Keeneland Race Course set a new opening day record on opening day of its fall meet last Friday. Keeneland saw 19,026 racing fans cross through the gates as the prestigious track celebrated its 74th anniversary in style with beautiful weather and beautiful horses.
Opening day showcased the $175,000 Grade 3 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix for 3-year-olds and up and the $400,000 Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades for 2-year-old fillies. Hoofit, a New Zealand horse racing for only the second time in the US, won the Phoenix by a head as he held off Aikenite for the victory. Hoofit was trained by Graham Motion who trained Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. The win qualifies the New Zealand horse for the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November. The 9th race of the day saw little-known Stephanie’s Kitten, owned by Kentuckians Ken & Sarah Ramsey, come from 9th place to overtake leader Heart of Destiny and set a new stakes record with a winning time of 1:43.12. The win qualifies Stephanie’s Kitten for the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Ramsey stable went on to score a second victory on Saturday when their Holiday for Kitten won the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes and gave them their 100th win at Keeneland.
Over 26,000 fans made Saturday the second largest attendance day in Keeneland history as three Grade 1 stakes ran highlighted by the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile. The Shadwell was captured yet again by Gio Ponti who, despite not winning a race in a year, has now won back-to-back Shadwells. Gio Ponti came from fourth place to edge Get Stormy by a half-length at the wire. The win qualifies Gio Ponti for what is likely to be his final race, the Breeder’s Cup Mile in November at Churchill Downs. The $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity was won by Dullahan, half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, as he came from nowhere to beat Majestic City by 3/4 of a length. The victory earns Dullahan a berth into the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. The $350,000 First Lady Stakes was the third Grade 1 stake on the card on Saturday and was taken by Never Retreat. It was Never Retreat’s first Grade 1 win and set a new stakes record with a time of 1:43.08. Never Retreat was ridden by red-hot jockey Julien Leparoux. Leparoux won four races on Friday at Keeneland and finished Saturday’s card with four more victories.
Sunday wrapped up FallStars Weekend at Keeneland with the $100,000 Grade 3 Bourbon and the $500,000 Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster. The Bourbon supplied excitement as well as anxiety as then-leader Here Comes Frazier crashed into the inside rail throwing jockey Julien Leparoux over it. Thankfully both horse and rider escaped serious injury. Animal Spirits ridded by Robby Albarado went on to take the race by a half-length. The Spinster went to Aruna by 1 1/2 lengths as she beat Pachattack to earn a berth in the Breeder’s Cup Ladies Classic on November 4th.
While not an overall record-setting fall meet, opening weekend was a strong reminder why Keeneland remains one of the premier racecourses in the country. Beautiful weather highlighted the panoramic track and set the stage for three days full of world-class horse racing.