The brief Keeneland Summer Meet will begin on Wednesday, July 8 and run through Sunday, July 12. But what the meeting lacks in quantity of racing days, it more than makes up for in quality. A total of 10 graded stakes races will be compressed into the five-day stanza, including the Blue Grass (G2) on Saturday which acts as a 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby challenge series qualifying race. I have tabbed a handful of things to watch for when the action returns to Lexington, Kentucky.
Shoemaker Mile (G1) star Raging Bull, Preakness (G1) winner War of Will, Oaklawn Stakes winner Mr. Big News, top sophomore filly Swiss Skydiver, the fantastic Rushing Fall and budding star Guarana are just a few of the marquee names expected to be challenging in the graded contests at Keeneland.
This is not your typical meeting or condition book in the Bluegrass region, and many of the top trainers in the game will be represented with talented runners. Chad Brown has numerous top horses, and the multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer will be bringing many of his top guns for the major events. Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Brad Cox, and Graham Motion are just a few of the conditioning stalwarts that will be a presence at the boutique meeting.
The main strip is 1 1/16 miles with two finish lines, while the turf circuit measures 7 1/2 furlongs. The major thing about the layout is when 1 1/16-mile races are contested on the dirt, Keeneland uses the first finish line. It’s important for handicappers to realize that there is a shorter stretch run in those events.
With just five days of racing, it is almost impossible to determine if the course is playing to a particular kind of running style. So looking back at results from last season might be the best indicator of what to expect.
Early speed played best in the Fall meet in route races on both the dirt and turf, and that is a trend that may continue next week.
One of the greatest things about Keeneland is the massive crowds that it attracts during both its spring and fall meetings. In 2020, the races will be contested without spectators, which will be odd to watch for anyone who has visited the sublime racecourse in the past.