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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 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 Thursday, October 8, 2015
What to Watch for Today: The regally bred Bernardini-Proud Spell colt Etruscan headlines a quartet of allowance races as trainer Larry Jones’ barn appeared to turn a positive corner Wednesday with a win and strong runner-up finish. After going 0-for-5 opening weekend, it was good to see the Jones gang back in business.
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: Unseasonably warm temps topping 80 degrees are in the forecast with 0% chance of rain. It's looking 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!
Race 1 is a bottom-level (aka “basement”) claiming race for $7,500 going 6 furlongs. Favorites are 0-for-5 in the rarely run Fall Meet basement claiming sprints so far on the new dirt surface. All 5 winners were within 2-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Strongly prefer horses exiting sprint preps in races at 6 furlongs. Blutada, Hot Wacs and Glitteronthehiway fit the profile best.
We get our first mid-level open claimer of the meet in Race 2. Last Fall Meet we had 10 such races on the dirt between $25-$50k claiming and 5 were won by Churchill Downs preppers and 3 from Arlington Park. AP used to be a power player in this category in the Poly era, too; they just seem to fit at Kee at this level. Surprisingly, the AP players are absent from this race. From Churchill comes a strong series of contenders, including Teniente Coronel for connections who already have won a claiming sprint at the meet on the cut-back in distance with Fruit Ludt. Favorites are 5-for-10 in these races so far, so don’t venture too far off track. Hidden Candy’s sire Candy Ride is co-top on the new dirt surface at Keeneland with 7 winners. Doc Almon goes for the Ramseys, who don’t have a winner through 4 days at the meet so far, and trainer Joe Sharp’s 5 Kee dirt winners all have been in routes, none in sprints.
Two-year-old allowance performers square off in Race 3. While the Arlington shippers won 3 of 4 such races here last Fall, heavily favored Banree did deliver via Saratoga in a fillies’ counterpart to this race on the Wednesday card. The AP runners here look solid with Uno Mas Modelo, Honour Camp and Richie The Bull. Note the latter’s trainer, Larry Rivelli, has yet to win on the new Kee dirt surface. Canterbury has a pair of shippers in this race (Cupid’s Delight and John’s Luck) and note that no Minnesota preppers have won a Fall Meet allowance at Keeneland since 2009.
Churchill Downs 1-turn milers have been stretching out very nicely in 1-1/16 miles races at Keeneland, witnessed again by Wednesday’s finale that produced a 23-1 upset. Gold Hawk and For Goodness Sake make that maneuver in a Race 4 claiming route. Lucky Stranger’s trainer Chris Richard has made all his hay on the Kee dirt in sprints and has yet to win a route. The same can be said about Fabulous Union’s skipper Dale Bennett, who on Wednesday notched his 9th Kee win – all in sprints. If you want a price bomber, Dekabrist goes for a Gennadi Dorochenko barn that doesn’t score often, but is high wattage on the tote when it does. His 2 Keeneland wins were a 19-1 score in 2013 Fall and Edeline’s 31-1 upset here on Sunday.
Race 5 is for 2-year-old MSW turfers going 1-1/16 miles. Longshot Bondurant upset the field in Wednesday’s opener, a similar race for the colts in from a turf sprint debut at Kentucky Downs. With 21 such races run, still only 5 surface changes have been successful so lean to those with turf preps. Graham Motion-trained Tusk ran a good second Wednesday and the barn comes right back with Lottie from a wide post if she can get in from the also-eligible list. Mark Casse’s barn already has 3 wins from 2YO routers at the meet and tries again with Calamity Jane. Alotta Skirt’s sire Candy Ride was represented by a Fall 2014 juvenile turf winner named Tiger Ride at a juicy 13-1 price.
Race 6 is an entry-level allowance sprint and last Fall these races were a good spot for horses coming off a bit of a break and shortening the trip some. Four of 5 such winners did not have a September prep and 4 of 5 also ran a bit farther last out. Calmbeforethestorm fits that profile, and I’d expect comebacking Mesoma to be well-placed as well. Her sire Flatter already has sired 2 dirt sprint stakes winners over this new surface – Kobe’s Back and Taris. The aforementioned Etruscan is entered in a similar spot that trainer Larry Jones used last year to win with Texas Two Step.
Race 7 also is an entry-level sprint, and if looking for the fresher horses again, there are several good options: Lord Commander for Todd Pletcher, Dunbrody for Wayne Catalano, Pow Wow Al for Wesley Ward and Riyadh for Brendan Walsh. Ward scored an allowance sprint win Wednesday with heavily backed Banree. His Pow Wow Al was runner-up last Fall here in easily the fastest 2YO race of the meet won by future stakes performer Barbados.
Our first maiden claiming route of the meet will be the Race 9 finale. Of the 8 such races held last Fall Meet, 5 were won by horses who were forwardly placed. Formful finishers saw the average winner just 2-1 and no upsets over 4-1. Mike Maker (War Ranger) and Charlie LoPresti (Express Line) both won MCL routes on the dirt last Fall Meet with horses moving from turf-to-dirt and from the same prep locales as their runners in this race.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Among the allowance races, we’ll call Race 8 the feature due to its traditional positioning as the next-to-last race on the card. A capacity field battles over a mile on turf.
Los Borrachos competes for a Bill Mott barn fresh off Wednesday’s Jessamine Stakes win on the turf with Harmonize. The same recent local stakes success can be said for Brian Lynch, who saddled Any Given Royal here, just days after his star turf miler Grand Arch won the Shadwell Turf Mile.
I love the inside posts, 1-4, in turf miles with big field sizes. Royal Son figures to get a great trip and he was a horse I liked quite a bit this winter in Florida. If he holds near the morning line at 4-1, there’s no reason to get cute. Consider him with the other inside-drawn types as well as Any Given Royal from a wider spot in the gate.
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.