All photos by Keeneland Photo
On the last day of September, with a chill in the air and the arrival of October impending, Keeneland was abuzz with activity as horses, jockeys, and trainers prepared for the start of the track’s much-anticipated fall meet, scheduled to begin on October 2nd.
The activity got started before dawn, with only the lights around the track and throughout the barns to guide the way. (Click on any picture to view an enlarged version.)
One of the first horses on the track was Fast Anna, prepping for a start in the opening-day Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (gr. III). Heading out while the track was still dark, Fast Anna–accompanied by a lead pony–traveled through the empty paddock area and on to the track, where he proceeded to gallop on the main track as the sky slowly lightened.
But while Fast Anna was out training very early in the morning, he didn’t quite beat Hollywood Talent to the track. The four-year-old Wesley Ward-trained gelding, who placed in the Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II) in 2013, has not run since finishing second in an allowance race at Turfway Park in February, but he breezed a half-mile in :48 2/5 at Keeneland on September 26th and looks to be gearing up for a run during the fall meet.
Mongolian Saturday, coming off a nose defeat in the Turf Monster Handicap (gr. III) at Parx, was another early riser. Still wearing his #1 saddlecloth from the Turf Monster, Mongolian Saturday had a quiet morning, galloping in advance of a start in Keeneland’s Woodford Stakes (gr. III) on October 3rd. Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Lovely Maria was also sighted on track, two days after arriving from Delaware Park. Trained by Larry Jones, the two-time grade I winner is expected to run in the October 4th Spinster Stakes (gr. I), where she will attempt to become just the fifth filly in history to complete a sweep of the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) and Spinster, two of Keeneland’s most prestigious races for fillies and mares. Later in the morning, the Aiden O’Brien-trained trio of War Envoy, Outstanding, and Easter visited the track for the first time. With a lead pony showing the way, the trio of Irish shippers paraded through the paddock and on to the track–keeping the same order throughout their excursion, with War Envoy leading Outstanding and Easter–exercising lightly as they prepare for starts in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) and First Lady Stakes (gr. I).
Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) hopefuls Sticksstatelydude (top photo) and Exaggerator (middle photo) were both out on the track as well, along with Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Gomo (bottom photo), who is targeting a start in the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) on opening day.
And to wrap it up, here’s a picture of one of my favorite sprinters, A. P. Indian, a two-time stakes-winning son of Indian Charlie that will be running against Fast Anna in the Phoenix Stakes on opening day.
And so the countdown to the start of the fall meet continues! Who will win prestigious stakes races on opening weekend? Stay tuned for updates as the meet progresses!
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