Expert Picks - Jeremy Plonk

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    Jeremy Plonk

    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 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.

    Saturday, October 18, 2014

    Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Saturday, October 18, 2014


    What to Watch for Today: The Grade 2 $250,000 Lexus Raven Run highlights the 10-race program on the third Saturday of the meet. The 13 fillies exit most-recent races at no less than 9 different tracks in one of those melting pot showcases that makes Keeneland so special.


    Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live blog/chat at the Keeneland website ( – also available on your mobile devices – or on Twitter @Keeenelandracing, where I provide up-to-the-minute picks and analysis.


    Weather: Conditions have improved and we should have a fast track and potentially 'good' turf course with temps in the mid-50s.


    Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race inside the numbers and trends to help you. Most information is gleaned from the free Keeneland Handicapping database ( that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!


    Race 1 kicks off the Saturday action with maiden claiming routers going 1-1/16 miles on the dirt.The first 4 such races at the meet all were won by horses 2-1 or less in formful affairs. Three of those 3 winners exited route preps, which splits this particular 6-horse field in half. Trainer Kellyn Gorder picked up his second maiden breaker of the meet Thursday with Barbados in highly impressive fashion and takes 2 shots with Belisama and Praising.


    Bottom-level $10,000 claimers clash in Race 2. Favorites are 0-for-4 so far at the meet at the basement level with an average winner just under 6/1 odds. Three of the 4 winners came off preps at Kentucky Downs and the other Churchill – so these have been home-grown bluegrass races. Believe it or not, we typically see about 18 “run-back” winners per fall meet, horses who are making their second start of the short season at Keeneland. Befuddler appears a very live option in this race on 13 days’ rest.


    Two-year-old maiden special weight sprinters dash 7 furlongs in Race 3. Only 2 of 15 winners so far in the 2YO MSW ranks have been over 5/1 as the public has snuffed these out well. Don’t over emphasize local works as only 4 of 15 winners posted a public work at Keeneland prior. The regally bred Etruscan returns, he of the Bernardini-Proud Spell pedigree and Oct. 3 debut fifth. While Larry Jones hasn’t won with a 2YO run-back at Keeneland, it’s been a fairly repeated occurrence by Kenny McPeek to do so here in the Fall, so it can be done with the right horse. Steve Asmussen hasn’t had much in the 2YO ranks at the meet so far, but we can’t forget his dominance here on the dirt in the Fall 2005 meet with his babies. Says Me could be debut-ready.


    Races 4 and 10 are on the turf for older maiden special weight types. We get 2-3 of these per Fall Meet in recent years, but these are the first of 2014. The Kentucky Downs preppers own 3 of the 7 wins in the database, and that bodes well for Sky Flight, That’s It Imleaving and Diacetto in Race 4. Six of those 7 exited route preps and 5 of the 7 turf preps. No first-time starters have connected. In Race 4, note that Hall of Fame has yet to turf route, but his sire Tapit has had a nice run of grass winners here recently (2 spring, 1 this meet so far) and damsire Smart Strike is one of the No. 3-leading grass sires here since Fall 2006 – trailing only Giant’s Causeway and Dynaformer in progeny wins. As for the Race 10 division, the KD preppers are Awesome Sky, Cedar Creek and Thunder Moon.


    The starter allowance set matches up in Race 5 at 7 furlongs. We’ve already had 7 of these at the meet, 4 won by Churchill Downs preppers – including 2 by brand-spanking new trainer Joe Sharp, the longtime assistant to Mike Maker. Sharp and wife Rosie Napravnik look for their 3rd starter allowance score in tandem with Almost English after winning starter allowances here on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Almost English comes in from … you guessed it … Churchill Downs. And Rosie’s starter allowance success extends to other barns as she’s piloted 4 of the 7 such winners at the meet. This is one salty bunch, however, and not just a one-horse race. A great handicapping challenge!


    Race 6 is a first-level allowance sprint at 6 furlongs. Of the first 22 races this meet at 6 furlongs, only 3 winners close more than 2 lengths after the opening half-mile to win. Corey Lanerie leads all jockeys with 5 wins of those 22 at this distance and pilots Crissy Field in this spot. No trainer has come close to Graham Motion’s 13 first-level Keeneland Fall Meet allowance wins since 2006, as he seems to have a plethora of horses ready for these conditions and rack up the wins annually. He brings Ruedelarose in from Delaware off the maiden breaker.


    Turf sprinters fill the entries for Race 7 in allowance company. Posts 3-4-5 are the power posts when you get full fields of turf sprinters at Keeneland and consider a little bump to those runners. Since Fall 2006 with 10 or more turf sprinters, favorites are just 5-for-26 with the average winner over 9/1 odds. You can be a little creative in a spot like this. Two-thirds of all Fall Meet turf sprint winners in our database were coming off turf preps. Surprisingly in this race, only Ready for Summer, Crookepathtoglory, Kiama and Maco Light can say that among those in the main body of the field (AEs Fleet Encounter and Zamquick both look live off turf preps if they draw in).


    Race 8 is a third-level allowance route on the dirt, but may as well be a stakes. Upsets have been few and far between going long on the dirt. In the first 22 races this meet at 1-1/16 miles, 19 of the winners were 7/2 or less. Meanwhile 18 of those 23 winners were within 3-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Dirt-prepped horses have dominated with 15 of the 22 wins at this distance, followed by turf (6) and synthetic (2). The short stretch / sixteenth-pole finish line puts a premium on horses who are in contention on the turn. Only 3 of the 22 winners were horses coming out of races longer than 1-1/16 miles, something Elnaawi and For Greater Glory will try to overcome.

    Feature Race Play, courtesy of the BUZZ Report:

    The featured Race 9 $250,000 Raven Run Stakes often brings an eclectic mix of 3-year-old fillies. This year’s baker’s dozen in the lineup continues that theme. Even the west coast has had a Raven Run say in recent years as Californians shipped east to win this race twice in the last 3 years – Great Hot in 2011 and Madame Cactus in 2013. This year, it’s the comebacking Bajan traveling east for the date, not seen since running third in the G1 Santa Anita Oaks in April.


    The Raven Run winners has come from NY or CA in 6 of the last 7 years, so give extra looks at Divided Attention, Shayjolie, La Madrina and Sweet Whiskey in addition to the aforementioned Bajan. Lean hard to those exiting sprints in this race historically vs. routers trying to cut back.


    Divided Attention, Sweet Whiskey and La Madreina appear to be the strength of the NY-based sprinters and the superior connections make them very live. I’ll use that trio in multi-race wagers, and then over longshot Taketheodds in the exotics to get a piece underneath.


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