Five-Day Keeneland Summer Meet Set to Open Wednesday
Full cards, full fields likely; Owners to have limited access
Keeneland will open its gates for racing in 2020 finally on Wednesday with an abbreviated five-day meet acting as a shorter substitute for the usual fireworks-filled three-week Spring season, which was cancelled earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the shortened length of the boutique summer meet and some reduction in value to a number of the stakes races, several of the industry’s top runners will race over the Lexington, Kentucky, oval over the five days to the delight of horsemen, fans and handicappers.
The short season was made possible thanks to an agreement between Keeneland and Ellis Park, which hosts the state’s traditional summer race dates, and also the various horsemen’s groups. Ellis Park has paused its meet, which opened on June 29, and will resume next week when Keeneland is over. Ellis Park racing will continue through the final weekend of August.
Though fans won’t be on site at Keeneland and most participation is limited to the horsemen and their staff under strict safety guidelines including health checks, mandatory masks and social distancing when possible, the track is offering limited owner access. Some of the conditions for owners attending to see their horses run will be:
– owners with a horse entered in a race on the undercard will receive four credentials for the day their horse is running
– owners with a horse entered in a stakes race will receive six credentials for the day their horse is running
– owners will have assigned seating both inside and outside on race day
– the track’s horsemen’s hospitality team will contact owners to arrange credentials
– limited food and beverage service will be available
– everyone in attendance must wear a face mask and maintain proper social distancing
– health screenings, which includes temperature checks, will continue at Gates 2 and 3 for everyone entering the Keeneland grounds
– owners will not be allowed in the paddock, winner’s circle or stable area
Keeneland plans to host full cards each day and offer 10 graded stakes, including six on Saturday, July 11, worth $1.8 million, highlighted by the $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GII), $400,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (GI) and four other graded events.
One of the more interesting developments for the meet is whether or not trainer Kenny McPeek will run multiple grade 2 winner Swiss Skydiver against the boys in the Blue Grass Stakes. The Daredevil filly, who won the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII), Fantasy Stakes (GII) and Santa Anita Oaks (GII) in her last three, is considered one of the better sophomores in training, male or female.
“I’m not going to decide (the next race for Swiss Skydiver) until the morning of entries,” McPeek said. “There’s several factors (in making the decision). I need to make sure the other filly (Envoutante) is good to go in the Ashland. Like I said, I’m inclined to keep them apart. We’ll see. I want to check field size, things like that.”
No filly has ever won the Blue Grass, and only one filly has run in the race since — Hyman Friedberg’s homebred Harriet Sue, who won the Ashland and was fifth to Skytracer in the Blue Grass. That year, Keeneland’s Spring Meet was held at Churchill Downs.
In 1948, future Hall of Famer Bewitch was scratched from the Blue Grass.
First post each day will be at 1:05 p.m. ET. TVG will provide live coverage and fans without access to TVG can watch races free of charge at Keeneland.com. Additionally, NBC Sports Network will have live coverage of Sunday’s racing from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. ET.