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, April 6, 2014
What to Watch for Today: Trainer Mike Maker, off to a slower start than past Keeneland meets, has entrants in four of the races Sunday on a more blue-collar card that could get his barn back on the beam.
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Weather: Sunny skies and 63 degrees temps are in the forecast.
Polycapping 101: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
Race 1 matches $32,000 claiming sprinters to kick off the action. Spring Meet claiming sprints in that $20-$40k range typically are a strong suit for Fair Grounds invaders, and Cash Is Queen is the field’s lone FG prepper. She’s by Unbridled’s Song, the #2 all-time leading sire on Kee Poly, and we can’t hold her one local try in the G3 Beamount against her at 40-1 last Spring. She’s interesting in this spot if she can break swiftly from the rail. Trainer Tevis McCauley won a similar race here in Spring ’13 meet with Costly and has speedy Forget The Gal well-drawn outside the other speed. The Bob Hess barn won twice last Spring with horses via Gulfstream in claiming sprints at 7-1 and 8-1, but you won’t see that price on Dissension.
Starter allowance runners sprint 6 furlongs in Race 2. Favorites won 5 of 7 starter allowance races at the 2013 Spring Meet with an average winner in those 7 races being just 8-5 odds. Expecting Cash should be solidly favored for Amoss-Leparoux on the hefty class drop. At 6 furlongs in starter allowances at Keeneland, you want some speed. Of the 10 such races held at the class/trip, the average winner has been ¾ of a length off the lead after the first half-mile and no horse more than 2-3/4 lengths back has rallied to win.
Races 3 and 9 are for basement-level $10,000 claimers at 6 furlongs. We typically see only 1-2 of these races all meet in the Spring. Favorites are 2-for-12 all-time on the Poly during this meet at the trip/level with an average winner of 8-1 – a few points higher than normal. Only 2 of those 12 has been won on the front end, which is surprising given the class and distance. 10 of 12 exited a sprint prep and Turfway-prepped horses have won 5 of those. Hancho would seem a plausible fit closing out of a Turfway sprint prep in Race 3. In the Race 9 division the TP raiders include Purely Boy, Common Law and Eye of the Eagle.
The early pick four single might be in Race 4 when Is Silver Good comes off the claim for the Ramsey-Maker-Rosie troika. It’s a $30,000 claiming sprint, and as mentioned in race 1, these mid-ling sprints have been well-represented by Fair Grounds invaders over the years. Worldly Dreamer would also fit under that premise, and note trainer Merrill Scherer long has been a claiming sprint specialist at Keeneland, though his barn has been colder in recent years here. His last 13 winners at Keeneland dating back to 2009 show all 13 in sprints, and 10 of those in claiming/maiden claiming races
Maiden turf milers battle in a capacity field in Race 5 that will tempt trifecta and superfecta players. It’s likely the day’s best chance at a big number in those pools given the field size. Sire Giant’s Causeway has been represented by Spring Meet MSW turf winners each of the past 2 years and his son Wing Foot debuts for Graham Motion. First-timers own just 2 of the 16 wins in these races during past Spring Meets, however. Gulfstream shippers reign with 10 scores in the 16 offerings – good news for Bill Mott trainees Zahadoom and Xaverian.
Race 6 presents a non-winners of 2 lifetime claiming route on the Polytrack. These races are offered 3-4 times a season in recent Spring Meets. The mixed bag results from the 7 total offerings heading into this meet don’t lend much to trends. The field size of 6 is important here to the race shape. In the Spring Meets when we’ve had 6 or fewer starters all-time on the Kee Poly in claiming routes about 70% of the winners were within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. That percentage is only about 50% when you look at all field sizes. So the smaller field puts more emphasis on tactical speed. Surprisingly Kenny McPeek’s barn has only 3 Spring Meet claiming route wins in the Poly era and Frazier’s Pegasus may be a bit overbet here on connections with Julien Leparoux also aboard. The speed here appears to be Wisenbossy and Artie R R.
Race 7 is for the older maiden special weight sprinters, aged 4 and up. We’ll see 3 or 4 of these at a typical Spring Meet for the veterans. Favorites are 11-for-25 in these races all-time on the Poly and only 4 of 25 winners were more than 6-1. Gulfstream shippers own 9 wins, no other circuit has produced more than 3. The only GP entrant here is Franklin, for trainer Mike Maker, and the connections could make him favorite. But Maker has not won here with an older MSW type in the past and his forte typically is longer than 6 furlongs. Mixed vibes.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Sunday’s Race 8 allowance feature is a first-level turf mile allowance. Don’t be afraid of horses coming off a layoff here. In the 8 races last Spring Meet on turf at this class level, half of the winners were making their first start of the year. Gulfstream shippers have won 30 times in 60 offerings in Spring Meet entry-level allowances on turf since 2007. So if you take a horse within a current form cycle, look to GP.
Trainer Roger Attfield has won a record 3 Spring Meet turf miles at this class level, 2 of them with horses coming off Woodbine layoffs from the previous fall. He’ll try to add another with Unspurned.
Posts 10-11-12 have won 3 of 20 turf miles in capacity fields since 2007 – all at 4/1 or less – so it will take a big effort for those wide-drawn. While I love the field size and depth of this race, it’s a tough one to whittle down. Pedigrees abound, classy connections and lots of promise – a typical Keeneland feature.
I’ll make a very tepid choice of the come-backing A Little Bit Sassy, and play her with Irish import Minorette and the Canadian shippers Unspurned and Coastal Dawn.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.