Five reasons why you should do the Keeneland/Kentucky football double Saturday.
1. We don't get that many chances anymore.
The Keeneland/UK football double was once a fall staple. Football fans would take in an afternoon of racing at America's most beautiful Thoroughbred track, then racing fans would take in college football under the lights.
Television changed that. When the networks took control of football starting times, thanks to their powerful contracts, they didn't care if early-afternoon kickoff times conflicted with the first post at Keeneland. Local patrons were forced to choose.
It was even worse for the fans of SEC schools who typically made trips to Lexington in October. Example: Georgia. With no Thoroughbred racing in their state, Georgia fans loved to visit Keeneland during the day and Commonwealth Stadium at night.
In fact, the first Keeneland-Kentucky football doubleheader involved Georgia in 1949 when the Bulldogs played the Cats in the first October night football game ever at UK.
Thankfully, South Carolina fans get to enjoy the doubleheader this year. As do we.
2. It's more than just Keeneland's opening weekend.
This isn't just the opening weekend of racing at Keeneland. It isn't just the first weekend of racing since Keeneland made the switch back to a traditional dirt track. It's Fall Stars Weekend.
Actually, Fall Stars Weekend starts Friday and continues through Sunday. The three days contain nine graded stakes races worth $3.35 million. Five are Grade I races. Not too shabby.
Saturday includes the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity for 2-year-olds, a preview for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and even next year's Kentucky Derby. Saturday also includes the Shadwell Turf Mile, a Grade I for 3-year-olds and up; and the First Lady, for fillies and mares 3 years old and up, also a Grade I.
Eight of the weekend's races are part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, meaning the winner automatically qualifies for the 2014 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. And in case you haven't heard, the 2015 Breeders' Cup will be at Keeneland.
3. Steve Spurrier.
College football's most entertaining coach is 20-1 all-time against UK with the lone loss coming here in Lexington in 2010. Spurrier won 12 of those 20 while the head coach at Florida, many by monstrous margins.
This year's team has been something of a struggle for the Head Ball Coach, however. After being blitzed 52-28 by Texas A&M in their opener, the Gamecocks did rebound to win three straight games, including a key 38-35 victory over archrival Georgia, only to blow a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and lose 21-20 to visiting Missouri last Saturday.
Spurrier has even been saying nice things about Kentucky this week, which is both unusual and suspicious. Plus, with Spurrier at age 69, you never know how many more times the Head Ball Coach will be coming to Commonwealth.
4. These Cats can compete.
Mark Stoops said after the 17-7 win over Vanderbilt last weekend he's most proud that through two SEC games his team has given itself a chance to win both games.
Kentucky lost the first, falling 36-30 in triple overtime at Florida. The Cats had their chances, however, up 27-20 after its first overtime possession. Had the officials noticed Florida's late snap on its fourth-down touchdown, Kentucky might have had its first win in Gainesville since 1979.
South Carolina is better than Florida and Vanderbilt, but there is every reason to believe Kentucky can make more than just a game of it against the Gamecocks.
5. What else do you have to do?
We know, we know, it's going to be cool Saturday, a possible "high" of less than 60 degrees. (Perfect football weather, by the way.) We know, we know, there are good football games on the tube Saturday, just as every Saturday.
And yet, nowhere in the country can you do what we can do here Saturday — enjoy great horse racing in the afternoon and SEC college football at night, on the same day.
That's reason enough to do the double.