Mathea Kelley

Keeneland Fall Meet Begins With Momentum

The Oct. 4 opening-day program at the Lexington track drew 117 horses for 10 races.

Keeneland officials are expecting a typical fall meet from a horse-population perspective, and that's a good thing given increasing competition for racehorses at tracks around the country.

Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley said Oct. 1 that stall allotments are about the same as they have been the past four or five years with a few changes. Trainer Steve Asmussen, for instance, has eight stalls at Keeneland rather than a full barn this fall and will keep most of his horses at Churchill Downs, which just concluded its September meet.

There should be a fair number of shippers from Churchill and Turfway Park as well as training centers in the area.

"It will be interesting to see," Beasley said. "The (September meet at Churchill) should be a positive because there was a little more quality. So that's a plus."

Purses at Keeneland will average more than $600,000 a day, Beasley said, with 17 stakes worth a combined $4.6 milion. "We're doing our part to be competitive in North America," Beasley said.

The Oct. 4 opening-day program attracted 117 entries in the body of 10 races. The Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies attracted 13 entrants; the grade III Phoenix Stakes for sprinters drew 14 with one horse on the also-eligible list.

Keeneland president Bill Thomason said there is enthusiasm heading into the fall meet, in part because of the strong numbers at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He said it was encouraging to see the sale purchases spread around much more this year.

Thomason said he hopes improving economic conditions and a better grasp of the realities of the horse breeding and racing business lead to growth in the industry. "I think people are being more thoughtful about the business," he said.

As for the racing surface, Beasley said some work was done on the Polytrack in August.

"We flipped the surface over once and added some fibers," Beasley said. "Mick Petersen came to Keeneland and did some surface measurements to make sure we're in the zone like we need to be."

The Keeneland meet continues through Oct. 26 with racing on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule.