In a move that would keep the timing of its "Fall Stars" weekend in place, Keeneland hopes to start its 2015 fall meet one weekend earlier than usual; a schedule that would see five straight weekends of live racing at the Lexington track capped by the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Keeneland and Breeders' Cup officially announced June 24 that the 2015 world championships will be contested Oct. 30-31 at the Lexington track. Those Friday and Saturday Oct. 30-31 dates had been the final two scheduled for the 2015 fall meet at Keeneland.
Track officials have talked with the dates committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and have had initial discussions with Churchill Downs about moving Keeneland's scheduled opening weekend for fall 2015 from Friday, Oct. 9 to Friday, Oct. 2. The first October weekend on the Kentucky racing calendar currently is scheduled for Churchill.
With the Breeders' Cup scheduled for the final weekend of October in 2015 at Keeneland, starting the Keeneland meet a week earlier would allow the track to keep its traditional weekend of stakes that also serve as Breeders' Cup preps four weeks before the world championships. Keeneland typically front-loads its fall meet stakes schedule to allow horses to prep for the Breeders' Cup four weeks out.
"We're going to look at opening our meet on Oct. 2, which would be our Fall Stars weekend," said Keeneland president Bill Thomason. "It would be a tremendous opportunity for a prep weekend for all of these championship races."
To make its stakes attractive as Breeders' Cup prep races, Keeneland typically schedules most of its fall stakes in the first weekend. For instance, this year Keeneland will offer nine graded stakes worth $3.35 million on its opening weekend. The 17-day schedule calls for a total of 17 stakes worth $4.925 million.
With the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in 2015, a weekend of prep races for that event would likely deliver especially strong fields.
With the schedule change being considered, Keeneland would host 22 days of live racing in the fall of 2015, if the Breeders' Cup dates are counted. Keeneland had been approved for 17 race dates from Oct. 9-31 but two of those dates will now be Breeders' Cup cards. Starting the Keeneland meet one weekend earlier would provide the Lexington track with 18 race dates followed by the two Breeders' Cup days to cap the fall schedule.
Thomason said Keeneland will consider adding some additional stakes that would prove attractive to horsemen pointing to the Breeders' Cup. Also, the track will promote the Breeders' Cup to fans throughout the fall meeting and some of the seating that will be put in place for the Breeders' Cup will be available throughout the meet.
Track and Breeders' Cup officials also are reaching out to the University of Kentucky, which they said tentatively has a home game scheduled against Tennessee on the afternoon of Oct. 31.
Correction: This story has been updated to say Keeneland would host 22 days of live racing in the fall of 2015 if the Breeders' Cup dates are counted. A previous version of the story listed an incorrect number.