10/08/2009 11:00PM

Rain can't dampen crowd's mood


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Ken McPeek knew not to get too giddy after sending out Moon Town to win the opening race of the 17-day Keeneland fall meet Friday. "This game will humble you in a minute," said McPeek.

Sure enough, the veteran trainer sent out the losing favorite in two of the next three races, Biggerbadderbetter in the second and Striking Dancer in the fourth, illustrating the inherent nature of racing. This ebb-and-flow was somewhat symbolic of opening day itself, when dreary skies and intermittent rain weren't enough to offset a festive crowd that turned out for the first twilight card in Keeneland history.

A substantial amount of Thursday rain soaked the grounds, leading track officials to move the two scheduled grass races (4 and 10) to the main Polytrack surface, over which the first two of nine FallStars Weekend events, the Grade 3 Phoenix and Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades, were to be run later in the day. With a 2:15 p.m. Eastern start, the last of 10 races was not scheduled until 6:45, cutting it rather close in regard to diminishing daylight at this time of year.

An upbeat theme was in evidence before the races began when a choral group named AcoUstiKats from the nearby University of Kentucky gave impressive renditions of several old standards, most notably "My Old Kentucky Home" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The early crowd seemed a tad light compared to some prior years, a result of the inclement conditions, but as the day unfolded, fans appeared to be streaming in for the happy hour.

QE II tops less-hectic week

After the FallStars races go into the books, the Keeneland stakes schedule assumes a less-frantic pace, with five stakes to be run Thursday through Sunday of the coming week.

The highlight will be the sixth and last Grade 1 race of the meet, the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, an invitational for 3-year-old turf fillies. At this early date, 12 are likely for the 1 1/8-mile race: Acting Lady, Blind Date, Gozzip Girl, Hameildaeme, Hooh Why, Hot Cha Cha, Internallyflawless, Mary's Follies, Miss World, Shared Account, Starlarks, and Well Monied.

The other upcoming stakes are the $150,000 Jessamine on Thursday, the $100,000 Franklin on Friday, the $150,000 Perryville on the QE II undercard Saturday, and the $125,000 Bryan Station on Sunday.

Big Turfway meet for Hays, Woodard

Turfway Park has not maintained comprehensive records of all its fall meets, but the numbers rang up by owner Billy Hays and trainer Joe Woodard at the 22-day meet that ended Thursday are believed to be records. Hays had 18 winners and Woodard had 19.

Woodard, who won a track-record 10 straight races at the 2005 Churchill Downs spring meet with Hays as his main client, said he will run "just a few horses at Keeneland" before gearing back up for the Churchill Downs meet.

Woodard, 41, has about 75 horses stabled between Turfway and the High Point training center near LaGrange, Ky.

* Todd Schrupp will be here to anchor the onsite TVG coverage daily through next Sunday, and sporadically afterward. In the meantime, the network will have onsite personnel here every day, including Simon Bray, Matt Carothers, Tom Amoss, and Donna Brothers, through the end of the meet, Oct. 31.