LEXINGTON, KY — On Wednesday morning, splashed with a dose of bright sun and a jigger of brisk fall air, the historic Keeneland Racecourse was abuzz with activity.  Horses galloped up and down the main track, a few breezing along the rail.  Outriders sat on their horses, policing the track traffic. The Racing Office was alive with action, as officials took entries. A work crew was moving tack, feed buckets and stall mats into the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who will temporarily headquarter out of his normal spot in the barn area.

Track maintenance crews were dusting off each and every chair in the grandstand. Another group of dust busters were moving green benches into position in perfect formation on the asphalt apron. Food and beverage experts were testing ice machines, and cola dispensers. Beer was being trucked in by the keg loads. Clockers held their normal position in the press box, watching every horse on the track and taking copious notes.

On Wednesday, Keeneland was alive with the sound and sights of preparation. On Friday, just two days from today, the sights and sounds will be live. Lights. Cameras. Action. Once again, Thoroughbred racing — as it was meant to be — will be back for the beginning of the 17-day Fall Meet. Racing will be held on Wednesdays through Sundays, and will conclude on Saturday, Oct. 28. Post time for the first race each day will be promptly at 1:05 p.m. ET.

(Crews move tack and equipment into the barn of trainer Nick Zito at Keeneland)

“It’s almost ready,” said Vince Gabbert, the track’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, as he stopped for a brief moment to share pleasantries in typical Keeneland fashion and the same professionalism demonstrated by former track officials and administrators James E. “Ted” Bassett and William Greely. “We’re getting there. It ought to be fun.”

(Keeneland Executive Vince Gabbert)

Always has been.  And, always will be.

If Del Mar — the beautiful, scenic, historic racetrack along the West Coast — is truly where the “Surf Meets the Turf,” then Keeneland is certainly the location where racing’s best congregates for a brief respite each Spring and Fall to showcase their talents in one of the most pristine venues to ever sport a horse race.  It is truly where “The Fun Meets The Sun.”

Starting this Friday and ending on Sunday, in just three days, Keeneland will feature 9 Graded Stakes Races — with 5 Grade 1 events, 3 Grade 2 stakes, and 1 Grade 3 feature. No other racetrack in the world goes from zero to 100 MPH any faster.

On Opening Day, Keeneland will play host to the G1, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes, at 11/16-miles for 2YO fillies on the dirt, and the G2, $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes, at 6-furlongs for 3YOs and up on the dirt.

On Saturday, Keeneland revs up the engine.  The track will feature the following:

  1. The G1, $1 million Shadwell Mile, a mile stakes over the turf course for 3YOs and up.
  2. The G1, $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, a 11/16-mile stakes event for 2YOs on the dirt.
  3. The G1, $400,000 First Lady, a mile event on the turf for fillies and mares 3YO and up.
  4. The G2, $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America, a 6-furlong sprint for 3YOs and up on the dirt.
  5. The G2, $200,000 Woodford, Presented by Keeneland Select, a 51/2-furlong sprint on the turf for 3YOs and up.

On Sunday, Keeneland will also two more Graded Stakes, highlighted by the G1, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes, a 11/8-mile event on the dirt for fillies and mares 3YO & up. The other stakes will be the G3, $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon, a 11/16-mile turf event for 2YOs.

(Outriders patrol the Keeneland track)

If that isn’t enough to digest, all in the first three days, the horses that are expected to make a red carpet appearance include the likes of Graded Stakes winners Limousine Liberal and Whitmore in the Phoenix; highly touted juvenile fillies Kelly’s Humor and Heavenly Love in the Alcibiades; former champ Mongolian Saturday and Hogy in the Woodford Stakes; the brilliantly fast Finley’sluckcharm and Bendable in the Thoroughbred Club of America; the ultra-talented Roca Rojo, Dickinson and British-bred Delectation in the First Lady; the likes of Free Drop Billy, Ten City and Enticed in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity; and the stylish lineup of American Patriot, Miss Temple City, Divisidero and Mondialiste in the Shadwell Mile.

Wow. Where else can you catch such stars in the middle of a sunny day?

And, to make matters more important, all of the connections will be looking to stamp their ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Championships, to be held at Del Mar the first Friday and Saturday in November. Yet, they will have to do some running to get that done.

We will be providing handicapping information each and every day during the Keeneland Fall Meet, and we will be dissecting the weekend card on our weekly “Saturday Preview Show,” hosted by our own Dave Baker.  We will be looking to host one of our events on the grounds before the end of the meeting.

Stay tuned for all the action.  There is sure to be plenty of it. And, get ready for the “Fun in the Sun.”  There is sure to be plenty of that, too.

(A look at the finish line at Keeneland)