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 Sunday, October 12, 2014
What to Watch for Today: Horseplayers into the intra-race exotics like exactas, trifectas and superfectas have perhaps their most lucrative opportunities of the 2014 Fall Meet to date in today’s card. No less than 5 of 9 races have capacity fields of 12, all have 8 or more entries, and we average 10.7 starters per race. Time to dig in!
Jockey Corey Lanerie continued a big weekend with 2 scores on Saturday, while Florent Geroux doubled up as well for trainer Ingrid Mason.
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: Soggy conditions have been an unfortunate part of Friday and Saturday’s racing, so even if skies clear on Sunday you’ll want to check the updated track and weather conditions before making your plays.The turf course hasn't been as soft as you'd think as times have been solid for the amount of rain.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. 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 maiden claimer at 6-1/2 furlongs on the dirt, and it must be noted that the first 5 maiden claimers of this Fall Meet all have been won wire-to-wire. But those 5 races averaged 6.2 starters per race and this 12-runner lineup could deemphasize speed to some degree with more likelihood of an early duel. Four of the 5 MCL winners have been 3/1 or less. Trainer Andrew McKeever won 2 races at the 2013 Fall Meet – both maiden claiming sprints (3/1 and 27/1) – and looks to repeat that with Trawee.
Two-thirds of the first 9 claiming winners at this meet have come from Churchill Downs (4) or Kentucky Downs (2) preps, so consider the Kentuckians in Race 2. That bodes well for Electric Temptress, Blutadda, Colonel Jane and Miss Delstar, reducing this field in half. Seven of those 9 claiming races went to horses 3-1 or less on the tote. Owner Maggi Moss aims for a third win at the meet (second with Chris Richard) with Electric Temptress.
Starter allowance sprinters battle in Race 3 at 6 ½ furlongs. Trainer Ronny Werner won a similar race at the ’13 Fall Meet at 8/1 with Quite Explosive, but the price won’t be nearly as juicy on the very same comebacker on Sunday. But the late-runner could be up against the race flow as only 1 of the first 13 dirt sprints this meet at 6 or 6-1/2 furlongs was won by a horse who was more than a half-length off the lead after the opening half-mile. No winning horse had closed more than 3 lengths in that timeframe.
Race 4 is an older maiden special weight at 6 furlongs on the dirt. Veteran Jonathan Sheppard hopes lightning strikes twice when he brings Tikki’s Humor to Lexington. During the 2010 Fall Meet, he turned heads with this filly’s older sister Tikkarita, who won her first and only career start in a similar MSW sprint for elders. That filly was very live on the tote back in 2010, and you wonder if this one will bring any steam for the respected Hall of Famer. New Yorkers historically have done best in these races during the Fall Meet and long layoff types have more than held their share, so don’t disregard Compass Rose, whose young trainer Brendan Walsh has 3 Keeneland wins, 2 of which were maiden breakers.
Consider the turf conditions in Race 5 as we have an entry level grass allowance. On soft/yielding footing, I always recommend considering horses with foreign racing experience or foreign pedigrees. Most US horses never get to train or race much at all on “off” turf conditions, while the overseas horses do it nearly every day of their lives. As mentioned earlier in the week, two key angles in these 1-1/2 miles turf races are trainer Graham Motion, who has the most wins in such races, and sire Dynaformer, far and away the leading sire of 12F Kee turf routes in the last 8 years. Dynaformer beat Motion earlier in the week in such a matchup, if you will. Set To Music looks to give the sire his second win this week in the conditions, while Motion fires back with foreign-experienced Dye Fore in his second US start while adding blinkers. Bingo Kitten is favored, but note Kitten’s Joy has not sired any winners at 12F on turf at Keeneland, a fact most find hard to believe, but true.
Race 6 is for 2-year-old maiden special weights and trainer Todd Pletcher has had quite a run breaking maidens at the meet. Of his first 6 wins at the stand, 5 have come in the maiden ranks plus 2-year-old Carpe Diem in the G1 Breeder’s Futurity. Pletcher’s 6 wins include 4 juvenile scores and he’ll go for another with fast-working Old Mountain Lane. Hottap goes for a Steve Asmussen barn that dominated the 2YO ranks at Keeneland in Fall 2005 the last time we had a dirt surface, and I expect he’s going to uncork some juveniles the second half of the meet. And beware trainer Ben Colebrook’s charges, who are smoking hot lately outrunning big odds, as he has his only runners on the card with rookie First Place.
Allowance sprinters battle in Race 7 at 7 furlongs. The first 8 allowances on dirt this meet have been evenly distributed with 3 winners from Churchill, 2 from Saratoga and Arlington, and 1 from a Pimlico spring layoff. Those layoff runners have done well as 4 of the 8 allowances have been won by horses off since at least July. That’s good news if you’re backing Schivarelli, a promising spring 3-year-old not seen since running fourth in the G1 Wood Memorial. All 6 winners of the 7-furlong races this meet have had a nearly identical trip pressing the pace 1-2 lengths off the pacemaker and pouncing.
The week’s finale is a $30,000 claiming non-winners of 2 lifetime route on the dirt in Race 9. We only see about 2-3 of these per Fall Meet at a route distance, and note Indiana Downs produced winners in 2011 and 2013 at 18/1 and 9/2. Give a look at Delta Golf Alpha, Double Crossing and Lawyer Charles on that note. No trainer has won more claiming routes at Keeneland since Fall 2006 than Mike Maker by a mile, so you have to consider Handsome Dennis. Also note we’ve already had 1 of the 2 sprint N2L claimers this meet won via the New York invasion ala Handsome Dennis.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Sunday’s allowance feature is a Race 8 turf tilt at 1-1/16 miles. Again, horses with a preference to some give in the ground will be at a premium after a soggy weather week. On pedigree Rosee is Cozee and Hot Tempo would be two good candidates to handle the footing. Kepi has run well over such ground.
Kentucky Downs preppers won 2 of the first 5 turf allowances at the meet, the only circuit to double up in wins so far. Kepi, Drama Drama and Rosee is Cozy all exit races at KD and appear to fit well on paper. Trainer Mike Maker is 1 of 3 trainers to win twice on turf already at the meet and looks to add with Awesome Flower.
My lean is to Rosee is Cozee in a very competitive group.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.