(Jockey Alex Achard / Coady Photography)
From the Keeneland Media Team:
ACHARD RELISHING NEW STATUS AS GRADE 1-WINNING JOCKEY
Alex Achard was all smiles and still fielding congratulations Wednesday morning four days after earning his first Grade 1 triumph aboard Bonne Chance Farm and Stud R D O’s In Love (BRZ) in the $750,000 Keeneland Turf Mile (G1). The race is a “Win and You’re In” for the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Presented by PDJF to be contested at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
The Breeders’ Cup will be something of a homecoming for Achard, who spent a winter in California as an exercise rider about 10 years ago before continuing his race riding career in his native France with side trips around Europe and to China.
With limited opportunities overseas, Achard opted to reboot his career in the U.S. in 2018. He chose Indiana Grand for its proximity to tracks in Kentucky and Ohio with chances to find mounts nearly every day. He rode 32 races without winning in his first season, but his work ethic began paying off ”
“When I moved here, I didn’t really know many people,” Achard said. “One day I was walking to the barns like I do pretty much every day. I guess a rider didn’t show up, and Paulo asked if I could breeze a horse and I said, ‘Sure.’ That’s how it (riding for Lobo) started.”
Lobo recognized Achard’s talent and willingness to travel and began hiring him for races. In his first try aboard In Love, Achard guided him to an allowance victory at Arlington Park. Next out, the team captured the listed TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs in September in a prep for the Keeneland Turf Mile.
Achard relished the energy of Keeneland’s opening weekend, and said he wasn’t nervous before the Keeneland Turf Mile.
“I was actually very confident before the race, but I didn’t tell anybody,” Achard said. “For some riders it can be a bit of pressure, but I don’t take it that way. I really enjoy it because it is really fun to see people. I just love it.”
Two days after the biggest win of his career, Achard was back at Indiana Grand, where he rode one winner from five mounts. He continues to receive the attention that began pouring in as soon as In Love crossed the finish line 1½ lengths in front.
“It was amazing because when the horse won at Kentucky Downs, that was huge,” he said. “We knew that was a big step to run against Grade 1 horses at Keeneland. I got a lot of calls from France and the United States to congratulate me, so that was cool.”
SERIOUSLY, FLIPPANT IN TOP FORM FOR ELIZABETH II CHALLENGE CUP PRESENTED BY DIXIANA
In three months, G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s homebred Flippant has gone from a maiden winner to a two-time stakes winner to a contender in this Saturday’s 38th running of the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana. The race is for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
“She is doing very well,” trainer Vicki Oliver said. “This is a race I have always wanted to win, and I hope she is the one.”
A daughter of Tapit out of the two-time Grade 2-winning mare Frivolous, Flippant began her career on dirt at Churchill Downs. She started her 3-year-old campaign on the dirt at Tampa Bay Downs.
“Being a Tapit, we thought dirt for her,” Oliver said. “It was almost by default that she wound up on the grass here in April, and she ran so good on it (a runner-up finish) that we left her there.”
Flippant notched her first victory July 4 at Ellis Park and followed that with a victory Aug. 7 in the Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Dueling Grounds Oaks at Ellis. In her most recent start, Flippant won the Woodford Reserve Virginia Oaks (L) at Colonial Downs on Aug. 31.
“Going to Virginia (with Flippant) gave me an extra week for the Queen Elizabeth,” said Oliver, who trained Flippant’s dam and grandam Sixty Rocketts.
Oliver said there was no one moment when the light went on for Flippant’s recent success.
“Never Forget (Frivolous’ first foal) is like that,” Oliver said. “Frivolous didn’t really get good until she was 4. The whole family is like that.”
Oliver has a half-brother to Flippant getting ready to debut named Levity. She plans to start the son of Candy Ride (ARG) on the dirt “at the end of the meet or early during the Churchill meet.”
MUCHO REMAINS ON TRACK FOR POSSIBLE BREEDERS’ CUP BID
The $2 million Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6 remains a possibility for Mucho, who finished third in Friday’s Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2).
“There is likely a chance we will go,” trainer John Ortiz said Wednesday morning. “I’ll talk it over with the owners in the coming days and have a decision by the first of next week. He has shown he can be competitive with the best horses.”
Claimed for $80,000 last November at Churchill Downs, Mucho has posted an 8-2-2-1 record in 2021 for earnings of $197,000 for WSS Racing of William Simon and 4 G Racing of Brent Gasaway.
Ortiz, who went out on his own in 2016, has had one starter at Del Mar: Mr. Dumas, who was unplaced in the 2019 Hollywood Derby (G1).
James Wigan’s Cloudy Dawn (IRE) got her first feel for the Keeneland turf course Wednesday morning by working 3 furlongs in :40.80 in preparation for Saturday’s 38th running of the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana. The course was rated “good.”
Winner of the Prix de Lieurey (G3) at Deauville in France in August in her most recent start for trainer William Haggas, Cloudy Dawn arrived at Keeneland on Sunday after spending two days in quarantine at Churchill Downs after arriving from France.
“She traveled well and has taken to everything nicely,” said Suraj Bissessur, traveling head lad for Haggas. “Prior to today, she has been on the main track and the (all-weather) training track.” …
Keeneland Racing Analyst Tom Leach talks to these trainers about their starters in today’s JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G2):
- Brad Cox on Turnerloose.
- Kenny McPeek on Bhoma.
- Brendan Walsh on Boxing Day.
FRIDAY MARKS KEENELAND’S 85TH BIRTHDAY
Eighty-five years ago today, Keeneland was preparing to open and return Thoroughbred racing to Lexington.
Thoroughbred racing had not been held in the city since the spring of 1933, when the Kentucky Association track near downtown ran what would be its final meet after more than 100 years of operation. In August 1935, a group of horsemen led by Hal Price Headley and Maj. Louie A. Beard purchased 147½ acres of Jack Keene’s Keeneland Stud, and began work to transform the property – which included a 1 1/16-mile track and nearly completed stone building – into a race track.
Keeneland’s founders had a unique vision for their track through their new organization called the Keeneland Association, which was created by horsemen, for horsemen and the community.
Original plans called for Keeneland to open in April 1936, but an unusually hard winter delayed work. Opening day was set for Thursday, Oct. 15, 1936.
The Blood-Horse, the venerable Thoroughbred industry magazine, reported on Keeneland’s opening day in its Oct. 24, 1936 issue:
“Keeneland, the Blue Grass country’s splendid gesture toward returning racing to its old traditions of sportsmanship, opened Thursday, October 15, with all the benedictions of nature. The weather was fair and warm, the track fast. Approximately 8,000 were in the crowd, which saw the first field, led by Joe Moran on his pony with the coach dog spotting, parade to the post. …”
Keeneland’s first race was a $1,000 event for 2-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs. Winning by 4 lengths was John Hay Whitney’s Royal Raiment, a daughter of *Royal Minstrel ridden by Johnny Gilbert and trained by J.W. Healy.
The star of the seven races on opening day was Brownell Combs’ Myrtlewood, who won the $2,000-added Keen Handicap for her first of three wins during the nine-day meet. Myrtlewood is the namesake of the new Keeneland stakes to be run Oct. 29.
Attendance on opening day was approximately 8,000, and handle reached $74,639.
“Most encouraging of all was the manner in which lovers of the Thoroughbred flocked to Keeneland from different parts of the country,” wrote The Blood-Horse in an editorial in the Oct. 31, 1936, issue. “The new track, a beautiful setting for the full enjoyment of a great sport, became at its very beginning the scene of a reunion. No more representative crowds were ever seen at a Lexington track, we feel quite safe in saying.”
In the column “A Stud Farm Diary” in the Nov. 7, 1936, issue, author “Nothing Venture” wrote in his entry for Oct. 22:
“Went racing at Keeneland with the editor of this journal in the afternoon, and what a spot it is! … Was surprised at the cosmopolitan crowd I saw at the track and it seemed as though everyone one ever knew was on hand and bent on offering Kentucky’s traditional hospitality. May the vision of those who are responsible for Keeneland never dim, for they have done their job splendidly.”
The inaugural meet covered nine days (Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 15-17, and Monday-Saturday, Oct. 19-24). Total attendance was 25,337, and total handle reached $534,497.
Keeneland’s opening was celebrated throughout Lexington and recognized as a pivotal moment that would forever shape the Thoroughbred industry. By continuing the founders’ vision, Keeneland today still pursues its mission with a passion.
Keeneland continually invests in the Thoroughbred industry, preserving the tradition of Thoroughbred racing while adapting with innovation to remain an internationally renowned racecourse and the Thoroughbred industry’s leading auction house. Keeneland leads efforts to ensure the integrity of the racing industry, improve the health and safety of equine and human athletes, support the Central Kentucky community and much, much more.
Read more about Keeneland’s development and learn what was going on in Lexington when the track opened in the Fall issue of Keeneland magazine. Click here for more information.
FALL MEET LEADERS
Through Oct. 10 (3 days of 17-day season)
|Brian Hernandez Jr.||18||5||1||3||$633,956|
FALL MEET SPECIAL EVENTS
Official Keeneland Tours. A variety of guided walking tours showcase Keeneland’s Thoroughbred racing and sales operations. Click here for more information.
Every race day
The new Keeneland Turf Pick 3 wager is offered on the final three turf races each race day. The minimum wager is $3 and will follow the same rules as the traditional Pick 3. The new wager has a 15 percent takeout, the same low takeout as Keeneland’s popular Pick 5 wager.
Keeneland Select Handicapping Challenge. Sport of Kings, the free horse racing contest website, has this new free online handicapping contest for casual fans and serious horseplayers. Participants make mythical selections on two Keeneland races for each day of the meet. Two seats to the 2022 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship will be awarded. To sign up, click here.
WINS-Day Challenge Sponsored by Malone’s. An inexpensive way for beginner handicappers to give contests a try, this contest has a $2,500-guaranteed pool. Enter for $10 at Wagering Central on the first floor Grandstand and place a mythical $2 win and place wager – no actual money required – on Keeneland Races 3-8.
Thursday, Oct. 14
14th Make-A-Wish Day. Local Thoroughbred farms and organizations team up with Keeneland to grant wishes for many deserving children. At Keeneland, the children and their families will be treated to a VIP experience, complete with presenting a trophy after each race, meeting jockeys and experiencing all the excitement of a day at the races. Patrons may drop a donation in the Wishing Well at Keeneland or visit oki.wish.org/keenelandteam to make a donation online.
Friday, Oct. 15
College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End. Full-time college students can enjoy a day at the races and the chance to win scholarships and prize packages provided by local businesses. A total of $40,000 in scholarships are available. Any student who pre-registers is eligible to win one of 10 $2,000 scholarships provided by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Students present at Keeneland that day can win one of two $10,000 scholarships provided by Lane’s End and can win prize packages from local businesses. Pre-register online atwww.Keeneland.com/csd. Admission is free with a college ID. Keeneland and Amplify will team up to provide behind the scenes experiences in the Paddock, Winner’s Circle and Outdoor Boxes for students at Keeneland.
Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge. The in-person and remote handicapping contest features Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana. Awarding berths in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the NHC Challenge, the live-money contest is held in cooperation with XpressBet, NYRA Bets, 4NJ Bets and TVG. Click here for more information.
Saturday, Oct. 16
$300,000 Guaranteed Saturday Pick 4.
NYRA-Keeneland Cross Country wager, featuring races from Belmont Park and Keeneland.
Every Friday and Saturday
The Hill. At this popular tailgating area, fans can watch and wager while enjoying the racing action from the Jumbotron and wagering tent, while food trucks and live music presented by The Burl create a festive atmosphere. No ticket or reservation is required for The Hill.
Sunrise Trackside. This free Saturday morning program is geared toward families and offers a unique view of Thoroughbreds during training hours. Children’s activities from 8-10 a.m. include a meet and greet with Keeneland mascot Buckles, along with face painting, games and more. Fans can purchase coffee and donuts while watching horses train. The Keeneland Track Kitchen at the east end of the stable area (with no track view) is open for breakfast that includes “grab and go” and seating options. A 30-minute Paddock demonstration by an equine-related operation begins at 10 a.m. Mini tours of Keeneland will be available at the Welcome Stand in the Paddock.
Sunday, Oct. 17
Keeneland Kids Club Family Day Presented by Kentucky Children’s Hospital. The Keeneland Kids Club is the Official Kids Club for Keeneland fans 12 and younger. Kids Club members and their families are invited to enjoy this special day at the races by receiving free general admission and access to reserved Grandstand seating. Children’s activities will take place in the North Terrace from noon to 4 p.m.
Fall $400 Challenge. Keeneland’s live bankroll handicapping tournament has a $400 buy-in with a live bankroll of $250 and $150 prize fund fee. Players will be able to wager any amount on any race at Keeneland with no minimum wagers or minimum number of races. The tournament is only available at Keeneland. Click here for more information.