With Easter often falling during April, 15-day spring meets at Keeneland have been the norm for many years. The racing season at the famed Lexington, Kentucky, oval will be different this year as racing will be ushered in Thursday this week, ensuring 16 days of sport through April 26.
The opening day card consists of eight races with a special post time of 3 p.m. (EDT), and the feature has a Breeders’ Cup look about it.
The inaugural $100,000 Palisades Turf Sprint, for three-year-olds at 5 1/2 furlongs, features a rematch between Bulletin and the filly Chelsea Cloisters, the one-two finishers in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. The pair will face some adversity as they’ve drawn posts 12 and 13, respectively.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Bulletin won the Juvenile Turf Sprint by 2 3/4 lengths, less than five weeks after winning on debut in the $82,000 Hollywood Beach at Gulfstream Park by seven lengths.
Chelsea Cloisters, trained by Wesley Ward, won on debut going 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland last April, and then was sent to Europe. After finishing 11th as the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot, Chelsea Cloisters improved to be second in the Prix du Bois (G3) at Deauville.
Chelsea Cloisters concluded her campaign with three more second-place efforts, including a runner-up to Strike Silver in the $200,000 Indian Summer at the Keeneland fall meet. Strike Silver subsequently faded to seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Ward also saddles Abyssinian, a dominating winner of his turf debut at Gulfstream last time. Louisiana invaders Real News and Vogt, along with the Mark Casse-trained Yes I Am Free, enter with consistent form but with lesser class credentials. Casse also has Irish import Dom Carlos, last seen running third in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot last June.
Recent Hutcheson (G3) winner Gladiator King has won two of three stats on the turf, while the Tom Amoss-trained Mick’s Star perhaps has a shot at a piece while shortening up in trip.
Keeneland will be dark on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Easter Sunday, April 21. Regular post time is 1:05 p.m. The traditional feature of the meet is the $1 million Blue Grass (G2) on Saturday, a Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep which anchors a program that includes the $500,000 Ashland (G1) and three other graded stakes.