From the Media Team at Keeneland:


Austin Trites, who will launch his training career in Thursday’s fifth race with Ruis Racing’s The Critical Way, was living in California and working in an entirely different profession when he decided to pursue a career in Thoroughbred racing.

Trites, 31, grew up on a farm in upstate New York, and was encouraged by his father to learn about horsemanship by participating in United States Pony Club and 4-H. Trites’ family moved to western Massachusetts when he was 16, and he graduated from Wheaton College near Boston.

“After college, I was out in California working for special effects (in) movies and TV,” Trites said. “(I was) just at the race track every weekend and realizing that that really was my true calling, so I applied to the (University of Arizona) Race Track Industry Program.”

Excelling during his first semester at Arizona, he was encouraged to pursue a master’s degree. But he wanted to become a trainer, “so I got in my car and drove cross-country to Saratoga.”

There, while working as a vet tech, Trites met trainer Gary Contessa. After a couple of years with Contessa’s operation, working his way up from hot walking to becoming a foreman, Trites began a two-year stint with trainer Christophe Clement. He spent the next two years as an assistant to trainer George Weaver and came to Keeneland.


“Keeneland I love, because I really started to make a name for myself as an assistant with some of the success I had here for George Weaver,” he said. “I’ve had great luck at Keeneland and I just find it to be the most phenomenal horse racing atmosphere.”


Trites was offered a position as private trainer for Mick and Wendy Ruis of Ruis Racing, who have top Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) contender Bolt d’Oro. He returned to California to learn about the Ruis Racing operation.

Trites has six horses in his care at Keeneland, including his first starter, The Critical Way. He plans to remain at Keeneland through June.


“There are a lot of chapters in the book already, but I think I just started the biggest and the most important one yet.”



Keeneland is presenting @BetKeeneland on Twitter during the Spring Meet to provide horseplayers with real-time handicapping tips and insights while benefiting the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance(TAA) through its Handicapper of the Day Series.

The @BetKeeneland handle is providing horseplayers with on-demand wagering content including live reports and updates lasting 60-90 seconds approximately 10 minutes prior to each race from Jeremy Plonk of the fan education website along with scratches, changes, clockers reports and other wagering-related information.

In addition, nationally recognized handicappers are sharing their daily picks and recommended wagers with a $200 bankroll they will play each race day to benefit the TAA, which accredits, inspects and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome Thoroughbreds.

Handicappers participating this week are:

  • Samantha Siegel (April 26), whose Jay Em Ess Stable campaigned such top horses as champion Declan’s Moon. During Keeneland’s 2017 Fall Meet, Siegel won $4,050.80 in the Handicapper of the Day series that benefited the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
  • Paul Matties Jr. (April 27), a professional gambler and horse owner from Ballston Spa, New York. He won the 2017 National Handicapping Championship and its $800,000 first prize while outdueling, among others, his brother Duke, who finished fourth.
  • Michael Beychok (April 28), who won the 2012 National Handicapping Championship and its record prize of $1 million, and soon after claimed the filly, Glorious Dancer, who won him the contest. The political consultant from Louisiana created for contest players.


Keeneland invites fans to come to the track to watch and wager on the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) while enjoying a variety of activities, from a casual picnic in the Paddock to accommodations in Keeneland’s dining and private rooms to the Derby Bash at the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center.


Click here for more information and to make reservations for tables in Keeneland’s dining rooms on May 4-5 and the Derby Bash. In addition, private dining options, including a limited number of Keeneland’s corporate suites for eight guests, are available for both days.


On Oaks and Derby Days, fans may picnic in the Paddock and Walking Ring and view the races on the large video board overlooking the Paddock or sit in the Grandstand and watch Churchill’s races on the infield tote board. TVs throughout the Grandstand also will show racing.


Admission to Keeneland is free on Oaks Day and $5 per person on Derby Day when children 12 and younger will be admitted free. Gates open at 9 a.m. ET, and parking is free on both days.

From 4-7 p.m. on Friday, Keeneland will host Party in the Paddock, featuring drink specials, live music with the Whiskey Bent Valley Boys and the simulcast of the Kentucky Oaks.


Post time for the Oaks is approximately 6:12 p.m.


On Derby Day, fans will celebrate the Derby across Keeneland grounds. Children’s activities, including pony rides ($5), crafts, face painting and games, will be held in the Lower Club from 2-6 p.m. The Paddock will host live music with Aly’ An from 1-6 p.m., and a hat contest will take place there at 3 p.m.


The Hill, Keeneland’s official tailgate lot, will be open Derby Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with food trucks from Mr. Gyro and Salsarita’s, and live music with The Ranahans. A big-screen TV will show the races, and fans will be able to wager.


Post time for the Derby is approximately 6:50 p.m.


The Keeneland Shop will be open on Oaks and Derby Days from 9 a.m. until after the last race.


Here are some related details:


Advance wagering on the Oaks full card will be available at Red Mile only and start Thursday, May 3, at 12:15 p.m.


Advance wagering on the Derby full card and Oaks-Derby Double will start Friday, May 4, when drive-thru windows at Keeneland will open at 8 a.m. Wagering will begin at Keeneland Grandstand Mutuels and Red Mile at 10 a.m.


Patrons also can watch and wager on simulcast racing on Oaks Day and Derby Day at Red Mile.


Red Mile’s Clubhouse will host the Derby Fest with reserved seating, a buffet and access to wagering for $50 per seat. The event opens at 11 a.m., and the buffet will be served from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Click here for more information.)



The Keeneland Library is paying tribute to Pierre Bellocq, the internationally celebrated artist better known as “Peb,” with the exhibit “Artistry of Peb: Fifty Years of Features” and a virtual exhibit on titled “The Artistry of Peb.” “Artistry of Peb” showcases 18 of Bellocq’s features from The Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form spanning the mid-1950s to the mid-2000s. This work solidified Peb’s renown as an artistic commentator of the Thoroughbred racing industry. The Keeneland Library is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Official Keeneland ToursKeeneland offers a selection of guided tours, including a Backstretch Tour and Behind-the-Scenes Tour.