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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.
Keeneland Keys for Wednesday, April 17, 2013
What to Watch for Today: Red-hot leading jockey Joel Rosario opens the new week quiet on the front half of Wednesday’s eight-race card, but appears very live in each of the final four races of the late pick four. Rosario’s win rate over the opening two weeks is an amazing 30 percent (14-for-46) and it’s unthinkable that he’s won more races than Julien Leparoux (8) and Javier Castellano (5) combined.
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live RaceChat 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 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms and temps just over the 80-degree mark are forecasted for Wednesday. 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: As is our start-of-the-raceweek custom, the Wednesday edition will take a look back at the trends of last week. The regular race-by-race handicapping angles return Thursday through Sunday. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp).
Week 2 of the meet was a full, 5-day affair and provided 48 races, 36 on the Polytrack and 12 on turf.
On the Polytrack, favorites were 11-for-36 on the week (31 percent) with an average winner of 6.5 to 1 odds. That average winning odds total is identical with the all-time Spring Meet Polytrack average. In other words, it was a statistically consistent week of action on the main track. We averaged a strong 9.7 horses per race on the Polytrack for the week, and for the meeting favorites are now a solid 19 of 57 (33 percent) and running about 4 percent above the cumulative Spring Meet favorites’ performances on Polytrack.
Gulfstream shippers stepped up their performance on the main track with 13 Polytrack winners on the week (winning more than one-in-three races offered), easily outpacing the 5 winners from Fair Grounds and 4 from Turfway. On the season, it now stands GP 19 Poly wins, FG with 9 and TP with 6. The only sire to post two wins on the Polytrack last week was Catienus.
Dirt-prepped horses won 18 of the 36 Polytrack races last week, followed by 8 on the turf and synthetics apiece, and 2 first-time starters. Meanwhile, 12 of 23 Polytrack sprints on the week were won by horse turning back from a mile or longer prep. Speed was good in sprints as only 3 truly deep closers rallied to win around one turn. In routes, however, the week’s average winner rallied from nearly 6 lengths behind after the opening half-mile in 13 Polytrack races. But while some will say that impacted Java’s War winning the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass on Saturday, do note that the day’s other three route races on Polytrack consisted of two front-running winners (both with decidedly faster opening half-miles) and a pressing winner from 3 lengths off the pace.
The public has had this turf course absolutely dialed in this meet. Favorites went 6-for-12 on the week and now are 10-for-20 on the green at the meeting overall. The average turf winner in the dozen contests last week was just 7-2 odds. Gulfstream raiders rang the bell 5 times on turf and now have won 9 of 20 grass races at the meet. Fair Grounds shippers still have but 1 turf win on the stand through 2 weeks. For the second straight week, Graham Motion posted 2 wins on the Keeneland turf, while Shug McGaughey also won a pair of turf tilts this past week. The course played much less to speed in Week 2 than Week 1, likely due to some rains.
Trainer Kenny McPeek had a big week with 4 wins, most of any barn, including the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass with Java’s War. All 4 wins came in routes, none in the claiming ranks. Joel Rosario had a monster week with 9 winners to easily best all jockeys. Of those 9 Rosario wins, 3 came with trainer Mike Maker and 2 with Wesley Ward.
Feature Race Play: Wednesday’s card offers back-to-back allowance events in Races 6 and 7 and we’ll utilize Race 7 as the feature. It’s our second non-winners of 2 lifetime races allowance sprint of the meet, the first won by Sayaad moving from route to sprint and turf to Polytrack in from Gulfstream. Miss Lucky Sevens will try to repeat that situation as one of the key players Wednesday.
Historically dirt-prepped sprinters are the more statistically fashionable play over the course of Spring Meet N2L allowance sprints. Miffed, Intererest Freee, Gimemethreesepsmr and Super Divine would all have license to repeat recent solid efforts.
Only 1 deep closer has won a 6-furlong race this meeting of the first 16 offered and the average winner has been within 1 length of the lead after the opening half-mile. There’s not a tremendous amount of early foot in this race, especially drawn inside, so I look for the route speed, fast recent workout and freshness of Miss Lucky Sevens to be dangerous if she can break in the first flight.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.