Opening Weekend at Keeneland Features 9 Stakes Races
Category : News
Wed 01/10/2014 - 11:15 EDT
Annually ranked as one of the best racing meets in the country by the Horse Players Association of North America (HANA), the Keeneland fall meet begins Friday, October 3 in Lexington, KY featuring nine graded stakes races in the opening weekend alone.
In preparing to host the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland officials made the decision to switch back to a conventional dirt surface, ripping up the Polytrack after the 2014 spring meeting. Keeneland had used Polytrack as its main track surface since 2006. Opening weekend, billed as “Fall Stars Weekend” by Keeneland’s marketing department, includes five grade 1 events including the Darley Alcibiades, the Shadwell Turf Mile, the Claiborne Breeders’ Cup Futurity, the First Lady and the Spinster. The opening weekend stakes are worth $3.6 million.
New dirt remains unknown variable
Handicappers will want to take careful note of how to play the new Keeneland surface. Prior to the eight-year Polytrack era at Keeneland, the conventional dirt was a notoriously speed favoring strip with the proverbial “golden rail” bias. With rain in the forecast opening day, races could be moved off the turf course in anticipation of Saturday’s much anticipated Shadwell Turf Mile.
Titans of the turf meet Oct. 4
The October 4 Shadwell Turf Mile features a dream matchup between two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Golden Cents who will be making his first start on turf. The start-studded field also features Grand Arch, Silver Max, Optimizer, and Guy’s Reward among other prominent turf runners.
The Grade 2 $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby features the two biggest names from the Triple Crown trail September 24 at Parx as a field of 12 gathers in one of the most intriguing betting races of the year.
The $1 million Cotillion Stakes September 24 at Parx features a true clash of the titans as the six-horse field is headlined by the undefeated, five-time grade 1 winner Songbird who figures to face the most stern challenge of her career.
In a completely wide open renewal of the Presque Isle Mile September 18 at Presque Isle Downs, 13 runners including the also-eligible will contest the eight furlong trip over synthetic footing.
Champion Songbird is set to make her much-anticipated return to the races in the $200,000 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Grade 2 event will be run at a mile and a sixteenth and has attracted a field of seven.