Expert handicapper Jeremy Plonk of @Horseplayernow looks at a few of the Keeneland keys for the final week of racing during the Spring Meet
Five-Rider Race to the Title: Javier Castellano still leads the 2019 Spring Meet with 14 riding victories, and we’ll see if that number holds up as he rides in New York this week. Most likely the pursuers Florent Geroux (12), Joel Rosario (12), Luis Saez (11) and Tyler Gaffalione (11) will have the final say. Gaffalione may be the dark horse to rally given the numbers he has working Wednesday and Thursday. But this likely comes down to the Friday finale.
Ward the Closer? Wesley Ward’s horses are known for gate speed, but his chase of the trainer’s title could be a come-from-behinder. Chad Brown leads 9-7-6 over Brad Cox and Ward going into closing week. Brown has but one entry on each of the Wednesday and Thursday cards and Cox three total. Ward sends out horses in 5 races over those pair of cards, including his trademark 2-year-olds. Note Ward won a trio of baby dashes during closing week of Spring 2018.
Gulfstream’s Grip: Typically during Week 3 and 4 of a Spring Meet, we expect the Gulfstream preppers to step aside some for those from Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Tampa, Turfway and the like. But during Week 3 of this Spring Meet, the Gulfstream runners won 13 races, more than all those other venues combined (11). That’s propelled GP preppers into a 33-26 lead over FG at the meet – including a 15-6 margin on turf.
Nice to See You Again: In the previous 4 Spring Meets since returning to dirt (2015-’18), we’ve had a total of 18 run-back winners racing second time at a meet score during closing weeks. That equates to 1 in 6 races during closing week expected to be won by a horse who already has appeared at the meet.
Favorites Finally Normalizing?: After dirt favorites went ballistic with 17-for-29 and 17-for-34 marks the first two weeks of the Spring Meet, things normalized to 10-for-25 in Week 3. That’s 40% favorites on dirt for the week, exactly the total we saw in Spring Meets on dirt from 2015-’18. Overall on dirt, we’re at a balmy 50% favorites for the meet (44-for-88). Dirt favorites haven’t been under 50% for the meet since losing two of the first three races of the meet.