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Jeremy Plonk has worked in the racing industry professionally for 20 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, creators 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 Keys for Wednesday, April 24, 2013
What to Watch for Today: Despite missing two days of riding with commitments in the Wood Memorial and Apple Blossom, leading Keeneland jockey Joel Rosario sets his sights on the single-season Spring Meet wins record for a rider as closing week begins. Rosario needs 6 wins over the final 3 cards to match Randy Romero’s record 32 wins, set in 1990.
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Weather: Overnight and morning thunderstorms are forecasted prior to the Wednesday card, but partly cloudy skies could be in the offing by racetime. The turf course should have some give to it if used – keep an eye on the conditions. For up-to-the-minute weather updates for Keeneland, including the track surface temperature and today’s maintenance, click: http://www.keeneland.com/racing/track-conditions.
Polycapping 101: As is our start-of-the-raceweek custom, the Wednesday edition will take a look back at the trends of last week. The regular race-by-race handicapping angles return Thursday through Sunday. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp).
Week 3 of the meet was a full, 5-day affair and provided 46 races, 35 on the Polytrack and 11 on turf.
On the Polytrack, favorites were 12-for-35 on the week (34 percent) with an average winner of 5.8 to 1 odds. The average field size of 9.1 horses per race last week compared to 9.7 the week prior contributes to the success of favorites are lower returns. For the meeting, favorites are a very solid 31-for-92 (34 percent) on the Polytrack and running about 5 percent above the cumulative Spring Meet favorites’ performances all-time on Polytrack. Good job by the betting public!
Seven winners in the 35 Polytrack races last week were “run-backs,” horses that are making their second start at the meet. Only Gulfstream raiders (10) won more often than those on short turn-arounds. For the season, GP raiders own a meet-leading 29 winners in Polytrack races with Fair Grounds next at 15 and Turfway third with 8.
Sires Hard Spun, Mingun and Indygo Shiner both posted multiple wins on the Polytrack surface, none of which have been traditional “sires to watch” here.
For the first time at the meet, the turf preppers out-performed the dirt preppers last week on the Polytrack. Turf-prepped horses won 13 of the 35 races, while 9 winners each came off dirt and synthetic preps (4 first-time starters rounded out the 35 winners).
The main track still leaned toward speed a bit in sprint races last week, but deeper closers certainly had more impact than in previous weeks at the meet. That’s an odd comparison, however, when you look at the 11 route races run last week. The half-mile leader won 5 of those, a tremendously high percentage for Kee Poly routes. Typically it’s the route races where the deep closers will run roughshod and the sprints edge to the speedier types. In other words, I wouldn’t make many declarations in either direction to how this track played last week.
Once again, the public has been destroying the turf races at this meet. Last week, favorites won 7-of-11 grass races. That makes public choices 17-for-31 on the green this season – that’s a 55% strike rate! Gulfstream raiders won 6 of the 11 grass races, and now have 15 of the 31 turf wins at the meet. Fair Grounds shippers have but 2 turf wins all season. Barclay Tagg and Joan Scott each trained a pair of turf winners last week with Joel Rosario riding both for Tagg and Julien Leparoux riding both for Scott. Edgar Prado continued another good grass week with 2 wins. The turf course played both to wire-to-wire types and tremendously deep closers. It was very fair.
Mike Maker dominated the trainer standings for the week with 7 winners (5 with Joel Rosario riding). Wesley Ward and Wayne Catalano each added 3 wins, while Tevis McCauley had a big week for his barn with 2. Leading jockeys last week were Joel Rosario with 12 wins, Julien Leparoux with 7 and Rosie Napravnik with 5. All 7 of Maker’s wins were bet to 5-2 or less on the toteboard with 5 favorites. Of Maker’s 16 wins at the meet, only 1 has been above 7-2 odds (average winner 2.2-to-1 odds).
As Joel Rosario pursues Randy Romero’s single-meet riding record, note Rosario’s 26 winners include only 2 horses over 9-2 odds, none over 7-1 and 14 favorites. Trainers Mike Maker (10) and Wesley Ward (6) have accounted for 16 of Rosario’s 26 winning rides.
Feature Race Play: Races 6 and 8 are the co-featured turf allowances on the 9-race program, so let’s take the first one up to analyze as the day’s feature.
Race 6 is an entry level turf allowance at 1-1/8 miles for the 3-year-olds. While the Gulfstream shippers have dominated the turf races this meeting as noted above, it’s also noteworthy that the GP throng has won 3 of the 5 N1X turf allowances this season. Bold Dance comes directly in from Florida and this is a horse who I had very high on my Kentucky Derby radar this winter as a brother to Saint Liam. There’s considerable talent here when he puts it all together, but his last two have been disappointments as short prices. Mike Smith, riding first call for Besilu Stables of Royal Delta fame, will be aboard.
Fellow Floridian Amen Kitten already has had a start at the meet in a strong edition of the Transylvania Stakes, where he closed mildly to split the field. The Transylvania clocked second-fastest of all 1-1/16 miles turf races at the meet and just .07 slower than the G1 Jenny Wiley corker run by Centre Court.
The winner appears to come from those two, Bold Dance and Amen Kitten, from this eye. Squall King makes a class drop for Dale Romans exiting tough Florida turf stakes heats and should keep this a formful affair. I’ll give Bold Affair one more chance to run back to that dazzling Dec. 1 maiden breaker and play him over Amen Kitten and Squall King. Multi-race players should consider going three-deep.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.