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 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 Thursday, October 29
What to Watch for Today: Breeders’ Cup Prelude Day offers the perfect springboard to championship Friday and Saturday for the first time at Keeneland. The nine-race Thursday card welcomes horseplayers worldwide and features the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes for sprinters.
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: A soggy week by any local standards leave course conditions in question for today. Skies are expected to clear today with temps maxing out at 60 degrees. Be sure to check for updates at Keeneland.com.
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!
Race 1 is a 1-1/16 miles mid-level claimer on the main track. Horses exiting Churchill preps have won 9 of the 11 races at the Fall Meet from $16k-$32k claiming. Longshot Dniper looks hard-pressed to keep that trend afloat. Winkatdawat comes out of the 11th-fastest of 35 races at the meet for the distance and one that closed about 3 lengths faster than par. Note trainer Ingrid Mason’s 8 wins on the Keeneland dirt all have come in sprints.
Maiden claimers go 7 furlongs in Race 2. In the 5 such races this meet, 4 were won by horses forwardly placed within 1-3/4 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. None of those 5 winners were over 5-1 and averaged 5-2. Note 4 of 5 also exited sprint preps. Muntij appears a good fit on the trends.
Race 3 is a starter allowance at 1-1/4 miles. It’s only the second race at the ‘classic’ distance on the new Keeneland dirt, so rest assured, we’ll have a new track record when the sun sets Saturday after the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Favorites have gone 5-for-10 in starter allowances this Fall at Keeneland with an average winner of 3-1 and 6 winners under 2-1. Mal Guapo was one of those short-priced winners Oct. 4 on opening Sunday and appears capable of doubling-down for trainer Brad Cox. Candy Gran is a son of whitehot Keeneland sire Candy Ride, who has had more dirt winners – and dirt route winners – than any other sire since the surface change in Lexington.
Smashing maiden winner Union Jackson returns in Race 4 as a likely heavy favorite in this entry-level allowance sprint. His 1:09.56 score over 6 furlongs on Oct. 10 easily clocked the fastest of the meet. In fact, offspring of Curlin ran the two-fastest 6Fs of the season (Curlino the other). Pow Wow Al exits the third-fastest race of the meet at 6-1/2 furlongs. The horse who beat him last out, Lord Commander, returns Saturday in the opener, the $100,000 Perryville Stakes, so keep an eye out here for a future barometer perhaps.
Two-year-old maiden special weight sprinters clash in Race 5. During the Fall Meet, 14 of 17 juvenile MSWs on the dirt were won by horses 9-2 or less in odds. Sitting 2-3 lengths off the lead after a half-mile was the garden spot in the 2YO MSWs at 6 and 6-1/2 furlongs. No one closed from more than 3-1/2 back, and no one went purely wire to wire. Kellyn Gorder (Street Thunder) broke 3 maidens the final week of the Fall Meet and 2 of those were sprinting. Sire Uncle Mo (Cheryl D) had a trio of 2YO winners at the meet, including Alcibiades heroine Gomo. Le Tache also makes a lot of sense here as a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, who has been superb with sprinters on the new Kee dirt.
Allowance sprinters duel over 7 furlongs in Race 6 with a big field of 11. Both sires Posse (All Day Alice) and Afleet Alex (Fleet Bertie) have had a pair of 7-furlong dirt winners at the Fall Meet. Note that 16 of 22 winners this Meet at the distance have been within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile – only 1 true deep closer has won.
Race 7 is scheduled for 1-1/8 miles on turf, but be sure to check updated conditions as weather and the protection of the grass for Friday and Saturday could cause a surface change. The best advice here is to wait and see what Mother Nature offers.
Older maiden special weight runners go 7 furlongs in the Race 9 finale. Favorites went 4-for-7 in the elder MSWs on dirt at the Fall Meet with an average winner 3-1. Wesley Ward has won similar heats here in the 2014 and 2015 Fall Meets and looks to add a third with favorite Come as You Are. Chief rivals include another Candy Ride you have to respect, Bow Tie Boss.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Friday’s Race 8 headliner is the $100,000 Lafayette at 7 furlongs. Coastline returns off a sharp win vs. a good field here opening Saturday of the meet, and now runs for trainer Michelle Lovell. He went .06 faster than the G2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes later that day featuring top distaff older sprinters.
If you like Tapiture in Saturday’s BC Dirt Mile, pay attention here. Den’s Legacy and Midnight Cello exit races in which they chased Tapiture in the Ack Ack and you’ll want to see them run well to validate that performance. Barometers like that can be a plus and minus when trying to stack up future bets.
Shaun Bridgmohan has ridden 7-furlong races exceptionally over the Keeneland dirt the past year and I’ll take him aboard Coastline to make it two in a row.
The only place where you can get mymselections 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.