Let our experts help you handicap the day's races at Keeneland.
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 Friday, April 24, 2015
What to Watch for Today: Before we turn out the lights, this party’s still got 10 races on the 2015 Spring Meet menu. The G3 $150,000 Bewitch Stakes features a capacity field and one of the better betting stakes races of the entire meet.
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: Mostly sunny skies and temps in the upper 60s are forecasted for a beautiful Friday in Lexington. Enjoy it one last time!
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!
The Race 1 opener is a $16,000 claiming route at 1-1/16 miles. All 4 races at this level or cheaper going long on the dirt this meet have been won by speed horses within a length of the lead after the opening half-mile. The way we’ve seen the Ramseys drop-and-score this closing week, you have to think Scrumdilicious should press and pounce an overmatched field. Take the short price.
Maiden claimers sprint 6 furlongs in Races 2 and 6. Don’t be afraid to look outside the box some here as 3 of the 5 such races at the meet, including Thursday’s 7/1 winner Dun in One, have been horses who paid $16-$21 to win. We’ve only had 3 “run-back” winners at the meet so far, way below par in the Polytrack era, and Race 2 players Gnarly Harly (by co-leading Kee dirt sire Harlan’s Holiday), Malibu Park and Bosphorus Storm all try to come out of the same April 10 race. This might be a time to look for a fresh face at a price. As for Race 6, first-timer Hardesty Intrigues. He’s half-brother to debut winner and second-start Debutante Stakes runner-up Five Star Momma. Hidden Candy’s sire Candy Ride has had 3 winners on dirt at the meet and 6 since Kee has gone back to dirt last Fall.
Race 3 is a turf allowance at 1-3/16 miles. Trainer Mark Casse surprisingly has only 4 turf winners at Keeneland dating back to Fall 2006, and Conquest Artura and Season Ticket both figure to be decently backed in this race. Bill Mott’s won 2 turf allowances at this Spring Meet and just missed by a tough bob Thursday at adding a third. He’ll send out Heath and Daring Duchess. The Gulfstream grass from of Daring Duchess has been flexing its muscle late in the meet and jockey Joel Rosario won 3 races on Thursday. The other big-time GP threat here is Whimsicality.
Basement-level $10,000 claimers sprint 7 furlongs in Race 4. All 4 basement sprints at the meet have been won by heavy favorites between 3-5 and 8-5 odds. Three of 4 essentially wired, the other was 2-1/2 lengths off the pace after the opening half-mile. Artsy appears to be the speed and likely no worse than second choice. But the Ramseys drop Second Base off the table for a second straight race since claiming him for $25,000. At 7 furlongs it might be enough for his class to reel in Artsy.
A late-meet run on 1-3/16 miles turf maiden special weights continues in Race 5. Yesterday we had two of these heats, split by Fair Grounds and Gulfstream shippers. Muhaawer is an interesting pedigree play as his mama was a 2-time stakes winner on the Keeneland turf and this colt’s brother Elmutahid ran a super third on Thursday over this turf course at 9/1 in a wake-up effort. Chad Brown’s turf dominance continued Thursday with the feature race grass winner at 7/2 and looks to continue with Grey Wizard. The barn now has 7 turf wins at the meet! No first-time starter has won a turf MSW at 1-1/8 miles or longer in our database.
Race 7 kicks off the final pick four of the Spring Meet and does so with turf route allowance competitors at 1-1/8 miles. Don’t be intimidated by posts if you like a horse at this trip. Of the 22 full-field races in our database at this course/distance, 9 of the 22 winners came from posts 10-12 and those 9 winners averaged 9-1 odds, so they weren’t standouts. The meet’s top turf trainer (Chad Brown) and jockey (Javier Castellano) team up with French import Chocolatier. Brown has won 4 turf races at the meet with horses making their first starts of 2015 as this filly does. Sire Empire Maker has a very solid 9 turf winners here since 2008, and sends out the impeccably bred Ticker Tape baby Empress Maker as well as Freethinker.
Race 8 is a classy allowance that could serve as a sprint stakes just about anywhere. While Schivarelli does have a local 7 furlong win, note that his time that day only 2 lengths faster than 2YOs went on the same card. From a company-line standpoint, it’s hard to beat Eastwood. He’s run against Palace, Salutos Amigos, Zee Bros, Ravalo and several other top sprinters. Pletcher won a similar dirt allowance sprint last week with Rock Fall, also a son of Speightstown like Eastwood.
The Race 10 finale is a non-winners of 2 lifetime route claimer and the 7th “N2L” of the meet. Speed horses at well-backed odds have dominated the N2Ls at any distance. Zander Zone ought to be well-bet speed for a Kenny McPeek barn that has but 1 victory at the meet. His sire Flatter has had 4 winners since the dirt conversion, including 2 stakes winners, while flying under the radar. If they’re going to real in Zander Zone, look to the Fair Grounds raiders. Fair Grounds preppers have won 4 of the 6 N2Ls offered this season.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Let’s try to sweep the feature race plays for closing week after a couple of nice $9 winners in this space Wednesday and Thursday.
Race 9 is the G3 $150,000 Bewitch Stakes for the turf route distaff set. If you saw the boys’ rendition last week, the Elkhorn, you probably said “Who’s that?” when Dramedy scored at 30-1 for trainer Gerald Aschinger. Well, he’s back with 30-1 morning line proposition Lots o’Lex if you’re into lightning striking twice in the same spot a week apart.
The last two Bewitch editions went to 14-1 and 18-1 upsetters, so you’re not totally out of line for dreaming on closing day. Both bombs were trained by Graham Motion, who tries for a natural hat trick with Kitten’s Point. She, like her predecessors, exits a Gulftream Park route prep.
The average winner of this race has been 6 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile and that’s been pretty much the long-range average for 12 furlongs on turf at Keeneland over the years.
White Rose and Carolina Thomas ran 1-2, a nose apart in the Dowager Stakes during the Fall Meet over this course/distance. And Caroline Thomas rallied to be a good third by a neck in this race last year. After seeing how well fellow Barclay Tagg trainee Town Extension looked pre-race Thursday before winning a turf allowance, this barn could be about to go on a run. Caroline Thomas gets her Keeneland trophy this time.
Thanks for another great meet – come learn more and hang out each Tuesday in Night School – 8:30 p.m. ET at Keeneland.com, Horseplayernow.com and dozens of sites around the racing industry.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.