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 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.
Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Wednesday, April 23, 2014
What to Watch for Today: The final three-day week of the 2014 Spring Meet opens with an 8-race card. A four-way battle for the prestigious leading trainer title ensues as Mark Casse (8 wins) leads Ken McPeek (7), Graham Motion (6) and Wesley Ward (6). Casse has no starters on the card while Ward appears poised to rally with runners in 5 contests today. Motion (2) and McPeek (1) have light representation.
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Weather: Sunny skies with temps at 63 degrees are in the forecast. Enjoy!
Polycapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Race 1 is a $10,000 claimer on the Polytrack going 1-1/8 miles. Turfway shippers have won 4 of the 6 bottom-end claimers at the meet, so that’s a good place to start with Z Camelot as well as second-time at the meet TP raiders like Spartan King and Thatboathassailed. Stylistically these 9F $10k claimers have been won on the front and by deep closers, so it’s not an advantage either way.
Basement-level maiden claiming routers compete in Race 2. Gulfstream shippers have won 17 of 35 MCL routes in past Spring Meets including 3 of 5 held so far this season. No horses here come directly from GP, but Kerry Washington makes a second start of the meet from GP and second career route attempt and may be more fit than April 9. That’s A Kitten also wintered at GP but exits a Tampa prep and likely would fit with these for Wesley Ward. Interesting to see steeplechaser Arch Kingsley lure Julien Leparoux to ride first-timer Wild About Dixie. But note rookies have won just 2 MCL routes in past Spring Meets from 35 offered.
Race 3 is for $16,000 claiming routers and not much different than we see in the opener in essence, a wee bit higher on the class rung. You want some tactical speed in these races historically with the average winner just 1 length off the lead after the opening half-mile and no winner closing from more than 5 lengths back at that juncture from 14 offerings. “Run-backs,” horses making their second start of the meet, have won similar offerings in 2007, 2009 and 2011 late in the meet, so it’s not a bad place to dig. This 12-horse field features 6 run-backs, so it’s a plausible outcome. Young trainer Brendan Walsh, the former Eddie Kenneally assistant, has won 2 races at the meet with Corey Lanerie up and turns to that rider aboard Purely Boy fresh off the claim and wheel back on 17 days’ rest. Morning line favorite Newfound Zapper is wide in post 12, but note the 12-hole is 5-for-84 all-time on the Polytrack at 1-1/16 miles (the 1-hole is just 2-84 in these full-field situations, by comparison, so it’s not a clear-cut eliminator).
We get our first turf sprint allowance of the meet in Race 4. Since 2007, 6 of the 8 such races were won by turf preppers, 2 on synthetic and none from dirt preps. The same 6 of 8 tally applies to sprint preppers with 2 turnbacks from routes winning. Laser Cat, Sweet Nkosi and Spun Silky are the only runners exiting turf sprints, which is what you’d prefer to see. In full-field turf sprints, posts 3-4-5 are where you want to be at Keeneland. Jockey Robby Albarado rides full-field turf sprints exceptionally well and partners with Liz Pendens, who could get a great trip just off the early sprint speed.
Non-winners of 2 lifetime races sprint in a Race 5 claimer. Since 2009, the last 7 such winners at this class and distance all have exited sprint preps. But there are few discernible winning trends here among the division. Notably, Forfeit exits a third-place allowance run behind Green Mask, one of the most impressive winners here in each of the past 2 meets. Simon Eyes exits a runner-up in what ranks the third-fastest 6F of the meet to date and fastest of any 6F claimer.
Race 6 is an entry level turf allowance route and Gulfstream shippers win exactly half of these historically in Spring Meets and that’s held true in 2014 to date as well. About 70 percent of the winners exit turf preps and 90 percent exit route preps. Sea Queen exits a Gulfstream turf route, as does stablemate Valseuse, as trainer Christophe Clement appears to have a wicked-tough upcoupled pairing that would seem to be a two-deep attack in the multi-race wagers. Offspring of sire Kitten’s Joy, to the surprise of most I would bet, have won exactly 1 Keeneland turf route at 9 furlongs or longer since our database began in Fall 2006 (last year’s QE II Challenge Cup). So while Leparoux lands on Valseuse, the pedigree of Sea Queen under Joel Rosario may be more appealing and that runner will save ground. Horses running back second time at the meet have been highly effective in long-distance turf races in past Spring Meets, so beware Share The Sugar, Personal Diary and Wicked Temper as potential underneath plays.
Race 7 is a 3-year-old maiden special weight sprint at 7 furlongs. These have been frequent spots late in Spring Meets for run-back winners in the Poly era. Crissy Field and Sea Shadow will attempt to keep that going while exiting similar contests on April 11-12. Sire Empire Maker has done well with the late-blooming 3YO MSW runners in past Springs and has both Circle The Empire and Clam Water represented here for respected barns.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Since Races 6 and 8 are similar machinations of the same event, we’ll call Race 8 the feature arbitrarily and note the same trends apply in this race as stated above for Race 6. The only difference is that Race 8 is for older fillies and mares while Race 6 is for straight 3-year-olds.
Gulfstream raiders here include Indian Starlight and Silvery Starlet, both exiting victories in March. Sharp-working Chat for Jonathan Sheppard scratched out of a similar spot last week to enter back in this race and appears well-meant in the US debut. Glorious Chant deserves a long look back second time at the meet as well.
Let’s try to beat the Sheppard steam with a combination of that trio, headed by a price play on Glorious Chant.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.