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.
Keeneland Keys for Sunday, April 14, 2013
What to Watch for Today: Top 3-year-old filly sprinters clash in the Grade 2 $150,000 Beaumont Stakes, presented by Keeneland Select. The wide-ranging field of 11 includes shippers from points as far as Dubai and the California barn of last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill.
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Weather: We get a warm-up to 75 degrees on Sunday after a few days in the 50s and sunny skies with some breeze. 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: Here we take a look at the card, race-by-race and any trends that could lead us to prosperity. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp).
Race 1 is a $25,000 claiming sprint on the Polytrack and we’ve long been followers of Fair Grounds shippers at this class/distance levels during the Spring Meet. That’s been well rewarded this meet with 3 of the last 4 mid-level claiming sprints offered being won by the FG raiders, including 6-1 and 15-1 price plays among that trio. Snow Kissed looks super tough in from New Orleans and has run very well over this track in two prior starts. Work her with Getaay Spot and Do Dat Blues, the latter for a very sharp claiming sprint barn at Keeneland in Merrill Scherer.
Maiden claiming sprinters battle in Race 2 and Race 9 today and it’s important for this class of runner to show some early foot. All four such races at the current meet have been won in front-running fashion. In Rce 2, watch out for With Polish, trained by Ian Wilkes. His most successful profile in Keeneland Spring Meets has been breaking maidens in sprint races like this. Lil Olay trainer Eddie Kenneally also has seen his most success in Spring Meets with maiden breakers and gives his filly a class drop to find paydirt. The race should run through these two. As for the Race 9 maiden claimer, consider pedigree plays on Java Boy and Cabeus in their first attempts over this surface. Sires Successful Appeal and Empire Maker have shown success with their offspring, and both appear to have some early foot and good inside draws.
The short field size in Race 3 will have a big bearing on how the race is run. Middle-distance turf races at Keeneland show the average winner to be 3-1/2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. But when you reduce the field size to seven or less horses, that plummets to an average of just 2 lengths off the lead. Look for horses who can be close to the pace or riders who can recognize the pace. Julien Leparoux and Javier Castellano are far and away the two leading riders on the Keeneland turf when you factor in all winners who have sat within 2 lengths of the early lead. This riders race could come down to Leparoux on Are You Kidding Me and Castellano on Let’s Run. I’d also throw in Gary Stevens’ expert pace evaluation on Pataky Kid. Three-deep here in the pick four play.
Race 4 is for non-winners of 2 races lifetime in the $50,000 claiming ranks. There haven’t been a bevy of fruitful angles emerge from these races historically as they’ve been spread evenly among various categories of runners. One of my favorite handicapping angles at any track is to take the horses with the best maiden wins in terms of class in these “N2L” races and the open maiden special weight wins at Ellis Park for Noun and Hit Girl make them the most accomplished runners in this field of “never-won-twos.”
Trust what you see on the toteboard in Race 5. I’ve never seen a category of races on the Polytrack any more formful than starter allowance route races. We’ve had 15 in past Spring Meets and each of the last 14, yes 14, has been won by a horse 3-1 odds or less. The average winner over those 14 races has been 9-5 odds. When you factor the average Polytrack winner in all situations to be more than 6-1, that’s amazing stuff. The public will be choosing likely between Horned Frog and Gallant Pleasure. Horned Frog was a good second here last fall and Maker owns Spring Meet starter allowance route wins in ’09 and ’12. If looking for the price underneath, and you should if taking a favorite on top, consider Out Drinkin, who fits nicely at this level.
In Race 6, consider that Gulfstream shippers dominate the Polytrack route allowances during the Spring Meet, winning 23 times compared to 8 for Fair Grounds, the second-best producer in this situation. Horses moving from turf-to-Polytrack have excelled with 33 wins from the 62 such races. Horses coming off the GP green here include Ann of the Dance, Janicellaine, Valiant Girl (GP via Tampa roadtrip) and Anna Sophia. Handicapping this 12-horse field begins with this quartet. Graham Motion owns 5 Spring Meet Poly route allowance wins and tries to add another with Valiant Girl. That’s where I lean among the four. Expect longshot Toxis to run an improve race back on the Polytrack. None of her synthetic races were dazzling, but each showed a bit of talent that she’s not yet developed and she makes a key second start off of a layoff.
Turf milers go at it in Race 7, and this trip we’ve mentioned a few times already this season is a haven for classy horses coming off long layoffs. Keep Up, the River Cities Handicap winner at Churchill in November, finds a great spot for the return. Several others in this race also are making their 2013 debuts, and I wouldn’t be afraid of the layoff with any of them if you like them on paper given the history of Spring Meet turf miles. Trainer Johnathan Sheppard’s horses have been dynamite off layoffs at the meet and Utley is a talented English import worth tabbing at 15-1. And Hollinger at 15-1 for Roger Attfield is juicy given he’s won more Spring Meet turf races at Keeneland in the last six years than anyone. Daddy Nose Best also gets back to work after a vacation and returns to what is clearly his best surface on turf. This is one of the best and most intriguing allowance races of the entire meet.
Feature Race Play: The Race 8 Beaumont Stakes has been dominated in its six-year history on Polytrack by forwardly placed fillies. The average winner has been a half-length off the lead after the opening half-mile with three furlongs still to run and no winner has closed more than 3-1/4 lengths. Three of the last four winners of the Beaumont prepped on dirt. Four of the last five Beaumont winners were 3-1 or less on the toteboard, so the public has dialed the race in well in recent years. Californians have shipped in to win this race three times in the six years on Poly in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
The fastest of the west coast invaders here appers to be Judy In Disguise, the British import who has gone 2-for-2 in California this year. The Beaumont could lack other early pace pressure other than Allaboutcaroline, a fast filly who rolled here last spring in her Keeneland debut. Her winning time ranked as the 10th fastest ever for a 2YO on the Polytrack at 4-1/2 furlongs.
Both of these pace players looks highly dangerous to me and should factor. The key filly could be Magical Moon, scratched from the Grade 1 Ashland eight days ago when she drew a terrible, wide post position. Her turf sprint last year shows she is plenty quick enough, and her Polytrack try when third in the Alcibiades last year from the 13-hole was dynamite.
I’ll be keying Magical Moon with the speedy fillies Judy In Disguise and Allaboutcaroline.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.