Indian summer weather and exciting racing combined to produce a near-record crowd of 19,204 for opening day of the Keeneland Fall Meet. On-track wagering rose eight percent to $1,470,920, and all-sources handle increased two percent to $8,756,822.
Debby Oxley's homebred Heavenly Love shook clear at the top of the stretch and drew off to win the 66th running of the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1) for 2-year-old fillies by 5½ lengths over favored Princess Warrior.
Also on Friday, Robert LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables and Head of Plains Partners' Whitmore won the 165th running of the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2).
In Friday's third race, Robby Albarado became the third jockey to win 500 races at Keeneland when he guided Breeze Easy's Silver Defense ($13.80) to a head victory.
Albarado, who scored his first Keeneland victory during the 1996 Fall Meet, is the third-leading rider here by wins behind Pat Day (918) and Don Brumfield (716). Albarado has been the leading rider four times (Spring 2002, Spring 2003, Fall 2008 and Fall 2009).
“It's a big honor, because considering all the great jockeys that come through Keeneland, it's a feat in itself,” Albarado said while holding his young son, Liam. “Just to continue to ride for 27 years of my career and continue to ride at the highest level is such a pleasure and an honor – I mean, I can't explain it. And (having) Pat Day in front of me and Don Brumfield in front of me – Hall of Famers – it's just special. It's a special place here.”
Asked about his favorite Keeneland memory, Albarado answered, “Every win. Fans don't discriminate whether it's a claiming race or a stakes race. They treat it just like every one (is the same). Just the fans here, the quality of the horses – it's everyone's favorite place.”
Keeneland honored 95-year-old Elias “Shug” White, the oldest known horseman from the old Kentucky Association track, which was located in downtown Lexington and operated for more than 100 years.
White was just 11 years old when he exercised racehorses at the Kentucky Association track, which closed in 1933. Keeneland opened three years later.
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