Keeneland seeks an 'opportunity' to recoup lost race days

Keeneland seeks an 'opportunity' to recoup lost race days
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Following the cancellation of their Spring Meet amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Keeneland officials are beginning to piece together what the rest of 2020 may look like in the run up to the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup in Lexington, Ky. Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales, said Wednesday that it's unlikely all 17 of the track's April dates will be made up. But he said Keeneland is "looking for an opportunity" to run some of them at a time of the year to be determined. “We’re looking for a way, in coordination with our colleagues in Kentucky and other major racing jurisdictions, to find a spot that works, and run some number of days," Elliston said. "If that’s three days or whatever that might be, it’s going to be tremendous racing and it’s going to get purse money back into the hands of the people who need it, and get black type into the breeding community so they can see increased values in those horses as they come to sale later.” It remains possible, too, that some Spring Meet stakes such as the Blue Grass (G2) and Ashland (G1) for 3-year-olds, are brought back later in the year.
Noting that Keeneland, with its strong sales offerings, is cognizant of the bigger picture in the horse racing industry, Elliston envisions an additional short meet as a necessary boost to the system. “We understand the economics behind all of this," he said. "It’s not just about folks who are racing horses and getting purse money into their hands to make that economy flow. It’s also about the breeding community. "You’re seeing interruptions in the 2-year-old sales market. That is affecting pinhookers who had a bet made out there as to whether or not they could sell those horses after they purchased them last year as yearlings.”
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission statutes don't prevent two of the state's tracks from running on the same date, though the regular calendar tends to see a meet end one day, and another at a different track start the next. Churchill Downs has yet to decide the fate of its Spring Meet but has already rescheduled Kentucky Derby week for Sept. 1-5. Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., runs in July and August, while Churchill and Kentucky Downs with its all-turf meet split September. Keeneland's Fall Meet runs from Oct. 2-24 before the Breeders' Cup returns. Scheduling-wise, Elliston doesn't see Keeneland and Churchill Downs running races on the same day -- they would be competing for the same class of horses -- but believes it's feasible for Keeneland and Ellis Park to overlap. Assuming the crowds are back and the racing goes on this fall, Elliston envisions a strong finish to the season on the Kentucky circuit. "I’m getting excited about the Derby day stakes races and Oaks day stakes races being a month before our Fall Stars weekend,” he said. “Those races being run on Labor Day weekend are going to feed perfectly into our Fall Stars weekend, then perfectly into Breeders’ Cup weekend. So you can come to Kentucky one time and run in three great opportunities.
“I can’t get enough racing," he added. "I’m a fan. I love watching it, betting it, and I feel fortunate enough to work in it. That’s what keeps me going every day in these difficult circumstances we all find ourselves in. I know the clouds will part. I know we will return to great racing. There are some very promising things in the future. Let’s just get there.”

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