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 Sunday, October 13, 2013
What to Watch for Today: The two most intriguing races on the card complete the action in Races 8 and 9 and they go to extremes with 2-year-old sprinters and veteran turf marathoners. It’s a unique late daily double that taps both ends of the handicapping spectrum.
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Weather: Isolated thunderstorms with a 30% chance of rain are forecasted for Sunday, so keep an eye on the conditions. 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: Here we go race-by-race to give you the inside stats. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp) that you can manipulate and search for yourself as well!
With five claiming wins already at the meet heading into the weekend, Presque Isle shippers are the first place you want to look in Race 1. And the options here look playable in Safari Artie and/or Pending Asset. The first 3 claiming sprints of the meet at 6-1/2 or 7 furlongs have been won by horses turning back from a route to a sprint, ala Safari Artie and Pending Asset. Certainly respect Upgrade off a sharp win here in the Spring Meet against a very good group of sprinters.
Horses pressing close to the pace have won all 3 maiden claiming sprints at the meet like we see in Race 2. The trio of winners sat 2 or 2-1/2 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile and pounced. There’s very little Keeneland experience in this field, but pedigree-wise, you have to like the genepool for this surface of All Talk (by super sprint sire Tale of the Cat) and Here Comes Cookie (by Smart Strike). Greeley’s World (by Mr Greeley) also should like the surface and her minor drop in class mitbe all that’s needed.
Race 3 offers just our second starter allowance of the meeting. PID shippers won 4 of 7 starter allowances offered during Fall 2012 and wasted no time getting back to the winner’s circle in Friday’s initial Fall ’13 offering with $15 winner Eddie Set Go. Keep an eye here on Sweet Sweet Beauty and Dubai Beauty with that PID form. If Bold Tap handles the surface she rates a big chance. As is the case with many tracks, starter allowance races are fairly formful at Keeneland with favorites winning 14 of 37 such offerings on Polytrack in past Fall Meets.
Typically I’m not into first-time starters when you have older maiden special weight runners during the Kee Fall Meet, but two of the first three this meet have bucked the trends and provided victories. Another could be looming in Race 4 when debut artist Mema is unveiled for Eddie Kenneally. She’s working strong as a daughter of all-time leading Kee Poly sire Unbridled’s Song and could come out running. Only 10 of 58 all-time MSWs for the older set during past Kee Fall Meets on Poly have gone to rookies, so the experience edge still exists. But when you look at just 6-furlong dashes at the age/class, the firsters do have 4 wins in 13 overall events. Crab Key’s trainer Rusty Arnold has won 5 races in past Fall Meets with these older maidens, one of his specialties. Core Destination’s effort here in the Spring was better than it looks and she can factor if ready, having only 1 start since June. Race 7 is a split division of this same race but drew a much more experienced cast of characters. Trainer Michelle Lovell’s Keeneland success all has come in sprint races her entrant Miss Brown Sugar could be the second Big Brown offspring to win here this week after a nice allowance winner Wednesday named Brown Eyes Blue.
We don’t see a lot of these open $32,000 claimers like we have in Race 5, but in the four past events we have in Fall Meets, all four were won by favorites and 3 of those came in from Arlington Park preps. A strong veteran class horse like Workin for Hops from AP appears well-placed here after clearly facing tougher much of his career. While the trend is limited, it certainly supports what you handicap on paper with this campaigner. Bell By The Ridge won at Keeneland for $50,000 claiming during the 2012 Spring Meet. The Giant’s Causeway-Smok’n Frolic pedigree of Grip Hands should relish his first Polytrack attempt while trainer Graham Motion’s runners have been knocking on the door of a breakout at the meeting.
All four 2-year-old maiden special weight sprints at this Fall Meet have been won by favorites who were forwardly placed (average ¾ of a length off the lead after the opening half-mile. Handicap the toteboard and pace in Race 6. Seal Six scratched from a 6-furlong MSW on Friday to get a little more distance and time between his blowout, bullet workout Oct 8. He’s a full-brother to G1 Travers and Santa Anita Derby champ Colonel John and we saw a half-brother of his win earlier this week over the Polytrack. This will be one to watch the paddock and tote action. On pedigrees, give consideration Bracigliano and Unstoppable Colby, both bred to handle the Polytrack.
The Race 9 finale is 1-1/2 miles on turf. Jonathan Sheppard (Why Not More) is tied for second-most wins over this course/distance at Keeneland since Fall 2006, trailing Graham Motion’s 6. Dynaformer, sire of Honey Lake, has sired 6 wins at 12F on turf at Keeneland during that time, far and away more than any other sire. It’s very curious to me on pedigrees, too, in this race that so many of the horses look bred to run well short of this trip, which could really emphasize the stamina edge for Honey Lake. About 70% of Fall Meet winners at this course/distance prepped at a turf distance of 9 furlongs or longer last time out, so lean to those with a long-winded prep. The average winner rallies from 7 lengths off the lead after the opening half-mile, making patience a virtue. But I won’t be surprised if a forwardly placed Honey Lake takes these the distance.
Feature Race Play, courtesy of the Horseplayernow.com BUZZ Report: Juvenile allowance sprinters match up in Sunday’s Race 8, and we get the return of one of the more exciting Spring Meet babies, Pablo Del Monte. Bred to be a superior runner on this surface, the son of Giant’s Causeway and track-record holder One Hot Wish did not disappoint when romping to a five-length win here in April. He was 1 of 5 Wesley Ward trainees to win the 7 baby races this spring in a clear-cut domination for the barn.
But Pablo Del Monte hasn’t been to the races since then, and the task now is 6-1/2 furlongs with a curious Aug. 4 til Sept. 26 gap in his workout tab. A discerning handicapper can find it fair to think that Pablo Del Monte could be a “short” horse in this spot and unable to finish the deal. If that’s the case, where to turn? Ward provides reinforcement with He’s Got Talent, sharp winner at Churchill on Derby Week, but also with time off since July and a sketchy workout tab in terms of spacing.
Right or wrong, I’ll try to beat both Wards. Cool Cowboy impressed at Arlington in a blazing time and figures to show speed inside and maybe get hooked by the Ward posse. Off the pace, I’m counting on Pure Luxury, Sandbar and Tashir to provide the cavalry charge. Pure Luxury exits a very good edition of the Kentucky Downs Juvenile in which runner-up Heres Johnny exited to absolutely crush a 2-year-old route allowance bunch here opening weekend.
I’ll key-box Pure Luxury with Sandbar and Tashir in exactas and roll the dice, along with a win-place bet on Pure Luxury.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.