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 Thursday, April 17, 2014
What to Watch for Today: Three-year-old turf fillies assume the spotlight today with the G3 $100,000 Appalachian Stakes. Last fall’s Jessamine winner Kitten Kaboodle takes on an international cast that includes group-stakes successes from England and France.
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Weather: Partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the upper 60s are forecasted for a fine day.
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 for $16,000 claiming sprinters. Turfway shippers have won 5 of the first 8 claiming races at the meet between $10k-$25k, including 2 of the 3 sprints held so far. With Diamonds it he lone Turfway-prepped runner, while Forget That Gal runs back second time at the meet following a TP appearance. The latter looks awfully tough to beat. You don’t want to be too far out of it at this class level as 24 of 32 Spring Meet winners going 6F were within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Only 5 of those winners exited turf preps and only 4 exited route preps.
We get our second 2YO baby dash of the meet in Race 2, and trainer Mark Casse looks to build upon his initial score with the Sky Mesa colt Skyway. The barn sends out Sky Racer for the same sire, while all-time baby-dash leader Wesley Ward counters with Hootenanny and Circle the World. Sky Mesa has sired a record 4 baby-dash winners on the Kee Poly, while City Zip – sire of Zit It Kim in this race – is tied for second with 3.
Maiden 3-year-old turfers route 1-1/16 miles in Race 3. We generally see 5-6 of these events each Spring and have had 2 so far at the meet. Six of the 18 winners have been 12-1 or more (average 9-1), so don’t be afraid of a price. Gulfstream shippers have 10 wins – no other circuit has more than 2 (including 2 first-time starters). 10 of 18 exited turf preps with 15 of 18 exiting route preps. The only Gulfstream turf route prepper in this field is Secret Someone. The turf route experience for Attainment, La Bruna Forte and Code Name Ava should be beneficial. None of the 18 winners was coming off a layoff from the previous year, however, as Code Name Ava attempts.
Starter allowances like we see in Race 4 have historically been about mismatches and winning chalk. The average winner in these races all-time in Spring Meets has been 3-1, less than half the average price of all winners on Poly during that time. 17 of the last 21 such Spring races went to horses 3-1 or less on the tote. Wild Swava looks like a classy favorite who simply fits better here than the others and a likely single in the multi-race wagers for Maker/Leparoux despite the wide draw.
Early speed has been proficient in 3YO maiden special weight sprints at 6-1/2 furlongs like we see in Race 5. The average winner has been less than a length off the lead after the opening half-mile in 16 prior races at the age/class/distance. Three-quarters of the winners were within 1-/2 lengths at that juncture. First-time starters own 5 of the 16 wins while Gulfstream and Fair Grounds shippers sport 4 wins apiece. Rookies Dr. Abramson, Uncle Muggs, Kite, Reeder and Smokin After Fun all deserve a long look in the paddock. Don’t let the tote fool you: 5 of the 6 rookie winners in this situation were 6-1 or more. None of the 16 winners were shortening back from a route prep as no less than 4 of the experienced horses in this race will attempt. Looks like a good time for a firster.
Race 6 is a second-level turf allowance route. Gulfstream shippers have won 6 of the first 8 turf allowances at the meet, the other 2 won by Woodbine layoff horses from the fall. Global Express and Draw Too represent GP in this heat. Sire Dyaformer has won 7 turf events at Keeneland since Fall 2007 at this long 1-1/2 miles trip (Giant’s Causeway next with 3), and he’ll be represented by Formidable Heart, while Giant’s Causeway’s son Wilcox also has some pedigree power. No trainer has won more 12F turfers here during that span than Graham Motion’s 6, and he saddles Draw Too. Roger Attfield (Global Express) owns 5 long turf wins to place next-best.
Race 7 is a non-winners of 2 lifetime allowance sprint. On the 9 such Spring Meet races held at 6 furlongs all-time, 7 of the winners were within 1-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-miles. Six of nine winners exiting sprint preps, from a diverse set of locales. While the route-to-sprint angle may be en vogue at Keeneland in some situations, note that in the first 17 races this Spring Meet at 6 furlongs, just 1 winner exited a route prep. That’s worth using in any race at this distance, regardless of class.
In the Race 9 finale, note first-time starters have won 9 of 32 MCLs all-time in Spring Meets at this 6-furlong distance, including 24-1 bomber Thestarvingartist that we warned you about last week. By comparison, GP shippers have 7 wins and Fair Grounds raiders 5, while in pursuit of the first-timers for dominance at this class and distance. Horses exiting sprint preps have a 2-to-1 edge over those turning back from routes among those that have started and are competing at this class/distance. Rookies to consider are Southbound Swinger, Burning Sky, Ms Arch Stanton and Madaket. Of those, Burning Sky’s sire Sky Mesa and damsire Forest Wildcat, are good win-early influences on the Kee Poly. Meanwhile, Madaket debuts for a Ben Colebrook barn whose runners seem very live at the meet and he lures Julien Leparoux to the saddle.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Thursday’s G3 $100,000 Appalachian is for 3-year-old turf fillies at 1 mile. Six of the last 7 winners of this race have been 9-2 or less with 3 winning favorites, so it’s been a fairly trustworthy event. Five of the last 7 winners have exited Gulfstream turf preps, including Unbelievable Dream a year ago. This year’s GP cast includes only Zinzay, quite surprisingly. She was runner-up in last fall’s Jessamine on this course to fellow Appalachian rival Kitten Kaboodle.
The only Applachian winner since 2007 to do so in her 3-year-old debut was the great Winter Memories, and four key fillies in this race will try to add to that short list. Comebackers like Recepta, Lacarolina, Sweet Acclaim and Daring Dancer all have stout credentials and connections and all figure to be solidly backed on the tote. Jimmy Toner trains Recepta, looking to follow in the footsteps of her famous stable predecessor Winter Memories.
Rosie Napravnik has piloted 3 Kee turf mile winners in full fields of 12, most of any jock in the field since Fall 2006, and she’s got the assignment on Sweet Acclaim for a Chad Brown barn that won this race 2 years ago with Dayatthespa.
This is a fabulous race where I’ll take my chances with the well-drawn and recently GP-prepped Zinzay, factoring in the imports Sweet Acclaim and Larcolina in the exotics.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.