LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Race Dates Committee approved Keeneland’s request to conduct a spectator-free, five-day Summer Meet, to be held Wednesday, July 8 through Sunday, July 12.
“Keeneland appreciates the quick response of the Commission to our request, and we applaud all their work on behalf of Kentucky racing during these unprecedented times,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “We also thank Ellis Park for their cooperation in this process and for making these non-traditional dates available to Keeneland. We look forward to sharing more details about the Summer Meet in the coming weeks.”
“We are all in this together, and Ellis Park is pleased to work with Keeneland on a plan that benefits our horsemen and Kentucky racing,” Ellis Park General Manager Jeffrey Inman said.
Keeneland plans to host 9-10 races each day of the Summer Meet, and feature 10 graded stakes traditionally run during the track’s Spring Meet, anchored by the $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), preps for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively.
And it can mean millions to the industry and the community, even without fans.
The schedule includes the Toyota Bluegrass and the Ashland Stakes, which will run on the same day.
That means the track can run its biggest stakes races from the canceled April schedule.
That helps the track and horsemen.
“I wish it were 17 days. I wish all of our fans could be here with us, but five days of really high-quality racing that puts in the hands of our horsemen some really important purse money,” said Executive Vice President Bob Elliston.
This year’s spring schedule was supposed to pay out $10 to $12 million in purses. The five-day meet will have about $4 million. But that still makes it among the richest five-day pay outs of the summer in the horse-racing industry.
“It’s going to draw a tremendous group of horses from California, New York, Florida, Chicago. I wouldn’t be shocked, if they’re permitted, that we could get international horses as well,” Elliston stated.
So far nearly a thousand horses already have come to Keeneland. The protocols for the July meet are identical to what Churchill Downs is doing for its spring meet.
“We wanted to make sure all racing in Kentucky was conducted under the same health protocols and signed off by the governor’s office,” he said.
July’s meet also could provide insight into how things might run later this fall for the sales, fall meet and Breeder’s Cup. But Elliston said the track is putting together multiple contingency plans.
“We’re hopeful that we can do more come October and November, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Elliston concluded.