Rites of Spring / Keeneland

The month of April brings the beauty of a new season. As the grass turns greenish-blue, and the buds on the trees explode into action. One could only assume that heaven has fallen to earth. That is the circle of life in the bluegrass state. Only one thing could make this season perfect, and that happens on Friday with the kickoff of the Spring Meet at Keeneland.

Keeneland can be challenging to say the least. One day it is speed, and the next yields closers. The finishes down the stretch can be bevy of runners all charging down the lane. You can rest assured that no matter what time of year you watch and wager. The track has been putting on an incredible show since 1936. With that in mind, here are a few handicapping tips to use before heading to the windows.

Pay attention to the flags. Yep, you heard me correctly. The track has an incredible video crew, and they show everything. If the flags are waving to the right, the wind is right in the face of the runners and speed can hold up a little better. When the stiff winds of spring blow the flags to the left, you will want to play stalkers and closers as they will be running into the head wind coming for home. The track will always be fast, and pay attention to where the turf rail is placed. The further out helps speed runners, and on the marquee days you will find the temporary rail is down. With that in mind, you can always bet that the greensward will always be in tip-top shape, as it one of the best grass courses in the nation.

Trainers ship into Keeneland to get that coveted winner’s circle photo. I once overheard a trainer say “winning one at Keeneland is like winning five at Gulfstream.” So keep your eyes peeled for some of these conditioners as they head into Lexington:

Rusty Arnold – Loves to win at two tracks. Keeneland, and Gulfstream. The best part is that one meet leads right into the next, and every time he saddles. Be sure to give him special notice. Especially when he brings his maidens to Keeneland.

Tom Amoss – He is not only one of the best guys you will ever meet, but he excels with his sprinters.

Todd Pletcher – Anything he saddles, is worth a two fisted bet!

Bill Mott – Is there anything this man can’t do?? Everytime he comes to the paddock I have to toss him into my bet.

Charles Lopresti – He is an incredible trainer, and brings the heat with every horse he brings to post.

Steve Asmussen – He loves the sprints at Keeneland, and his barn has always done well with babies.

Mike Maker – Ultra tough with claimers, and if the Ramsey’s are listed as the owners. Go ahead and double your bet!

Ken McPeek – Look for his barn on the turn back, or horses cutting back in distance. Pay special attention to turf runners coming to the poly.

Wesley Ward – Look for his babies making the 4 1/2 f dash. He knows how to get them ready at an early age.


Riders to keep your eyes on can be tough, as this is one of the best colonies in the nation. But here are a few to make note:


Julien Leparoux – He is coming back from California for the meet. Make special note if his father-in-law Mike Mitchell has any runners coming this way.

Gary Stevens – He is back, and not a moment too soon. I think he wants to make his mark, and there is no better track in the world.

Garrett Gomez – “Go-Go” loves Kentucky, and when he is in his groove. He can be tough as nails.

Javier Castellano –  He is on top of a very good year, and look for him to get his picture take often. Especially with his turf runners.

John Velasquez – The man can flat out ride. It doesn’t matter where, or on what surface. Don’t leave out Johnny V…

Kent Desormeaux – He has ups and downs throughout the year, but this track has always been kind to him.

Edgar Prado – This guy is on the upswing, and I think you will see him ride some nice winners this meet.


According to the Poly-Capping Database at Keeneland. Here are some sires you will want to watch this meet. (By the way, this tool is incredible for finding nuggets of gold at the betting windows).

Unbridled’s Song

Giant’s Causeway

Smart Strike

Distorted Humor

Tale of the Cat


Kitten’s Joy

AP Indy

Sky Mesa

Forest Wildcat

Medaglia d’ Oro


Grand Slam

More Than Ready

Stormy Atlantic


There is the handicapper’s glimpse for the meet. Speed always does pretty well in the long run, and turf runners making the move to the poly have a slight edge. Look for works over the track, and be sure to check back with your sires-to-watch list, as they have proven well over the years. Spring just wouldn’t be the same without having Keeneland. There are a few boutique meets, and this is one to pay very close attention. The claimers do well from Turfway Park, and Gulfstream and Fair Grounds legs them up quite well for the meet. So, sit back and enjoy and be sure not to blink. This meet goes by quicker than a warm spring day!