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 Wednesday, April 22, 2015
What to Watch for Today: Perennial leading Keeneland owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey are unloading the barn early in the card and have a legitimate chance at a 4-win day. Closing week, a 3-day set, kicks off with an 8-race card that includes a trio of successive allowances in Races 5-7.
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: I hate to say it, but there’s a 70 percent chance of rain with temps in the low 60s. Breezy conditions 15-17 mph also are in the forecast.
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 opens with $20,000 claimers going 7 furlongs. Favorites have clicked 47% (7-15) in open claiming races at the meeting like we have here. Owner Ken Ramsey has accounted for 4 of those wins and has morning line favorite Frat Boy in another drop-to-score situation. Note that Ramsey runners have won 3 of the 4 open claimers at 7 furlongs at the stand! Frat Boy scratched from a coupling last weekend to run in this spot.
Race 2 is for the 2-year-olds, and our fifth baby race of the meet. Wesley Ward has won 2 of the 4 offered so far and takes 2 swings with Laxfield Road and Wonderful Remark. Both are Quality Road fillies and consider the former the stronger prospect Wednesday with that always-key Keeneland local workout before a baby race. Plus, she cost $130,000 at auction. Eric Reed has a pair of fast workers Red Blend and Sombre. Josie Carroll rarely starts a 2-year-old at Keeneland, but is outstanding at Woodbine with her babies and well-bred Tessier offers some intrigue.
Bottom-level claimers go the demanding 1-1/8 miles distance in Race 3. We had 2 such races in the Fall Meet on dirt, both won by horses rallying from 5 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. Much was the same in the Polytrack era as the average 9-furlong claiming winner again was about 5 lengths off the front. And in our only 9-furlong race for a claiming tag this meet (MCL), the winner came from 7-1/2 lengths back. But this race looks like all the best horses are near the front and will tempt that. Nolangrant’skitten looks to become the second Ramsey-Joe Sharp Kitten’s Joy offspring to tally at 9F this meet after Linda’s Kitten won an MCL going that trip earlier.
Maiden claimers route 1-1/16 miles in Race 4. Oaklawn shippers have won 2 of the 4 MCL routes at the stand, both in front-running style and both 7/1 prices. Dave Got Even, Super Mazz and Ole Mo Miller all spent the winter in Hot Springs. Don’t be afraid of a price as 6 of 11 MCL winners at the meet have paid $10 or more to win. Fair Grounds performers have dominated the MCL sprints, but have 1 win going long…those 5 of 11 MCL wins from FG make Five One Three logical.
Race 5 is an entry level turf allowance for the 3-year-olds. Javier Castellano has won 7 turf races of 26 offered at the meet and partners with Task Force Glory, fourth in the G3 Spiral last out. He and Oak Brook rematch from an Oct. 8 turf mile MSW here in the Fall Meet. Conquest Harlanday makes a curious move from the Santa Anita dirt to the Keeneland turf. In our database that goes back to Fall 2006, we haven’t seen a winner make that transition to date, though you’d have to guess not many have tried it. Only 3 of 19 races at 1-3/16 miles on turf have been won on or near the lead, so look for horses from off the pace to come calling late.
Allowance sprinters go 7 furlongs in Race 6. Last week we had 9 races at 7 furlongs and 7 of them were won by horses on the front end after the opening half-mile and no winners closed from more than 2-1/2 lengths back. Sire Street Sense has a pair of 7F winners at the meet (both on a day when the track is sloppy) and seeks a third with speedy Wit. Of the 5 allowances this meet at 7 furlongs, only 1 was won by a horse turning back from a route prep to a sprint. Trainer Larry Jones has won 4 races this meet, equaling his Spring Meet total from the entire Polytrack era, 2007-’14. He has Chapter And Verse in this spot with a big chance. Dance Champion goes for Christophe Clement, the trainer looking for his first win on the Kee dirt.
Race 8 is a $20,000 non-winners of 2 lifetime claimer at 6 furlongs. The Fair Grounds preppers have had a good run in the N2L claimers this meet, winning 3 of 5. That’s good news for backers of Conspired, the only New Orleans raider in the lot. Think very close to the pace here as we’ve only 8 had claimers at 6 furlongs for $20,000 or less in the dirt era, but all 8 winners were within 2 lengths of the lead after the first half-mile and the average winner a mere .06 lengths off the pace at that juncture.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The Race 7 allowance feature is a 1-1/2 miles turf allowance. Sire Dynaformer’s 9 wins at this trip/course since Fall ’06 are more than 3 times more than any other sire and always where I look first. First Romance brings that pedigree to this contest while making her first start since last Fall’s Dowager Stakes. But only 2 of 28 Spring Meet races at this course/distance have been won by horses making their first starts of the calendar year, so there’s reason to keep digging.
And that’s a really interesting factor here when you consider race favorites Sabbatical and Carnevale also are making their first starts of the year. Given that Gulfstream preppers own 17 of the 28 wins, the more recent GP form of Meri Shika might be enough to turn the tide. I’ll be using Meri Shika as the key on top.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.