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 21 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, creator 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, October 15, 2015
What to Watch for Today: Defending champion Holiday Star headlines the G3 $100,000 Sycamore for older turf marathon performers. His opposition includes recent G3 Kentucky Cup Turf winner Da Big Hoss, in search of his third consecutive stakes win.
We'll also see if jockey Julien Leparoux and trainer Kenny McPeek can keep their massive roll going from a sparkling Wednesday performance by the duo.
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: Another banner autumn day is forecasted with no chance of rain, sunny skies and temperatures threatening to reach 70 degrees.
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!
Maiden claiming sprinters open the card, and it’s advised to give Churchill Downs preppers a long look in Race 1. That’s because 7 of the 13 maiden claimers so far at this meet have been won via CD preps. Ian Wilkes (Winged Lady) already has a 2YO win at the meet with 18-1 Bonduran, while Eddie Kenneally (Fortun) has saddled pair of juvenile sprint victors at the current stand.
Race 2 is a mid-level claimer and again a place where Churchill runners have excelled. Of the 13 races this meet between $25,000-$50,000 claiming, 8 have been won via CD preps and 3 from Arlington. Of the 3 such races held at 7 furlongs, 2 were won by horses cutting back from a route prep at a mile or longer. No Flowers would fit the profile on both points. Tizzy Be Hot cuts back from an Indiana Downs prep. Pedigree players consider the Flatter filly Flatter You.
Older maiden special weight turfers clash in Race 3. Favorites are just 1-for-12 in these races during Fall Meets, but 11 winners were between 2-1 and 7-1, so they’re not bombs, but not chalks – just what a horseplayer loves. Give an edge to New York (Saratoga/Belmont) and Kentucky Downs preppers, who accounted for 9 combined wins from the 12. Horses with turf preps own 10 of the 12 wins and those with route preps have 9 of the 12 wins. The Strip, Flowing, Forensic, Star’s Bella Vita, Sacred Luna, Angel of Troy and Hudson River Gal fit the profile well and help us limit this huge field in half or more. Posts 1-4 have a solid stats edge in full-field turf miles here, and Flowing in post 2 is by Tapit, who has sired 5 turf mile winners at Keeneland since 2012 – most of any stallion during that stand.
Favorites are 8-for-12 in Fall Meet non-winners of 2 lifetime claimers on the new dirt, and the average winner has been just 2-1. Don’t stray too far from the expected in Race 4. Of those dozen winners, 5 came off Churchill Downs preps. Note only 4 of 54 on the new dirt at 6F during the past 2 Fall Meets have been won by horses turning back from a route prep. Keep close to the pace as 42 of those 54 winners were within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Smooth Caramel tries to give redhot sire Candy Ride his 12th winner on the Keeneland dirt and add to his leading mark.
If you want to beat the chalk, Race 5 may be the place to do it. Favorites are 1-for-7 on the Keeneland dirt in 2YO MSWs at 7 furlongs, albeit Lady Day Blues was a strong favored winner for Kenny McPeek on Wednesday. Three winners were first-time starters, 4 preppers from Churchill Downs. Please Don’t Flash intrigues for a Tom Proctor barn that unleashed a freaky 2YO filly earlier in the meeting named Blip N’ the Bye. First-timer Go Lock It Up goes for a a McPeek barn that also won a similar race last year with I’m A Chatterbox in addition to yesterday's score.
Turf allowance routers answer the bell in Race 7. Note at 1-1/16 miles on turf with full fields, posts 4-7 are the power players with 45% of the wins despite less than 33% probability in fields of 12-14. Trainer Graham Motion’s 16 wins in turf Fall allowances since Fall ’06 are most of any trainer and he looks to add another with Forward Thinker. Saratoga shippers have won 3 of the first 5 turf allowances at the 2015 Fall Meet.
Race 8 is a 7-furlong allowance on the dirt and consider that 6 of the 8 such races during Fall Meets have been won by horses turning back from a prep of a mile or longer. Taketothestreets fits that bill. The favorites here look stout on 2 counts, though. Watershed exits a fourth in the G1 King’s Bishop for a Kiaran McLaughlin barn that won with 3 of 5 starters to kick off this meet. And Holding Aces comes off a debut win at Churchill over Union Jackson. If you saw that rival run an absolute hole in the wind here Sunday, you realize how impressive that CD win must have been for Holding Aces.
Maiden claiming sprinters bookend the card and close up shop in Race 10. As noted earlier, 7 of the 13 maiden claimers so far at this meet have been won via Churchill Downs preps. Dr. Turkman is the lone CD player involved and will be a big price for a Murat Sancal barn that has had some interesting horses outrun their odds here in past seasons. Don’t be afraid of a price here as 7 of 20 races for 6F MCLs on the dirt have been won by horses 7-1 or more. Only 2 of those 202winners turned back from a route prep.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
In the last 4 editions of the Sycamore Stakes – today’s Race 8 feature – the winner has come from the barns of Graham Motion (2011, 2014) or Mike Maker (2013). Both stables figure prominently once again in the 1-1/2 miles turf feature worth $100,000. Motion sends out defending champion Holiday Star as well as Divine Oath, the latter grandson of the legendary Personal Ensign. Maker counters with Da Big Hoss, who has won back-to-back marathon turf stakes at Saratoga and Kentucky Downs.
It’s fair to think the winner comes from that trio. Consider that Motion has won an astounding 10 turf marathons at 1-1/2 miles over the Keenaland turf since Fall 2006 – no other barn has more than 6.
I’ll put my stock in Divine Oath and Holiday Star, leading slightly to the former but certainly willing to box them in exactas and consider the addition of Da Big Hoss in a splitter’s role.
The only place where you can get my full-card selections every day is in the BUZZ Report at Horseplayernow.com – subscription plans cost approximately $2 per day and bring me and my team of 9 handicappers to your service.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.