10/04/2011 2:52PM

Keeneland again to have its days in the sun

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Michael Burns
Julien Leparoux has, at age 28, already won the riding title at six Keeneland meets.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Everybody is talking about the weather because nobody wants to do anything about it. Ideal conditions await the opening of the 17-day fall meet this weekend at Keeneland Race Course, where the brand of racing will be commensurate with the spectacular weather.

Sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70’s are being forecast for all three days that open the front-loaded meet, one that surely will have implications for the Breeders’ Cup four weeks hence at Churchill Downs. FallStars Weekend, as Keeneland calls it, starts Friday with the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades and the Grade 3 Phoenix, then runs through five more graded races Saturday and two more Sunday before everyone stops to catch their collective breath and take stock of what it all means toward the Nov. 4-5 Breeders’ Cup.

KEENELAND FALL MEET: View stakes schedule, watch live video for every race day

“Everything seems to be coming together real well,” said Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman. “With the weather and the big crowds we’re expected to get opening weekend, I wouldn’t imagine we’ll be lacking for drama.”

With temperatures in the 50’s, training hours here Tuesday morning were chillier than what will come over the next week or so. Julien Leparoux, who at age 28 already is a six-time leading jockey at Keeneland, was among those milling around and greeting old friends in and around the stable area, while a number of other riders, agents, trainers, and owners were all too happy to begin blending into the tapestry that defines every spring and fall here.

Wesley Ward, who recently notched his 1,000th career training win at Kentucky Downs while in “hot pursuit,” he joked, of his longtime friend Jerry Hollendorfer (the Hall of Fame trainer with 6,000-plus wins), said in a more serious vein that he will be “bearing down” by running a “bunch of horses” throughout a meet that ends Oct. 29.

“There are a lot of races for 2-year-olds that we’re taking a look at. Most of my 2-year-olds have already won, but there are a good number of allowance races and other spots for them,” said Ward, who said he has consolidated the majority of his entire stable of 40-plus horses at Keeneland this fall.

Ward, along with Ken McPeek – who has won three of the last four Keeneland training titles – will be among the most active horsemen here this fall. As for jockeys, Leparoux would have to be considered the favorite in another ultra-deep colony; his agent, Steve Bass, said he expects Leparoux to miss just one day, Oct. 16, during the meet.

Keeneland, founded in 1936, will continue to celebrate its 75th anniversary with a variety of special activities, continuing what was started at the spring meet in April. The $125,000 Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes, for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, will be run the second Saturday of the meet, Oct. 15.

Keeneland will run the usual Wednesday-to-Sunday schedule while carding 10 races Fridays and Saturdays and nine races the other days. First post daily is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

TVG will have a meet-long presence here as usual, while the Versus cable network also will provide four hours of coverage, including an hour each day (5-6 p.m.) of opening weekend.