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 Friday, April 12, 2013
What to Watch for Today: Not much cooking here other than a visit from the reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan for a weekday Grade 1 that’s second-to-none. Ah, Keeneland, don’t you just love it?! The $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile marks the first start of 2013 for Wise Dan when he tackles defending race champ Data Link in Race 9.
Jockey Joel Rosario has been on fire with multiple-win days both days to open this racing week. And owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey continue to dominate the proceedings in pursuit of smashing the single-meet records for wins at this rate.
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live RaceChat 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: Partly cloudy skies with temps peaking around 60 degrees are in the forecast after a day of wet weather in Lexington. The turf course should be in firm condition with a little give to it. 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 kicks things off with a 6-1/2 furlong sprint for lower-end $10,000 claimers, and we also see the same race split in today’s Race 10 division. The tricky elongated sprint distance has put an emphasis on recent form in past Spring Meets as all 8 winners for this class/distance in past Spring Meets has had a start prior on the year. Considering so many horses in Race 1 making their seasonal debuts, look to more recent form. Also, Turfway shippers have won 5 of 8 such races. Galloping Domino was a nice winner here vs. similar during the 2011 Fall Meet and bet to 7-2 with Julien Leparoux riding then. The more obscure connections today may inflate the price. The Race 10 division looks like a perfect spot for Turfway-prepped Got No Answers, who brings that key, sharp recent form.
Race 2 pulls your senses multiple directions and none of them are good. First-time starters rarely win these 4-year-old and up maiden special weight races at Keeneland (none since 2008 and only 3 of 22 such races offered in the Polytrack era). The half-brother to Girolamo named Mister Lucky Cat, and the Chad Brown-trained Play Bull are firsters who will take money, but their barns aren’t known to press on a first-time starter. Brown hasn’t won a race on Polytrack in two years. But the horses who have raced have not shown much. On pedigree, School Spirit intrigues on the Pollytrack the first time, but has not raced in 1-1/2 years. Good luck in this one.
Turfway Park preppers have been extremely strong the Keeneland Spring Meet starter allowance sprints and I’m counting on that to continue in Race 3 get Runnin’, Won Great Damsel and longshot Lady of Rivendell in with big chances. Sailors Pasttime, a nice winner here in the Fall Meet, looms the danger for a J. Michael Rogers barn that we’ve seen go good Fall work here coming in from Presque Isle Downs.
Race 4 is an entry level allowance route, and in 30 previous such races during Spring Meets on Polytrack, 21 of the winners have been 5-1 or less and the average winner about a full point lower than the average winner at Keeneland. Gulfstream preppers have won 14 of these events, more than twice as many as any other circuit (Fair Grounds 6). Turf-to-Polytrack movers have accounted for more than half of the winners (16 of 30). Grenoble would fit nicely on that set-up, even if trainer Nick Zito has had little activity and success on the Keeneland Polytrack (3 wins, 2 in 2007 and 1 in 2009). The one to watch could be come-backing Remember Then, who was sharp here in the Fall debut and we’ve seen the Jonathan Sheppard barn already this meet unleash a big-time season debuter named Gathering.
Don’t be afraid of a comebacker from a vacation in Race 5, a turf allowance. Of the first 5 such turf allowance races run at the 2013 Spring Meet, 3 were won by horses making their first starts of the year. No less than five entrants in this event have been away since 2012, including favorites Sea Island and Valley View Stakes winner Angel Terrace. The latter is trained by Jonathan Sheppard, who always looms a threat with a horse coming off the farm. Bill Mott tries to win here with Preferential, a Group stakes performer in France making her US debut. Mott has not won a Keeneland race with a European import since Thabazimbi came from Italy to win during the 2009 Spring Meet.
Three-year-old maiden special weight sprinters duel in Race 6. These sprints traditionally are some of the most speed-laden races in any Polytrack category at Keeneland. The average winner is just a half-length off the lead after the opening half-mile in 25 previous races in this category during Spring Meets, so think of speed. The difficulty is knowing which first-time starter might show early heat as the rookies have won 40% of the time (10 of 25) in these 3YO MSW sprints in Spring Meets. Of the experienced horses, expect Distortion to handle the track nicely at a price as she is by super-sprint Poly sire Distorted Humor. And Ol Donyo rates a very long look from the outside. The John Terranova barn’s MO is to break maidens here in the Spring with wire-to-wire type horses as we’ve in the past.
More sophomore maidens go at it in Race 7, but this event is around 2 turns. And here we see the difference between sprints and routes. Whereas firsters have done well sprinting in this division in the Poly era, in the routes there has not been a single rookie win in a 3YO MSW around two turns in a Spring Meet from 35 such races. Give a strong edge to Gulfstream preppers, who own 19 of the 35 wins and note only three of the 35 winners stretched out from a sprint to a route. That said, Flores Island looks like one of the day’s stronger trends plays coming out of a GP route in a field where only Kimallosa can make that claim. Kimallosa should love the surface as a daughter of Unbridled’s Song. Pedigree players note Magnolia Lane is a daughter of 2008 Spinster winner Carriage Trail, who obviously handled the Polytrack well.
We don’t see a lot of positive local experience among the Race 8 entry level allowance cast, which owns a 13: 1-1-4 career record on the Keeneland main track. But if you turn to pedigrees, there’s reason to think a few could take to the surface. Fair Cat is by fantastic Poly sprint sire Tale of the Cat and we’ve already seen a sharp Hawthorne front-running sprint winner at the meeting; the two leading Poly sires at Keeneeland -- Unbridled’s Song and Giant’s Causeway – are represented with Heywoods and Seve; and Wolf Whistle continues that sharp Distorted Humor presence in the Poly sprint ranks. Eighty percent (35 of 42) of Spring Meet allowance sprints at 6 furlongs are won by horses exiting sprint preps, so I put my lean in that direction.
Feature Race Play: Race 9 is a special treat, not only a Grade 1 on a weekday with the Maker’s 46 Mile, but also a showcase of America’s top horse of 2012, Wise Dan. Only once in the last six years has the winner of this race been higher than 9-2 odds, and I don’t expect that to change here.
The average winner of this stakes during that time was been tactically placed 1-1/2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile. No horse has closed more than 4-1/2 lengths from that point home to win the Maker’s 46 Mile in recent years.
As for worries about ring rust with Wise Dan, note Kip Deville won this race in 2008 in his first start of the calendar year. And traditionally Spring Meet turf miles have been havens for classy horses at Keeneland to make their seasonal bows with success.
There are no fancy stats here to tell you that it’s Wise Dan over defending Maker’s 46 Mile champion Data Link. Watch and enjoy and use one or two at most in your multi-race wagers.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.