History. Elegance. Quality. These are some of the words that come to mind when considering Keeneland in Kentucky. The racetrack is somewhat unique in that it is both a racing venue and a venue for breeding. The track operates a spring meet in April and a fall meet in October. Both meets are very short—about three weeks long—but feature some of the most competitive racing in the United States. Keeneland has a reputation for being horseplayer friendly, but the races can be extremely difficult to handicap due to the number of races which feature two-year-olds competing for the first time.
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Keeneland was one of the first tracks to incorporate the use of Polytrack, an artificial racing surface, for its main track. There is also a turf course. Also, four times each year sales auctions are held at Keeneland. Buyers from all over the world attend these sales and many horses that pass through the sales ring at Keeneland go on to accomplish great things on the track. The first race at Keeneland was contested in 1936 and the first auction was held in 1938.
During the spring meet the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass serves as one of the final prep races for the Kentucky Derby. For fillies, the Grade 1 Ashland serves as a prep for the Kentucky Oaks. Since the incorporation of Polytrack the Blue Grass does not attract as many of the top Derby contenders as it once did. In its heyday the race was won by some of the all-time greats including Northern Dancer, Alydar, Riva Ridge, and Spectacular Bid. Likewise, some great fillies have captured the Ashland including Go For Wand, Silverbulletday, and Take Charge Lady.
In the fall many trainers use the generous schedule of turf stakes to prep for the Breeders’ Cup. This year the horses won’t have to travel to compete in the World Championships. The 2015 Breeders’ Cup will be hosted at the Keeneland track and is expected to feature Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Classic.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has amassed an astounding 280 wins at the Keeneland meets. Fellow Hall of Famer Bill Mott is close behind with 249 wins. In addition, Lukas has compiled a respectable 50 stakes victories. Another trainer to watch, especially in the spring meet, is Wesley Ward. Ward does very well with two-year-old first time starters.
Pat Day, the legendary Hall of Fame rider, won 918 races at Keeneland during his career making him the most successful jockey to don silks at the track. Day won a record 22 riding titles at Keeneland. Behind Day is Robby Albarado with 444 wins. Many riders who began their careers in Louisiana, such as Corey Lanerie, have carved out a successful place in the Keeneland jockey colony. In 2012, jockey Julien Leparoux won six races in a single day at Keeneland to tie the record held by Craig Perret and Randy Romero.
Graded stakes run at Keeneland:
Blue Grass Stakes
Breeders’ Futurity Stakes
First Lady Stakes
Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes
Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings
Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes
Vinery Madison Stakes
Raven Run Stakes
Jenny Wiley Stakes
Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes
Ben Ali Stakes
Bryan Station Stakes
Valley View Stakes