One of Lexington's signature autumn events, the Keeneland fall meet, opens Friday for 17 days of Thoroughbred horse racing — and a lot of hoopla surrounding it.
Each Saturday, the track will feature top-notch jockeys signing autographs and taking questions from fans.
First up is superstar rider John Velazquez. He will appear in the paddock at 12:05 p.m. Saturday.
Velazquez has been among the top 10 jockeys in earnings every year since 2000, according to Equibase.com, and he was the No. 1 jockey by earnings in 2004. Notably, he was aboard the 2012 horse of the year, Wise Dan, for a record-setting win in the Breeders' Cup Mile in November, and he rode Animal Kingdom to a win in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.
Commemorative autograph books, featuring profile pages of several jockeys riding at Keeneland, will be available for $5 during the Sunrise Trackside activities each Saturday morning and in the Keeneland Gift Shop. All proceeds benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Born: Nov. 24, 1971, in Carolina, Puerto Rico
Keeneland wins: 148
Keeneland stakes wins: 34
First Grade 1 win: 1995 Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park on Turk Passer
First graded stakes win: 1991 Ohio Derby (G2) at Thistledown on Private Man
First stakes win: 1990 Ticonderoga at Aqueduct on Proud n' Appeal
Triple Crown highlights: Won 2011 Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom. Won 2012 Belmont Stakes on Union Rags and 2007 Belmont on Rags to Riches. Has finished second once in the Derby, twice in the Preakness Stakes and three times in the Belmont.
All figures current as of Wednesday.
First-place finishes: 5,073
Earnings: $296.8 million
Average earnings per start: $10,567
SOURCES: Keeneland, Equibase.com
IF YOU GO
Keeneland Fall Meet
When: Oct. 4-26. Gates open at 11 a.m.; first post at 1:05 p.m. No racing Mondays and Tuesdays.
Where: Keeneland Race Course, 4201 Versailles Rd.
Tickets: $5 general admission
Learn more: (859) 254-3412, 1-800-456-3412, Keeneland.com
Highlights during the fall meet include:
Oct. 4: Opening Day and tribute to retiring bugler Bucky Sallee. Special commemorations for Sallee before first race, and he will sign autographs in afternoon. Happy hour after races.
Oct. 4-6: Win and You're In Challenge. Fan who picks the most winners from weekend's participating races will win trip to Breeders' Cup. Register at Keeneland.com/fallstars/contest.
Oct. 4, 11, 18: Friday Pick 4: $200,000 guaranteed pool offered on last four races of day.
Oct. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26: Tailgating on The Hill. Next to Keene Barn and Entertainment Center, The Hill will feature food trucks, a jumbo TV with Keeneland racing and SEC college football, live bluegrass music on Saturdays, more.
Oct. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26: Craft Beer Tent. Tent in North Terrace will serve local craft beers. The band 64 West will play after races Oct. 4.
Oct. 12, 19, 26: America's Best Racing. Ambassadors will conduct betting seminars and offer giveaways on The Hill.
Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26: Sunrise Trackside. Family-friendly activities beginning at 7 a.m. with Breakfast With the Works, featuring a Southern-style breakfast and trackside commentary on Thoroughbreds as they train (until 8:30 a.m.); children's activities (7-9 a.m.); equine-related demonstration in paddock (8:45 a.m.); walking tours of Keeneland (8:30-10:30 a.m.); trackside handicapping seminar (11:30 a.m.); and Q&A session with Keeneland jockey in paddock (12:05 p.m.).
Oct. 9, 16, 23: "Wins-day" Handicapping Contest. Register at Wagering Central. $10 entry fee. Guaranteed $2,500 pool. First 200 to register will receive a Daily Racing Form and a free appetizer from Drake's.
Oct. 10: Make-a-Wish Day. Nine children get wishes granted by Keeneland and local farms.
Oct. 11: See Blue Day. Tailgating on The Hill. Fan zones for Kentucky and Alabama fans. Kentucky students, alumni and faculty get free general admission and access to reserved grandstand seating with IDs.
Oct. 11, 12: Trunk show. With Southern Proper and State Traditions, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. in Keeneland Gift Shop.
Oct. 11: Buffalo Trace Giveaway. Enter to win prize package from Buffalo Trace Distillery. First 1,500 to register get a free Buffalo Trace drawstring bag. Registration near Elevator C.
Oct. 13: Chase Bank Customer Day. Patrons can present their JPMorgan Chase debit or credit card at South or East Gate entrances to get free admission.
Oct. 16: American Heart Association Day. Fans encouraged to wear red to raise awareness of heart disease in women. First 3,000 fans receive a free red dress pen.
Oct. 17: Jockey Autograph Signing. Meet retired jockeys and current Keeneland riders, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., next to the paddock. Jockeys will sign posters and commemorative autograph books, sold for $5 to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Oct. 18: College Scholarship Day. Free admission for full-time students, who can register in College Zone in North Terrace to win a $1,000 scholarship awarded after each of the day's 10 races. First 1,000 students to register get free T-shirts and hats. Music; food from Qdoba, Raising Cane's, Core Power and Drake's; photos; and prize drawings.
Oct. 18, 19: Trunk show. With Vineyard Vines, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. in Keeneland Gift Shop.
Oct. 20: Heroes Day. All military (active duty and veterans), first responders and their families get free admission and reserved grandstand seating.
Oct. 26: Fan Appreciation Day. Free sampling of bread pudding, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in North Terrace.