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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 Wednesday, October 7, 2015
What to Watch for Today: I’m not saying forget everything you saw opening weekend, but be very careful in over-stating what you saw. Fall Stars Weekend brings a high-level amount of stakes and allowance races, and the weather conditions were putrid to be kind much of the first 3 days of the meet. As we get into Week 2 of the season, expect things to settle and break quite differently in terms of the types of horses winning and how they are winning.
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: Unseasonably warm temps reaching 80 degrees are in the forecast with 0% chance of rain. Look for things to be fast, and likely even firm on the turf, for the first time this young season.
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!
Today’s 8-race card is heavy on 2-year-old racing with half the card for the juveniles. Race 1 opens the action with 2YO turf milers in the maiden special weight ranks. Keeneland Fall Meets began offering these juvenile turf maidens in 2011, and of the 20 run so far, only 5 winners were making surface changes. So give the edge to those coming off turf preps. Arlington shippers have done well with 5 wins, first-time starters have 4 and Saratoga preppers have 3. Sire Tapit was represented by a similar-race winner here last Fall (Flying Tapit) and counters with Tusk. Key-race angle folks have to be enamored with Entertainer, whose last start at Churchill was massively flattered when the winner (Brody’s Cause) came back to win the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and runner-up (Conquest Big E) impressed here in a Friday MSW victory. Red-hot trainer Mark Casse has been piling up wins and sharp 2YOs and tries this time with City Flyer.
Race 2 is a 6-furlong claiming sprint for non-winners of 2 lifetime. Churchill-prepped horses have won 5 of the 9 Fall Meet N2L claimers offered so far on the new dirt. Favorites are 6-for-9 in these races, so don’t venture too far off shore. Tiz Sexy Now did win here going 6-1/2 furlongs in the Fall Meet to break her maiden, but the time was about 1-1/2 lengths slower than average – understandable for a 2YO filly at the time, though. Cool Comfort goes for a Wesley Ward barn that won a pair of N2L claiming sprints at the 2014 Fall Meet. This is a very tough race with many angles to choose from. Pedigree-wise, Candy Rides have been stellar on the Kee dirt and Candy Cate and Maziette both rep that sire.
Also in the N2L claiming category is Race 3, a heat that extends to 1-1/16 miles. Derby Day Kitten and Macho Gabacho intrigue for a Mike Maker barn that twice last fall won N2L claimers in turf-to-dirt fashion via Kentucky Downs preps. I’mbetterthangood goes for a Kenny McPeek barn that does well at this class level/distance historically during Keeneland Fall Meets. On paper, Bluegrass Beat would appear a good fit, but trainer Larry Jones’ horses struggled mightily opening weekend and I’m going to be cautious until proven otherwise.
The pick five opens in Race 4, a turf mile allowance. Unbeaten Aljalela aims for her third straight win to open her career. Trainer Todd Pletcher shockingly hasn’t won a Keeneland turf allowance in the Fall Meet since 2010. Consider that Kenny McPeek (Share the Sugar) has 9 such wins in our database. Mike Maker (Asperites) won 3 such races last Fall Meet alone. And, the granddaddy of turf allowance trainers during Keeneland fall has been Graham Motion (Rachel Wall) with a whopping 16 such wins since Fall ’06, 14 of them coming off works at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. My only caution with Rachel Wall is that no Delaware Park shippers have won a Kee Fall turf allowance since 2010.
Multi-race bettors really want to lock down Race 5 if they can. That’s because in an 8-race card and this wagering format, this race is tied to the early pick 4, late pick 4, pick 5 and pick 6. Both Hey Cuz and Political Justice won similar starter allowance races offered over this dirt course in the Spring Meet. They’ll have to run big to beat Big Legacy, whose trainer Dale Bennett won a similar race here last Fall Meet via Arlington Park with 5-1 shot Reinvested.
Horses from Arlington Park won 3 of the 4 entry level allowance races for 2YOs last Fall Meet like we see in Race 6. One of those was the impressive Sarah Sis for Ingrid Mason, who returns with Carita. Also in this race, Banree returns to the scene of her April debut score in which she ran the meet’s 3rd-fastest of 7 juvenile dashes and went about 1-1/2 lengths faster than average. Trainer Wesley Ward won a 2YO N2L allowance during the ’13 Fall Meet on Polytrack with Here’s Johnny. This race is a beautiful melting pot that makes Keeneland unique on the American landscape: the 10 runners entered broke their maidens at 9 different tracks – Arlington (2), Charles Town, Delaware Park, Ellis Park, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Indiana Downs, Penn National and Pimlico.
Race 8 is a 1-1/6 miles dirt MSW for the 2YOs. Trainers Dale Romans (Perfect Saint) and Nick Zito (Parting Gift) won similar races here last fall with Jack Tripp and Frammento, respectively. Sire Tapit’s son Conquest Big E scored a similar race opening day and he’ll look for a repeat performance by Gray Sky for D. Wayne Lukas. Churchill and Saratoga preppers have done best in these 2YO MSWs long on the dirt and note 6 of 9 such winners did exit a prep at a mile or longer (2 sprinters stretched out, 1 first-time starter).
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
While Harmonize appears a formidable favorite in Race 7, the featured G3 $150,000 Jessamine Stakes, note that the chalk has won this race just twice in the last nine years. Potential Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf performers square off in a race that has seen 4 recent winners at 10-1 or more. Only 1 of those 9 Jessamine winners was within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile as it’s been a closer’s race (average winner 5-1/2 lengths back at that juncture).
Pedigree players will have some ties to this race with daughters of Kitten’s Joy (Moms Choice, Sapphire Kitten) and Broken Vow (Carleigh Belle). Those are the sires of the two most-recent Jessamine winners, Kitten Kaboodle in 2013 and Rainha Da Bateria in 2014.
The last 9 winners all had a turf prep last out, and 7 of those prepped at 1 mile or longer (all 9 prepped at 7 furlongs or longer). Also note that 5 of the 9 winners exited New York tune-ups (4 Saratoga, 1 Belmont).
I’ll lean to the New York raiders for power stables, Theory of Change (Chad Brown) and Harmonize (Bill Mott), choosing the former based on value and a potential fast pace set-up to flatter her late kick.
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.