05/20/2001 11:00PM

Keeneland to open a day early

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Keeneland Race Course received permission Monday from the Kentucky Racing Commission to open its fall meeting a day earlier than scheduled, on Friday, Oct. 5. That date, track officials say, is ideal for preps for the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park.

Keeneland normally opens its fall meet on the first Saturday of October. But even though the meet normally is front-loaded with Breeders' Cup preps on the opening Saturday and Sunday, officials wanted to have an additional day of racing.

The Oct. 5 date previously had been awarded as the last day of the fall meet at Turfway Park, the northern Kentucky track that is owned by a partnership headed by Keeneland. The commission, meeting Monday in Lexington, Ky., unanimously approved the transfer of the date.

"We thought it made sense to use three days instead of two [for Breeders' Cup preps], since the three-week 'out' period has become so critical to many horsemen," said Keeneland spokesman Jim Williams. "Plus with so many of our races carrying corporate sponsors, we might have had some problems with just two days."

Williams said "at least one, maybe two" graded stakes will be run Oct. 5.

The Keeneland fall stakes schedule normally has been released by this time of year, but the track waited until securing the additional date to do so this year. Release of the schedule is imminent, said Williams.

Among the stakes most likely to be run on the opening three-day weekend are Breeders' Cup preps such as the Spinster Stakes, Keeneland Turf Mile, Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, Phoenix Stakes, Breeders' Futurity, Alcibiades Stakes, WinStar Galaxy, and Fayette Stakes.

The Keeneland fall meet, now 17 days, will run through Breeders' Cup Day, Oct. 27. Like most North American tracks with live racing that day, the track will feature the Cup simulcasts after hosting an abbreviated live card.

Turfway will make up the 10 races it lost from the date transfer by using them on weekends earlier in the meet.