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 Friday, October 24, 2014
What to Watch for Today: The final Friday of the meet offers the $200,000-guaranteed late pick 4, presented by TVG, one last time for 2014. Rosie Napravnik leads the jockeys’ title chase with 14 wins going into the final two days, just 1 more than Corey Lanerie with Julien Leparoux (12), Shaun Bridgmohan (12) and Paco Lopez (1) still in the hunt.
On the trainers’ side, Todd Pletcher (8) holds a single-win edge over Wesley Ward (7) and two over Graham Motion (6.)
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live blog/chat at the Keeneland website (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) – also available on your mobile devices – or on Twitter @Keeenelandracing, where I provide up-to-the-minute picks and analysis.
Weather: A lovely day with partly cloudy skies and temps in the upper 60s is forecasted with negligible wind. TGIF!
Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to help you unearth the trends. Most information is gleaned from the free Keeneland Handicapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Race 1 is a lower-end claiming route at the $16,000 level. The average winner has been 5 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile in routes at this level or lower at the Fall Meet. None of the trainers or the sires of the five entrants has won at the meet so far. Not much to go on via the trends, but note that the 1-1/16 miles race Cindys Casino exits was the second-slowest from 33 offerings at this dirt distance all meet and she’s struggled to finish late.
Races 2, 6 and 10 are for maiden claiming sprinters on the main track and historically this has been a bad spot for horses running back second time at the meet. Only 2 “run-back” winners since Fall ’06 have come in MCL sprints and both were Wesley Ward-Ramsey runners. You might want to stand against the bevy of quick returnees in Race 2 other than the Ramsey charge, Mariano Intheninth. As for Race 6, we get a sweep of newcomers to the meet to evaluate. In all MCLs this meet, 17 of 20 winners have been 4/1 or less, so don’t fish too deep. The Churchill preppers have paced the way with 5 of the 20 winners, which bodes well for Requestada. In the Race 10 finale, hot-training Chris Richard uncorks rookie Angel Lovely while the Ramseys try to shorten up the run-back performer Artemus Storm.
Juvenile MSW turfers battle in Race 3, and New York invaders own 3 of the 4 wins in these races at the meet (the other a first-time starter). That’s good news for lone NY shipper Congrats to Ken backers. The average winner in these races during Fall Meets in recent years has been 7-1, so you can get a price. First-time starters own just 3 of the 17 wins during that time. Horses with tactical pace have excelled, as 13 of 17 winners were within 2-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Certainly pay attention to see if #16 Majestico draws in from the also-eligible list as what would likely be the favorite if so.
We continue with 2-year-olds MSWs in Race 4, but on the main track at 7 furlongs. We’ve already seen one Malibu Moon offspring debut and win in a similar spot this meet, Enchantress, so don’t sleep on Brigand Moon in the debut for Steve Asmussen. He hasn’t run as many 2YOs this meet as I expected, but totally dominated the ’05 Fall Meet when we last were on dirt in the juvenile ranks. Hidden Danger exits a second to Jersey shipper Joe Franklin earlier in the meet and that was quite a performance from the winner. We’ve already seen 2 “run-back” winners in 2YO MSWs at the meet with Gap Year and Jack Tripp doing so at short odds in recent days making a second start at the meet.
Turf allowance milers step to the plate in Races 5,7 and 9. The wins in turf allowances at the meet have been evenly distributed among the 13 events with Kentucky Downs pacing the way with 3 winners. Surprisingly the New Yorkers haven’t dominated this category as in years past. Even so, Dancing House looks like a complete standout in from Belmont for Kiaran McLaughlin in the Race 5 division. Graham Motion has 4 turf wins at the meet, most of any trainer, and goes for a fifth with Pretty Syrie. As for Race 7, Motion brings Photo Call off a July layoff and note that mile turf allowances are a Keeneland heaven for horses coming off of layoffs. The impeccably bred Smart Strike-Golden Apples filly Fawaarek won over this course nicely in her debut last Fall and makes her reappearance on a three-race losing streak. Don’t get caught up in post positions. In 10 turf miles at the meet, we’ve had as many winners from posts 10-11 (2) as we have from posts 1-2-3-4-5 combined (2). Nine of 10 turf mile winners at the meet raced within 4-1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Use these facts and figures when you handicap the Race 9 co-feature as well, where Bill Mott’s 4 turf wins at the meet (tied for lead with Motion) are spotlighted with Xaverian. Pedigree buffs will appreciate dam Lisa Danielle aiming for a third winner at the meet with Casino Dan, following Wise Dan and Lisa Danielle earlier in the stand.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
The Race 8 allowance sprint at 7 furlongs goes for open 3-year-old fillies and recent G3 Dogwood Stakes runner-up Henny Jenney will demand much attention. But she’s a deep closer in a field of five and perhaps vulnerable on the pace and race shape.
In field sizes of 7 or less this meet on dirt, the average sprint winner has been just ½ length off the lead after the opening half-mile. That number quadruples to 2 lengths off the lead on average for winners in fields of 8 or more. That shows you the power of field size to race shape. With fields of 5 or 6 this meet in sprints, 14 of the 16 winners were within 1-1/2 lengths of the lead at that juncture, so closers are up against it.
Silver Union projects to sit a perfect, pressing trip right off of Avicii and Charles Town invader Cherie’s AP, and I look for leading rider Rosie Napravnik to press and pounce and be one step closer to the jockeys’ title after the feature.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.