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 Wednesday, October 21, 2015
What to Watch for Today: Three runners bid to become the first two-time winners of the 2015 Fall Meet. Cold Dish and Amazing Charisma get first shot in Race 6, and then Farz takes a crack in the Race 7 allowance feature. Week 4 of the Fall Meet always has been prime time for “run-backs” making their second starts of the meeting.
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 gorgeous kickoff to the week is forecasted with temps in the low to mid-70s and sunny skies. Expect conditions to be fast and firm.
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 for maiden claimers at 6 furlongs. Of the 17 MCLs at the meet at any distance, 9 were won by Churchill Downs preppers (Kentucky Downs next-best with 3). Designing Bellamy and Time for My Angel are the CD invaders here. Note trainer Ron Moquett (Madison Olivia) already had a 6-furlong MCL win at the meet with Julien Leparoux up and they team again.
Mid-level claimers sprint 6 furlongs in Race 2. We’ve had 11 races in Fall Meets on dirt between $16,000-$25,000 claiming and 10 of those winners were 7-2 or less. Don’t look too far off course here. Of the 4 such races at this distance, all the winners were within 2 lengths of the lead after the first half-mile. Trainer Ingrid Mason’s ice cold barn woke up on Saturday with two winners, including Sarah Sis in the G2 Raven Run and she looks to build on that with Riley Rocks. Divine Storm’s trainer Chris Richard has been dominant this meet at this particular class level, winning 3 of the 5 such sprints offered – 2 with Churchill preppers.
Maiden claiming routers go 1-1/16 miles in Race 3, and this has been a good spot historically for horses making their second start of the Fall Meet. The “run-backs” in this particular race are Overcome, Rippin Ranger, Bird Humor and Magic Five. All 7 races at this distance last week were won by horses within 2-1/2 lengths of the lead after the first half-mile (average winner was just 0.9 lengths back at that juncture). If you don’t like any of the run-backs, note the strong CD one-turn mile to Kee 1-1/16 miles angle that’s played out all meet and consider Alzanbaq.
Race 4 is for 2-year-old turfers and perhaps a place to find a price. We’ve had as many longshots at 13/1 or more (7) win these races as favorites (7) from the 23 offered in recent Fall Meets. Already this season, bombs at 24-1 and 31-1 have won 2YO turf MSWs. Trick City off the also-eligible list would intrigue as a son of Hat Track. That sire produced longshot maiden turf winner Cotton Town earlier in the meet for D. Wayne Lukas. Fu Manchu exits a couple of key races as his conquerors in his last 2 went on to win the Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs and finish third here in the G3 Bourbon earlier in the meet.
Two-year-old sprinters battle over 6 furlongs in maiden claiming company in Race 5. Sire Majestic Warrior already has popped a 23-1 juvenile longshot winner at the meet and has two daughters in this spot – Pretty Priceless and Thisoneismine. Five of the 6 races this meet for 6-furlong MCLs have been won by horses 3-1 or less, so the more fancied Pretty Priceless may be the turn. Pretty Princess rallied against the third-slowest opening half-mile of any of the 31 races this meet at 6 furlongs in her Oct. 4 runner-up try.
A small field of 6 allowance runners match up in Race 6 as Cold Dish and Amazing Charisma seek a second win at the stand. Both are trained by Kenny McPeek, the absolute master of the Keeneland Fall run-back. The latter comes out of the stronger maiden breaker. Pedigree buffs are going to love this race with Mucho Macho Man’s half-sister Southern Girl making her second start after a debut win at Delaware Park. Also, the impeccably bred Street Cry-Stellar Jayne filly Cosmic Girl returns off a debut score at Presque Isle Downs. None of trainer Larry Jones’ 13 wins here since 2009 (honestly I was surprised that total win number was so low) have come with a sprint-to-route maneuver like Southern Girl attempts.
The Race 8 finale wraps the action with a 6-furlong claiming sprint. Corey Lanerie has won 7 of the 31 races this meet at 6 furlongs, far and away more than any other jockey. He partners with Defer Heaven, who excels over this surface, and who ran a good third here opening day when the track was quite tiring. Both Abbaa and Bull Dozer make curious, if not suspicious, class drops into the teeth of that class riser, so the price may hold nicely for Defer Heaven.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Turf routers extend to 1-3/16 miles in the Race 7 allowance feature today. It’s worth noting that of the 27 turf races held so far this meet, only 2 winners came via Churchill Downs preps and those both were in juvenile grass races. Why so? Kentucky Downs concurrently ran an all-turf meet with in some cases four times the purse money at Churchill, leaving the CD races far weaker than they appear on paper. We’ve had 9 grass winners exit Saratoga preps and 7 via Kentucky Downs from those 27 aforementioned turf races as the meet.
One of those Saratoga turf raiders to win was Farz, who on the opening Sunday of the meet won over this distance in what I think was a very strong maiden race. Runner-up Ascend had some quality about him for Graham Motion. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin already has a pair of turf wins at the meet, and I like the chances for Farz to repeat if Shaun Bridgmohan can work out the trip from a wide draw. Late-running Vigilante figures prominently late for a Wayne Catalano barn that found its stride last week by registering victories on four consecutive days.
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.