Springtime racing returns to Keeneland for the first time in two years on Friday when the historic Lexington, Kentucky, racecourse kicks off splendid 10-race card beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 spring meet last April was canceled. A one-week meet in early July, the normally scheduled fall meet in October, and a two-day Breeders’ Cup meet in November were eventually held, but without fans in attendance. A limited number of general admission and dining tickets will be available during the 15-day spring meet, which runs through April 23.
Here’s a look at the stakes action on opening day:
Transylvania S. (G3) — Race 9 (5:30 p.m. ET)
Fire At Will, who dominated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Keeneland in November, returns to the grass for the $150,000 Transylvania S. (G3) over 1 1/16 miles.
Trained by Mike Maker, Fire At Will’s three-length score in the Breeders’ Cup as a 30-1 chance followed earlier scores in the Pilgrim (G3) and With Anticipation S. However, the colt’s attempt to hop on the Kentucky Derby (G1) ended with a troubled eighth-place run in the Feb. 27 Fountain of Youth (G2) in his only prior start this season.
Among the five lining up against Fire At Will are recent Palm Beach S. runner-up Scarlett Sky; Palazzi, who landed the Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston in late January prior to a third-place run in the Black Gold S. at Fair Grounds; and Earls Rock, who has won both starts in the U.S. including the Baffle S. at Santa Anita over 6 1/2 furlongs.
Beaumont S. (G3) — Race 8 (4:57 p.m. ET)
The $150,000 Beaumont S. (G3), a nominal Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep, will award qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers in advance of the April 30 Oaks at Churchill Downs. The Beaumont is contested over the Beard Course of seven furlongs and 184 feet.
Slumber Party, an impressive debut winner for Kelly Breen at Gulfstream on Jan. 24, jumps right into stakes company here, while the Rusty Arnold-trained Farsighted will look to make it two stakes wins in a row following a romp in the March 6 Any Limit S. at Gulfstream in the slop.
Returning to action from an extended break is last summer’s Sorrento (G2) winner My Girl Red, who was pulled up in the early stages of the Del Mar Debutante (G1) in her most recent start on Sept. 6. Maiden winners Twenty Carat and Amalfi Princess also appear to be factors for a share or more.
Palisades Turf Sprint — Race 7 (4:24 p.m. ET)
Trainer Wesley Ward has two leading contenders in the $100,000 Palisades Turf Sprint, for three-year-olds at 5 1/2 furlongs, in the stakes-placed Fauci and recent Gulfstream maiden winner Chasing Artie. Bodenheimer led wire-to-wire in taking the Indian Summer S. over this course and distance last October, but retreated to eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) after a slow start.