04/03/2015 1:36PM

Keeneland spring meet kicks off amid heavy rainstorms

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Heavy rain made for a sloppy racetrack as Keeneland kicked off its 15-day spring meet Friday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland bore the brunt of a heavy spring rainstorm Friday, when turf races were forced onto a sloppy main track and conditions were initially miserable for the opening of a 15-day spring meet.

Track president Bill Thomason said after the first of 10 races that “more than four inches of measurable rain” had fallen since Thursday night, but that no serious consideration had been given to canceling the card “because of how this racetrack held up so well. We give the highest priority to the safety of our athletes and our horses and made the determination that it was safe to proceed.”

After riding the first race, jockey Javier Castellano said he thought the track surface was “very good,” notwithstanding “a lot of water on the top.” This is just the second meet for the new dirt track and its high-tech drainage system at Keeneland, where Polytrack was used as the main surface for the eight previous years.

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The meet opener, a 1 1/16-mile race for maidens, was won in wire-to-wire fashion by Dickinson, a 3-year-old filly bred and owned by Godolphin Racing and ridden by Jose Lezcano. Based all winter in New York, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro returned $5.40 as the favorite in a field reduced to five by three scratches.

“It’s not very often you can say you’re batting a thousand at Keeneland,” said Godolphin spokesman Jimmy Bell.

The second race, a seven-furlong starter allowance, was won by Hey Cuz ($13.80), who rallied from last under Dean Sarvis. The winner had campaigned all winter at Turfway Park for Doug Danner.

Early in the day, even with the perennially popular College Scholarship Day promotion, the ontrack crowd was noticeably sparse, which was understandable, given the weather. Although the sun actually peeked through prior to the second race, another storm front was forecasted to sweep through the area as the afternoon unfolded. The storm was supposed to leave the area by Friday evening, with dry conditions prevailing for a huge 11-race card Saturday led by the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes.

Before Friday’s card even started, scratches had reduced fields for the two scheduled turf races to just seven each. Original entries for those races had been 14 (race 6, an allowance) and 13 (race 9, the Transylvania Stakes).

This was the second straight spring that Keeneland has had poor weather for opening day. The Transylvania also was forced off the turf last year and moved to the Polytrack, which was still the main racing surface.

There is no racing Sunday at Keeneland because of the Easter holiday. Action resumes Wednesday. The meet runs through April 24.