If the calendar says it’s October, it’s horse racing time in Lexington.
Keeneland’s Fall Meet, which opens Friday, gets underway with the opening of Fall Stars Weekend. Races will be held Wednesday through Sunday throughout 17 days of racing through Oct. 26, with a first post time of 1:05 p.m. each day.
Fall Stars Weekend will feature 10 of the meet’s 18 stakes races, nine of which are Breeders’ Cup qualifying contests whose winners will automatically earn a spot in various races at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita in California Nov. 1-2.
Headlining Friday’s card is the 68th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades for 2-year-old fillies, which is set to include two-time graded stakes winner Perfect Alibi. The winner will earn a berth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 1
Saturday’s 11-race lineup will feature five graded stakes contests, including the single richest of the Fall Meet: The Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile. Up for grabs in the Shadwell is an automatic spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2.
Chad Brown trains two of the top contenders for the Shadwell: Bricks and Mortar, currently the No. 1-ranked horse in the NTRA Thoroughbred poll who has won all five of his 2019 starts to earn more than $4.5 million on the year; and Rushing Fall, a multiple Grade 1 winner who is undefeated in four races at Keeneland.
Sunday’s action features three “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup qualifiers: The $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster, the $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon and the $200,000 Indian Summer.
In addition to an abundance of high-stakes, purse-heavy contests on the track, the Fall Meet will feature plenty of other interesting options for spectators. Here are some of the highlights:
▪ Owner’s Experience Tour: Featured each day of the Fall Meet with the exception of Saturdays, this 90-minute tour allows spectators to get a glimpse at Keeneland from the perspective of owners before and during the first race of the day. A maximum of 10 participants will accompany the horses and their teams to the Saddling Paddock and watch the race from the Winner’s Circle. Tickets must be purchased in advance for $65 per person and can be ordered at tickets.keeneland.com.
▪ Sunrise Trackside: Each Saturday during the Fall Meet breakfast will be served in the trackside Equestrian Room from 7 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. Fans will be able to eat while listening to commentary about the history of Keeneland and watching horses train on the main track. No reservations are needed. On Oct. 26 there will be a special Halloween edition of Sunrise Trackside where kids are encouraged to wear costumes and will have the chance to participate in special Halloween activities, win prizes and collect candy. The Headless Horseman will appear in the Paddock at 9 a.m. and on the track throughout the day.
▪ Make a Wish Day: On Oct. 12, local Thoroughbred farms and several other organizations will team up to grant wishes for several children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Children and their families will enjoy a VIP experience that will include participating in trophy presentations after each race and meeting jockeys, among other special events. Spectators can also make donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the “Wishing Well” near the Keeneland Paddock.
▪ Big Blue Day: On Oct. 11, the day before the University of Kentucky football team hosts Arkansas at Kroger Field, UK students, alumni, faculty and staff will receive free general admission and will have access to reserved grandstand seating if they present a valid UK ID. The UK mascot, cheerleaders and band will make appearances. Other UK-centered activities will occur, as well.
▪ College Scholarship Day: On Oct. 18, 10 students will receive $1,000 college scholarships. Many other prizes from local businesses will be given away. Full-time students can register for the scholarship and prize drawings at keeneland.com/college-scholarship-day-1.
▪ Budweiser Clydesdales: Meet the famed horses when they appear at Keeneland on Oct. 17-20.
Keeneland’s Fall Meet
When: Friday-Oct. 26 (racing Wednesdays through Sundays)
Key info: Gates open at 11 a.m.; general admission is $5, and children 12 and under get in free; post time each day is 1:05 p.m.
Key dates: Fall Stars Weekend, Oct. 4-6, with 10 stakes, including five Grade 1 races.