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 Friday, October 17, 2014
What to Watch for Today: G1 Ashland winner Rosalind returns to Keeneland in a jam-packed field of 14 for the G3 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes. She’s part of a sweet 16 entries with 14 expected to start in the Friday feature, third leg of the $200,000-guaranteed late pick four pool.
The red-hot connections Thursday were Rosie Napravnik and trainer Graham Motion with three wins apiece. Keep an eye on anything they have late in the card today.
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: Sunny skies and a high of 73 degrees is forecasted, get it while it lasts! After a sloppy track Thursday and soft turf course, conditions should be improving.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: Here we go race-by-race inside the numbers and trends to help you. 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 2-year-old maiden claiming sprint with few starts on paper, but the hottest jockey-trainer combo on Planet Earth. Smokin Reward is aptly named if you’ve followed Corey Lanerie riding for Chris Richard, 3-for-3 at the meet and 7-for-9 over the last 60 days in tandem. Trainer Ingrid Mason (Leap Year Lady) has notched her first 2 Keeneland wins at this meet, both with 2-year-old sprinters.
The back half of the daily double in Race 2 also is a 2-year-old maiden claimer, but this one in the route ranks. The first trio of these races at the meet all were won by horses 2/1 or less on the tote and on the front end. Only 4 of 60 Fall Meet maiden claiming routes dating back to ’06 have been won by first-time starters, so give the edge to some experience. Trainer Michelle Lovell has 2 wins at the meet already and looks for another with Lime Martini. Note that Lovell’s 9-furlong win on Sunday was her first ever in a Keeneland route on any surface after 10 previous sprint wins.
Race 3 is a claimer for non-winners of 2 lifetime races. Two of the first 3 such offerings at this meet have been won by Churchill Downs-prepped runners, which is good news for Purple Sky, Sheikinator and Buck Magic. These also historically have been exceptional places for “run-backs,” those horses running back for the second time at the meet, over the years. Don’t be surprised to see improvement from Jazz N Tap.
Races 4 and 7 are 2-year-old maiden special weight sprints. The first six 2YO MSW sprints at the stand have been won by horses battling for the lead, no more than 1 length off the pace after the opening half-mile. Only 2 of the 13 MSWs for the 2YOs on dirt at any distance/suface this meet have been won by first-time starters. Only 2 of 9 MSWs for 2YOs on dirt were won by horses with a workout over the track prior. In Race 4, Trainers Mark Casse (Live Forever) and Larry Jones (Divine Dawn) each seek a second 2YO MSW win at the meet. In the Race 7 division, sire City Zip looks for a third dirt winner of the stand with Run Zippy Run amongst a cast of all first-time starters. Note that trainer Michael Stidham has scored with a rookie at Keeneland during Fall Meets in ’06, ’08, ’10 and ’11 and has Warriorscmoutoplay in Race 4 and Toutsie Rules in Race 7.
The dominating Lanerie-Richard jockey-trainer combo mentioned above is back at it in Race 5 with Grey by You, fresh off the claim for the meet’s leading owner, Maggi Moss. This $32,000 claiming sprint is at 7 furlongs, a distance that has been achievable for horses turning back from a route prep so far this meet. Four of the first 9 winners at 7 furlongs on dirt have cut-back from a route.
Race 6 is a second-level turf allowance sprint at 5-1/2 furlongs. Kentucky Downs preppers won 3 of the first 8 turf allowances at the meet, which bodes well for Tiger Bourbon and Cammack among this group. Trainer Chris Block (Cammack) won Fall Meet turf sprints at Kee in ’07 and ’09. This is our first turf sprint allowance of the meet, and typically there will be 3 during the course of a Fall Meet at Keeneland. In turf sprints with 9 or more starters, posts 1-2 have accounted for just 4 of 42 wins since Fall 2006. Post 9 has won 6 races alone, by comparison. Julien Leparoux’s 10 turf sprint wins at Keeneland since Fall ’06 easily are most of any active jockey (no one else more than 4) and he partners with Tiger Bourbon.
Seven-furlong allowance sprinters square off in Race 7. Six of the first 7 sprint allowance winners at the meet have been 3/1 or less on the tote, and 4 of those 7 were turning back from a route to a sprint. Ilikecandy and Soft Whisper will make the distance cut-back in this race. The ideal trip has been to sit about 1 length off the pace and pounce in these races. Flower Spell wheels back on short rest for trainer Ingrid Mason and jockey Florent Geroux, who already have teamed to win an allowance sprint at the meet with juvenile Sarah Sis.
Give the Churchill invaders an extra look in the Race 10 nightcap, a starter allowance sprint. CD preppers won 3 of the first 5 starter allowances at the meet. Trainer Charlie LoPresti tries to go turf route-to-dirt sprint with Hurricane Laila, a move that worked with Enchanting Lisa in an Oct. 8 allowance on the main track.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report:
Favorites have lost 7 straight editions of the G3 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes, so don’t be afraid to get creative in today’s Race 9 feature. The average winning odds in those 7 races has been a whopping 15/1. Price patrol, anyone?
No runner has stretched out from a sprint to win in the past 10 editions, but it is notable 4 did make surface changes (2 dirt, 2 synthetic).
Daring Dancer scratched due to course conditions from Saturday’s G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, but obviously remained sharp with a bullet workout Sunday on the Keeneland main track. Alan Garcia, who was to ride Daring Dancer in the G1, instead winds up on Goldy Espony for Chad Brown in the Valley View. She could be overlooked off a 5th-place finish at 11/1 in the Belmont Oaks Invitational after making a middle-move. In a race like the Valley View which has produced prices in recent history, that’s where I’m going to go.
Goldy Espony to spring the upset.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.