet Preview - "10 Dirty Things We Learned About Keeneland" - and then our daily race-by-race stats blog will return with Friday's opening day card! Daily live chats return each racing day (12:45 pm ET start time except Saturdays when we begin at 12:15 pm ET). You can catch those live chats on the same page as the free streaming video in a great format! Bookmark the live racing page http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage now!