It’s Almost Here

Spring Horse Racing

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

In just a few weeks the coolness will taper off. Some flowers will actually show signs of life and leaves will reappear on the trees. When there is no sign of precipitation and no clouds in the sky, the feeling will begin to strike you. You think you will hear a gradual drum roll in the distance, perhaps a half-mile away. You breathe the amazing fresh air and know that changes are coming.

It will not be a drum roll but the sound of hooves striking the ground in a rhythm that emanates the superior quadruped on earth-the thoroughbred. The amazing sky, perhaps only disfigured by the contrails of a high flying distant jet plane, leaves you convinced that some days are truly perfect. The perfect day is upon you as your mind dashes into the future, just a few days, and you see that creature with four thin legs, exploding with energy in the glorious surroundings and providing you with every reason to believe that the horse can actually run a hole in the wind. The sounds from others like you pierce the air while hearts pound faster, and even though there are winners and losers on this day, nothing can replace the fact that you are there and part of those wonderful proceedings we call thoroughbred racing.

Yes, it is almost springtime, a time when horse racing is rejuvenated after cold months of moderate and often dull activity. It is the time when nothing can hold this great sport in check because it is made for the time of year when people want their thrills handed to them, not inside a structure of bricks, but outside, where more than the racing can be enjoyed. There is nothing like it, this time of year, and it will soon be here.

Between now and mid-May many tracks will open, such as Emerald Downs, Lone Star, Monmouth Park, Canterbury and Presque Isle. Also the simply beautiful Delaware Park and the gem of Canadian racing, Woodbine, will be open. The King of the Midwest, Arlington Park, will open and revive Chicago racing. We will be treated to Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.

I always thought the opening day of Keeneland should be proclaimed as the first day of spring in North America. Keeneland is the track I believe to be “on loan from Heaven.” What a wonderful place filled with great racing and superb, intelligent racing fans. Of course, colossal Churchill Downs opens the day after Keeneland closes, a ritual that must never be altered. And the first Saturday in May at Churchill gives us our most important day in racing and it is particularly wonderful on a nice spring day.

It’s almost here. I love it so.


Note: Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns – 2013 Spring Meet edition is due out next week at and  Also available for the Kindle through

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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