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Lone Star: Keene's success fueled by mix of auction buys, sharp claims
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Danny Keene is building a racing stable to reckon with at tracks in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, and on Thursday night he will attempt to widen his lead in the Lone Star Park owner standings in the second race, with Blessed Moon. Keene will also be active earlier in the day at Louisiana Downs, running in the first race with Joyful Angel.
Keene, 68, began investing in Thoroughbreds about three years ago and is in the midst of his best season on the track. He ranks 14th in wins in North America this year, with 34 from 181 starters through Tuesday. At the current Lone Star meet, Keene has gone 19 for 60 for an eight-win advantage in the standings over second-leading owner Steve Asmussen. Keene has about 30 horses in training, and while he is somewhat new to the Thoroughbred world, he is not new to racing.
“Back in the 70s, I used to train Quarter Horses,” Keene said. “I always said when we got the money to get back in it, we’d have Thoroughbreds.”
During his time away from the track, Keene, along with his wife, Carolyn, built D & M Plumbing Contractors in McKinney, Texas, into the largest business of its kind in north Texas. Keene is also an investor, and has found a fun outlet for his risk-reward persona through the claim box, where he has been active alongside his trainer, Allen Milligan.
“I admire Maggi Moss,” Keene said of the nationally prominent owner based in Iowa. “She’s made $15,000 and $20,000 claims that went on to win some good stakes races.
“I like to go pick out the young colts [at auction], but I’ve got into the claiming business and I like that also. I’m trying to find that next Shraded Edge.”
Shraded Edge is one of Keene’s top horses. He claimed him for $20,000, and the horse has won six times for the barn and at one point strung four wins together before finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park in 2012. Shraded Edge is working at Lone Star.
Another quality horse for Keene is Heavenville, who was third in a Lone Star allowance on Sunday. He is a candidate for the $100,000 Louisiana Cup Classic at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 17.
Time Iz Flyin was a 12-length debut winner for Keene on May 5. He is now being pointed for the $100,000 colts and geldings division of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star on July 6, said Jeanette Hughes Milligan, assistant to her husband, Allen.
Keene also has Yes It’s a Fact, the runner-up in a maiden special weight at Lone Star on June 7, pointed for the Sales Futurity.
Another runner, Unbridled Eltempo, was a sentimental winner at Lone Star on June 14. Keene and Milligan claimed Unbridled Eltempo, who at one point in his career had been trained by Milligan’s father, Eddie Milligan Sr., who died in 2010.
“We’re so proud of Unbridled Eltempo,” said Carolyn Keene. “He was one of the last ones Allen’s dad had in training. That one meant a lot.”
Danny Keene’s holdings in racing extend to the breeding industry. He has seven broodmares, some stabled at Valor Farm in Pilot Point, Texas, and others at his farm, in Greenville, Texas. Keene said he is breeding within the Texas program, with his first homebreds to hit the track in 2014.
Keene is a native of Texas, born in Bonham. He said he is in racing for the long haul, and he hopes to someday see son Kevin and daughter Kelli continue the stable he is building. Following the Lone Star meet that closes July 6, Keene will have runners at Remington Park in Oklahoma City while continuing to race at Louisiana Downs.
Keene will then winter at Oaklawn, where during a chaplaincy benefit this past spring he bid an auction-topping $10,000 for box seats to this year’s Kentucky Oaks and Derby. He shared those seats with longtime friend Leon Horton, whose brother, Will Horton, was represented in this year’s Kentucky Derby by Will Take Charge.
◗ In a twist to the typical schedule, Lone Star will race on a Thursday through Saturday schedule this week and next, then add a Wednesday card during to its final week of racing, which will run July 3-6.
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