(West Saratoga / Coady Photography)

From the Keeneland Media Team / Amy Owens:

WEST SARATOGA WORKS 6 FURLONGS TOWARD KENTUCKY DERBY START

Harry Veruchi’s West Saratoga continued his preparation for an expected start in the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4 by working 6 furlongs in 1:16.20 over a wet-fast track Friday morning. (Click here for a video of the work.)

With jockey Jesus Castanon aboard, West Saratoga produced eighth-of-a-mile fractions of :13.60, :26.40, :39.80, :51.20, 1:04.20, 1:16.20 and galloped out 7 furlongs in 1:30.20 while working on his own.

Trainer Larry Demeritte said West Saratoga would return to his base at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington today and stay there until vanning to Churchill Downs on Friday, April 26 with a 3-furlong breeze scheduled beneath the Twin Spires the next day.

Today’s work was the second for West Saratoga, a Keeneland sales graduate, since he finished second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park on March 23.

“I am happy with the work, and right now everything is in place going forward,” Demeritte said of West Saratoga, who had breezed 3 furlongs at The Thoroughbred Center in :36.40 on April 6. “That work was for speed and this one for stamina. You can’t do both at the same time. He will have a lot of long gallops (leading up to the Derby).”

Demeritte opted to bring West Saratoga to Keeneland for the longer work this morning.

“The Thoroughbred Center has a 7-furlong track and working 6 furlongs there would be almost like going two turns and the turns are tighter there,” Demeritte said. “With a classic horse going longer distances, they stay on their leads longer going into the turns.”

West Saratoga is scheduled to be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Demeritte, who says the realization of the Run for the Roses has not sunk in yet.

“He still has to get there. We are preparing to win and everybody feels the same,” Demeritte said. “Hey, I might be a first-time starter (in the Derby), but I’m not a rookie. I love being over there on Derby Day. I have been in a lot of Derbies – the Ohio Derby, Indiana Derby – but this is the ultimate Derby.”

Castanon has had one Kentucky Derby mount: Shackleford in 2011. Shackleford finished fourth in the Derby, and Castanon and Shackleford won the Preakness (G1) two weeks later.

“It’s about never giving up and to keep trying,” Castanon said of returning to the Derby scene 13 years after his initial run.

Castanon has ridden West Saratoga in his past two races, beginning with a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 10.

“After the first time Jesus got on him, he told me ‘this guy is real’,” Demeritte said. “He flew up from Tampa to work him (at Turfway) and then flew back to ride races that afternoon. That’s how professional he is.”

(War Like Goddess / Coady Photography)

WAR LIKE GODDESS GOES FOR FOURTH CONSECUTIVE BEWITCH VICTORY

George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess shoots for a unique spot in Keeneland history next Friday, closing day of the Spring Meet, when she headlines a field of nine fillies and mares entered today in the 62nd running of the $300,000 Bewitch (G3) Presented by Keeneland Sales.

First post next Friday is 12:30 p.m. with the Bewitch, to be run over 1½ miles on turf, going as the eighth race with a 4:07 p.m. post time.

Trained by Bill Mott, War Like Goddess has won the past three runnings of the Bewitch. She joins two other horses with three consecutive wins in Keeneland stakes: Royal Harmony (Fayette in 1969, 1970 and 1971) and Knight Counter (Ben Ali in 1972, 1973 and 1974). Neither Royal Harmony nor Knight Counter attempted a four-peat.

War Like Goddess, a two-time Grade 1 winner against males in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont at the Big A, will be making her 2024 debut and her first start since finishing seventh in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita last November. Junior Alvarado has the mount from post 6.

The field for the Bewitch Presented by Keeneland Sales is:

Post Horse Trainer Jockey Weight
1 Chop Chop Brad Cox Axel Concepcion 118 lbs.
2 Queens Command (IRE) Brian Lynch Luis Saez 118
3 Tower Bridge Cherie DeVaux Gerardo Corrales 118
4 Atomic Blonde (GER) Christophe Clement Joel Rosario 118
5 Lovely Princess Kenny McPeek Brian Hernandez Jr. 118
6 War Like Goddess Bill Mott Junior Alvarado 123
7 Commandandcontrol Jimmy Corrigan Abel Lezcano 118
8 Vergara Graham Motion Flavien Prat 120
9 Tic Tic Tic Boom Tim Girtin Tyler Conner 118

 

SPRING MEET LEADERS

 

Through April 18 (10 days of 16-day season)

Jockey Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Tyler Gaffalione 67 13 9 10 $2,036,442
Jose Ortiz 46 11 8 7 $1,130,267
Irad Ortiz Jr. 53 9 11 8 $1,495,897
Luis Saez 57 7 6 13 $1,011,255

Trainer Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Wesley Ward 24 7 4 2 $553,882
Brad Cox 14 5 2 3 $950,072

Chad Brown, Mike Maker, Kenny McPeek, Bill Mott
and Brendan Walsh have four wins each.

Owner Wins
Godolphin (Mohammed Al Maktoum, et al) 4
Blue Heaven Farm (Adam Corndorf and Bonnie Baskin) 2
Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley) 2
Juddmonte (Fahad bin Khalid) 2
Red, White and Blue Racing (Randy Gullat) 2
Rigney Racing (Richard Rigney) 2
Whisper Hill Farm (Mandy Pope) 2

 

THIRD WEEK SPECIAL EVENTS

Year-round

Official Keeneland Tours. Click here for availability and to purchase.

Through Aug. 16

Keeneland Library is recognizing this year’s historic running of the Toyota Blue Grass at its free exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes. The exhibit features photographs that capture race highlights curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers along with memorabilia from noted jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold.

Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Library is located on the Keeneland campus. Enter Keeneland at Gate 1 on Keeneland Blvd. and take the first right on Entertainment Ct. The Library is to the left of the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

Click here for the virtual companion to the exhibit.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday

The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgating area is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the Spring Meet, weather permitting. No ticket or reservation is required for The Hill, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center and accessible via Gate 1 (at Man o’ War Blvd.) or Gate 4 (off Van Meter Road on the east side of Keeneland).

Fans on The Hill can watch the racing action via a jumbo TV and place their bets in a wagering tent while they enjoy live music presented by The Burl, food trucks and handicapping assistance from BETologists. Complimentary shuttles to the track are offered.

For fans who want to elevate their experience, Keeneland again is partnering with RevelXP to offer tailgate packages for groups of any size. RevelXP will organize tailgates by furnishing a designated tent, catering, amenities and more. Visit Keeneland.com/tailgating for full details.

The Hill is open from 8 a.m. to 60 minutes after the last race. Amenities are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

TODAY

 

College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End. Keeneland invites college students to enjoy a day of racing, prizes, scholarship giveaways, behind-the-scenes racing experiences, reserved seating and more. By pre-registering, students will receive a free general admission ticket good for April 19 and the opportunity to win one of 10 $2,000 scholarships provided by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Keeneland. Students who attend the race day and have their tickets scanned day-ofalso will be eligible to win two additional $10,000 scholarships provided by Lane’s End Farm, as well as prize packages from local Kentucky businesses. Activities will take place at the North Terrace from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pre-register at www.Keeneland.com/csd.

 

Saturday, April 20

 

FINAL Sunrise Trackside of Spring Meet. This free Saturday morning program from 8-10 a.m. is geared toward families and offers a unique view of Thoroughbreds during training hours. Fans can enjoy coffee and donuts at the Starting Gate concession stand while watching horses train. Children’s activities on the first floor of the Grandstand will include a visit with Keeneland mascot Buckles, face painting and games. Mini tours will be available at the Welcome Stand near the Paddock.

Two activities will be held from 8:30-9 a.m.: The John Deere Tractor Break will take place during the renovation period on the main track and include a drawing for a kids tractor from John Deere/Meade Tractor, while fans can pet a horse in the Walking Ring.

Sunday, April 21

 

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 a special day at the races and will receive free general admission and access to reserved Grandstand seating when they present their membership cards at admission entrances. Children’s activities, which will take place in the North Terrace from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., include face painting and activities with local community partners such as Amplify Horse Racing, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, LexArts, Lexington Ballet and Salvation Army. Sign up for the Kids Club at Keeneland.com/kidsclub.

PDJF Telethon. The fourth annual fundraising event for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund will be based in the Limestone Café in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion. Call 1 (844) 884 7353 between noon and 6 p.m. to participate in the telethon or donate directly at https://pdjf.org/donate/.