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 Wednesday, October 9, 2013
What to Watch for Today: Seven juveniles exit the maiden ranks among a field of 10 set to tackle today’s G3 $150,000 Jessamine Stakes for 2-year-old turf fillies. It’s a wonderful, weekday graded-stakes treat, served up Keeneland style. And the undercard boasts last year’s G2 Pocohontas and G2 Golden Rod runner-up Gal About Town in her long-awaited return after nearly nine months away.
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Weather: After a rainy weekend, sunny skies and 74-degree temps are in the Wednesday forecast. 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 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!
The week begins with maiden claimers routing 1-1/16 miles on the Polytrack in Race 1. Horses with a route prep have a nearly 3-to-1 edge (30 of 46 all-time) in Fall Meets at this class and distance, so lean toward those with a mile or longer last race. Also note 29 of 46 winners had at least 1 prior start on a synthetic surface while only 5 of 46 winners had raced exclusively on dirt in their careers. The best option of those exiting a route prep and with some synthetic experience narrows to Lioness Lahr. Trainer Phil Sims scored in a similar event during the ’09 Fall Meet and sends out Makin No Love. The X-factor horse is More Than Krazy, whose form at Louisiana Downs has been decent compared to these and drops from a maiden special weight. We only seen 8 total LaD shippers win on the Kee Polytrack in Fall Meets since 2006, and 6 of those were trained by Al Stall or Michelle Lovell.
Race 2 is a 6-furlong allowance sprint with just a field of 6. The field size is vital here in that we’ve seen 38 past fields of 6 or fewer runners dashing 6 furlongs in the Polytrack era, and early speed has dominated. The average winner is less than a quarter-length off the lead after the opening half-mile and no horses has closed more than 4 lengths to win from that point home, with 32 of 38 winners within 2 lengths of the lead at that stage. Which horse makes the front or contests the pacemaker likely wins. Saturdayatbernies figures to be lone speed even exiting a turf mile. The only horse ever to race on a synthetic track is Good Tickled, who has run 2 good races here in his career and trainer Darrin Miller absolutely had his star sprinter Havelock on edge for a big run here over the weekend winning the Woodford Stakes. Pedigree-wise, Shadow Rock and Squadron A both should love the Polytrack footing. But this race should come down to pace on the win end.
We stay in allowance company in Race 3, this time for 2-year-old turfers going a mile. La Mejor Fiesta scratched from a similar event carded Sunday that was washed off to the Polytrack and subsequently dominated by his razor-sharp stablemate Here’s Johnny. We only get a few of these races each Fall Meet, and 8 of the last 9 since Fall 2006 have been won by horses the public nailed to 5/2 or less odds. Expect a formful race. Chicago invaders won both offerings during the ’12 Fall Meet, good news for Be Nice Or Leave, and her jockey Rosie Napravnik got off to a great start with 3 winners opening weekend. All 9 winners exited turf preps, 6 of those at a mile or longer. This race would appear to run through La Mejor Fiesta and Be Nice Or Leave. Trainer Tom Proctor won both of the 2YO turf allowances offered at the 2010 Keeneland Fall Meet.
Race 4 is similar to the day’s opener, a maiden claiming route, where once again the lean is toward route-prepped horses who have had some past experience on synthetic surfaces. Six of these runners have never competed on a synthetic track. Rakete, Hezro and Cat’s Destiny fit the profile and make plenty of sense with the former two trained by Mike Maker, the Spring Meet’s record-setting conditioner. Delaware Park shippers have won MCL routes during Keeneland Fall Meets in 2009, 2010 and 2012, so consider All Inclusive despite a difficult post position draw.
Trainer J. Michael Rogers looks to strike again with a claiming sprinter in Race 5. He’s won a Keeneland Fall Meet sprint around this level in each of the last 3 meets with Presque Isle shippers and on opening weekend connected with 10/1 shot Strong Resolve. Rogers sends out the rapid rail-drawn Too Wild For Words with a 4: 1-2-0 career mark over this course. Four of 5 sprints at 7 furlongs during opening weekend were won by horses within 2 lengths of the lead with 3 furlongs still to run, so speed may not be a bad thing even in a bulky, 12-horse field. Fellow PID regular Joe Cheeks also has a sharp Kee Fall mark and his Fleet Beat will be the late-running counterpart to Rogers’ charge. His 6 winners on the Polytrack at Kee have averaged nearly 14/1 odds. Races at this sprint level historically have been good spots for PID and Arlington preppers, but this race is littered with them and doesn’t help narrow the field much. But given that AP runners only won 1 race all of opening weekend and were down considerably here during the 2012 Fall Meet, I’d lean to PID players until proven otherwise.
Race 6 is a 2-year-old turf mile for the maiden special weight set, just one step down the class rung from what we get in today’s third race. Keeneland hasn’t run many 2YO turf races in recent years, just 3 in 2011 and 5 last Fall. These races have played WAY more toward early speed than traditional grass races here. The average winner in the 8 baby turf races has been a mere half-length off the lead after the opening half-mile. Not a single winner closed more than 2-1/2 lengths after the first half-mile, and only 1 of the 8 winners was more than 1-1/2 lengths back at that juncture. Only 1 first-time starter has won, while 4 of the winners exited preps at Arlington. Kwacha appears to have some early speed and exits an AP turf prep, so should be well-meant for turf aces Proctor and Napravnik. Note that Mygalsal exits a second-place run at Kentucky Downs behind Poker Player, who returned here to upset Sunday’s G3 Bourbon Stakes – High Ransom ran decently in that same KD event as well. Also, Cov exits a good try behind Medal Count, who was a troubled fifth in the G3 Bourbon, beaten just over 2 lengths despite much traffic. Cov’s sire, Artie Schiller, swept both 2-year-old G1 stakes this past weekend with his offspring My Conquistadory (Alcibiades) and We Miss Artie (Breeders Futurity). This same race sports another Artie Schiller baby, Tropic of Artie, under hot-riding John Velazquez.
Shockingly we haven’t seen a N2X allowance on the Polytrack during a Fall Meet since 2007, but, lo and behold, one returns in Race 7. The come-backing Gal About Town was second in a trio of major stakes since her allowance win here last October, but has not been seen since January. Trainer Charlie Lopresti has not had the Midas Touch early in the meet, even losing with Horse of the Year Wise Dan, among an 0-for-6 start to the season. If you’re looking to beat the favorite, consider that she ran the slowest 6-furlong allowance of the meet last Fall by more than 4 lengths to the next-slowest. Two contenders in this race are daughters of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, Big Brown Brookski and Brown Eyes Blue. As a sire, Big Brown got his first Keeneland winner during the 2013 Spring Meet with Miss Lucky Sevens in an allowance sprint. Ambusher exits back-to-back wins at Canterbury Downs for Kentucky-based Ian Wilkes. We haven’t had a Canterbury shipper win at Keeneland since Fall 2009, the only such Fall Meet main track winner in the Poly era from that circuit. This is an awfully tough race unless you concede to Gal About Town. Tread cautiously.
Race 9, a $10,000 claimer going 1-1/8 miles on the Polytrack, figures to be a pretty straight-forward exercise based on history. Including a win by Fizzano on Sunday, favorites have won 10 of 20 Fall Meet races at 1-1/8 miles in the Polytrack era for claiming prices of $10k or less. The average winner has been almost 5 lengths off the pace after the opening half-mile. Cool C Note goes for the aforementioned J. Michael Rogers barn as the morning line favorite, while Smarten Destiny, a two-time winner over this surface, also will vie for favoritism. Both of those possess a bit more early speed than traditionally holds up over this class/distance, so consider deeper closers like Niederzel, Arch of Titus and My Luca with the logical players.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report: Wednesday’s main event is the Grade 3 $150,000 Jessamine for 2-year-old fillies eyeing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. A capacity field of 12 with 2 also-eligibles has entered.
Each of the last 7 Jessamine winners exited a turf prep at 7 furlongs or longer, as does the bulk of this field. Horses prepped in New York (Saratoga or Belmont) had won 3 straight runnings of the Jessamine until Kentucky Downs-prepped Moonwalk pulled a 36/1 stunner here a year ago. The NYRA set here includes Courtesan, Kitten Kaboodle, Zinzay and Candy Kitty. The latter will try to give the Todd Pletcher-John Velazquez tandem a second juvenile stakes win of the young meeting after teaming with G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner We Miss Artie. Candy Kitty’s sire, Lemon Drop Kid, also produced the 2011 winner of this race, Somali Lemonade.
Pedigree-wise, expect Zinzay (Smart Strike) and Runway Giant (Giant’s Causeway) to like this turf course in their first trips over it. Runway Giant and rival Richies party Girl exit a ladies’ exacta sweep over the boys in a Churchill turf mile allowance last month.
Closers have done well in the Jessamine, with the average winner on turf since 2006 in this race about 4-1/2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile and no winner closer than 2 lengths behind at that juncture.
Morning line favorite Zinzay is bred to the nines and ran a very hard race to win her debut. It took 26 days to return to the workout tab after that, and it’s fair to wonder if she has a building effort in that or a regression (bounce) coming?
I’m torn a million directions in this race with a soft opinion, but the Pletcher-Brown turf tandem from New York commands respect, so I’m leaning to the past rivals Candy Kitty and Kitten Kaboodle. It’s not a very creative pick, or confident one.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.