Keeneland Spring Meet

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Article & photos by Grace Clark

Opening Day of the 2016 Keeneland Spring Meet, Friday April 8, is typically marked by sunny skies, huge crowds, and a wealth of quality racing. While the first day of the meet welcomed 12,013 fans to the track, with strong fields, it was also brought in by nearly everything Mother Nature could deal, from snow to sleet, and rain to hail. Yet, these conditions did not stop fans and members of the racing industry from kicking off one of the most prestigious meets in thoroughbred horse racing.

The meet began with trainer Wesley Ward winning the first race, a maiden special weight for two year olds. Ward is consistently one of the leading trainers at the Keeneland meets, and is well known for his success as a trainer of two year olds. Big City Dreamin’s win brought laughs from around the track that the Keeneland meet really was back.

Along with racing, Opening Day hosted Keeneland’s annual College Scholarship Day. Students from colleges around the Commonwealth, and across the country gathered to enter for one of ten $1,000 scholarships presented by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and one $10,000 scholarship presented by the owners of 2015 Eclipse Champion Sprinter Runhappy, plus pick up free shirts, hats, snacks, and pose for pictures. “College Scholarship Day is a great day for students to come out and enjoy a day at the races, while also getting a chance at winning a scholarship. Plus, they provide snacks and coupons, and there’s nothing that college students love more than money and free food,” said University of North Texas junior Mary Cage.

The highlight of the day was the Grade 3 $100,000 Transylvania Stakes for three year olds. This race, run on the turf, has produced many horses who went on to compete in the Triple Crown races, and other quality graded stakes races, such as Medal Count, the 2013 winner. 7-1 Shakhimat broke from the second post and quickly went to the front, soon developing a length and a half lead over longshots One Mean Man and Prime Time Man. After setting solid fractions, the Canadian-bred son of Lonhro out of Reggae Rose by Touch Gold, drew away to win by 3 ¼ lengths. A Keeneland Sales graduate, Shakhimat finished the 1 1/16 miles race in a time of 1:42.65 under jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson for owners Richard Hogan and Dan Gale, and trainer Roger Attfield. It was Wilson’s first Keeneland stakes victory, and the second Transylvania win for Attfield. Shakhimat is now the early favorite for Canada’s Queen’s Plate, their equivalent of the Kentucky Derby for three year old horses.

Saturday, April 9th, was one of the biggest days of racing of the Spring Meet. Three G1 races, the Toyota Blue Grass, Central Bank Ashland, and Madison, as well as the G2 Shakertown and G3 Commonwealth stakes were featured. The top three finishers in the Ashland and Blue Grass would gain points for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, respectively. Dale Romans’ trainee Brody’s Cause won the Blue Grass under jockey Luis Saez for owner Albaugh Family Stable, and Weep No More won the Ashland under Corey Lanerie, for owner Ashbrook Farm and trainer Rusty Arnold. Ami’s Flatter took the G3 Commonwealth under jockey Martin Garcia , for owner Ivan Dalos and trainer Josie Carroll. The G2 Shakertown was the final race on the card, and after a sizzling pace, Undrafted, under jockey Joe Bravo, closed late to win the stakes for trainer Wesley Ward and Owner Wes Welker.


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