Jeremy Plonk is the owner of Horse Player NOW, the racing industry's leading fan education and player development website and creator of the Night School program. He has been a Keeneland handicapping consultant since 2008 and was lead statistician/researcher for more than 50 Triple Crown telecasts on NBC, ABC and ESPN for 18 years.
Jeremy Plonk’s Keeneland Keys for Wednesday, October 17
What to Watch for Today: Week 3 begins with an 8-race card, and that means today’s 4th and 5th will overlap in both the early and late pick five sequences. Trainer Mike Maker has entrants in 5 of the races today and looks poised for a potentially big day. Horses from Indiana Grand picked up steam about this time the past 2 Fall Meets.
Updated analysis: Follow @BetKeeneland on Twitter to get my live reports before each race of the meet, including how horses look pre-race, overlays/underlays, track tendencies and more.
Today’s Keeneland NOW live podcast: Join Caton Bredar and me from noon-12:30 pm ET as we preview the entire day’s action in a 30-minute daily preview at Keeneland.com (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage). Miss the live premiere? Get the archive immediate thereafter with a link from @BetKeeneland on Twitter or at the live racing page at Keeneland.com.
Weather: After two solid days of rain Sunday and Monday, drier skies are projected mid-week. Keep an eye on the course conditions and any potential changes, but it is expected to be a good day for fans with sunny skies and temps around 60 degrees.
My Selections: You can get my top 3 picks in each race on the track simulcast feed before each race as well on the Keeneland.com handicappers’ consensus page (https://www.keeneland.com/racing/wagering/handicappers-consensus). Also look for final, up to the minute adjustments by following @BetKeeneland as I live Tweet throughout the card.
Keeneland Handicapping 101: 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!
Basement-level maiden claiming $15,000 sprinters open the week at 6 furlongs. All 4 MCL races at 6F this meet have been won on the front end and all 8 MCLs at any distance have been won by horses within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Speed is key. 4 of 8 MCL races have been won by horses 16-1 or more, and 4 by horses 5-2 or less (3 favorites), so it’s been feast or famine. Trainer Kellyn Gorder (Pinotage) has won Kee Fall MCL sprint races in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Obviously Concord Coupe makes a ton of sense on the big class drop for Maker-Ramsey-Ortiz, and note Indiana Grand shippers really perked up during Week 3 of the meet the past 2 Falls.
The early pick four begins with lower-end $16,000 claimers at 6-1/2 furlongs. Churchill Downs preppers have won 3 of the 4 claimers this meet at $16k or less, and 8 of the 17 claiming races overall (no other circuit more than 1!). I’m a big backer of longshot Kee sire Archarcharch, who has Arch Arch Baby and What What What in this race, the latter in from Churchill. This meet has been dominated by horses who have run at the sprint distance or shorter, so give an edge to those not cutting back – What What What and Radiantrhythm would be the fits from Churchill not shortening trip and exit the same race. If one fits, both likely do. And, they ran 1-2 here in the Spring Meet in a $10k claimer that ranked 4th-fastest of 18 races at the distance for the stand.
Turf mile 2YO maiden special weights square off with a capacity field. These Fall 2YO turf MSWs have had more winners 12-1 or more (15) than favorites (14) from the 44 offered. The 3 this season so far have seen 54-1, 15-1 and 9-5 (favorite) winners. Experienced runners have a 37-7 edge over first-time starters, and have won just 1 of the last 13 offered. Of the 10 offered in 2017-’18, 4 have gone to Kentucky Downs preppers and 3 of those stretching out of KD sprints like Love Point, No Picture Charlie, Cowboys Dream and Fake Solution attempt. Ian Wilkes (Love Point, Game Day Decision) won similar races here in 2015 and 2016 (twice). Love Point sire Point of Entry has had 3 winners at the meet already. Mike Maker (Fake Solution) won a similar race here last Fall at 5-1 with another KD sprint-to-route sort. Trainer Vickie Oliver owns 14-1 and 34-1 upset wins in this situation, but those were in 2012-’13, and no doubt Lake Nakuru will be vying for favoritism in this spot.
Basement-level $7,500 claimers route 1-1/16 miles to open the late pick five. As mentioned earlier, Churchill Downs preppers have won 3 of the 4 claimers this meet at $16k or less, and 8 of the 17 claiming races overall (no other circuit more than 1!). The Churchill 1-turn milers historically stretch out dynamite here at 1-1/16 miles, so give extra looks to Quality Street and Commercial Appeal. If Native Wonder draws in from the AE list, look out. We saw 4 different Indiana Grand turf-to-dirt movers win here during Week 3 of the 2017 Fall Meet. She’s the value choice if she goes, but the draw would be a reason to insist on an overlay price. Posts 1-2 are a remarkable 7 for 14 in Fall Meet basement-level claimers at 1-1/16 miles, so Katie the Cutie and Quality Street are in power posts if there are no scratches.
The late pick four features upper-level $40,000 claimers over 1-1/16 miles. Again, the Churchill claimers have been strong at the meet and 1-turn milers stretching out here are in focus: Capital Letters, Shareholder Value, Rich Daddy, Vaporman and Langdarma give us a lot to look at. Pedigree-wise, Langdarma should love Keeneland, sired by Candy Ride, one of the top dirt sires locally. Don’t look too far outside the box as we’ve had 22 Fall Meet dirt claimers at the $40-$50k level and 21 winners were 8-1 or less (17 at 5-1 or less). Churchill preppers are 9 of 22 at this level, furthering the circuit edge. Trainer Mike Maker (Capital Letters) already has a $40k claiming win at the meet (paid $11). Trainer Brad Cox (Jerrid) won with 3 of his final 8 starters of last week, heating up. If you’re going to upend the Churchill runners, inside speed All About Ashley makes sense for Tom Amoss and we’ve noted the Indiana Grand influence expected Week 3.
Turf sprinters clash in a second-level allowance in the co-feature. Snapper Sinclair makes his Keeneland debut, while sire City Zip has produced local turf sprint ALW winners in 2013, 2016 and 2017. But keep in mind that of 109 turf sprints at Kee since Fall 2006, not a single one has been won by a horse turning back from a dirt route and only 6 have won exiting a prep at a mile or longer on any surface. The Steve Asmussen barn won last week’s G3 Franklin County Stakes with Chantelline, its first turf sprint win at Kee in at least a decade. Sharm El Sheikh shortens trip, but note sire Lonhro was responsible for 2017 G2 Shakertown winner Holding Gold at this assignment. Trainer Mike Maker has Linburgh’s Kitten and Belgian, and it’s shocking to see he’s had but 1 turf sprint win here since Fall 2006, and that was in Spring 2013. Certainly Linburgh’s Kitten appears a major player on paper. Think short preps as 44 of 54 Fall Meet turf sprints since Fall 2006 saw its winners exit preps at 6 furlongs or shorter. That would eliminate half this field, leaving Tommytom, Totally Boss and Savage Battle among the most interesting to me.
Juvenile filly sprinters meet in a non-winners of 2 allowance at 6 furlongs. This field of 11 includes horses coming from 10 different last-out locales (only Belterra doubling up). Trainer Ian Wilkes already has a pair of N2L ALW wins at the meet, including 1 with a 2YO, and saddles Marvelous Martina via the aforementioned Indian Grand circuit. Midnight Karma changes barns to Steve Asmussen after a 12-length win at Delaware Park. The Delaware 2YOs this year have produced 3 major graded stakes winners on the NYRA circuit, so that may be a good one. Abaco Dream is by Bodemeister, who has had 2YO dirt sprint winners in Fall 2016 and 2017. Trainer Larry Jones already has a 2YO win at 6F this meet with an offspring of Istan and tries again with Street Band.
The Wednesday action draws to a close with a starter allowance at 1-1/8 miles on turf. Sire Midnight Lute had a heck of a week last week with 3 winners, including 1 on turf, and looks to continue that hot run with likely favorite Blue Lute off a big maiden win since claimed by Mike Maker. We’ve only had 6 starter allowances on turf, and no big prices over 6-1. Maker owns 1 of those wins, as does Wayne Catalano (Yourdecisonnotmine). Hey Big Guy goes for a Kevin Rice barn that popped a strong winner here Sunday via Presque Isle and sire Point of Entry has had 3 wins at the current meet following Analyze It’s win in April’s G3 Transylvania on this turf.