By Art Parker
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 breathe the amazing fresh air and know that changes are coming. You think you will hear a gradual drum roll in the distance, perhaps a half-mile away.
It will not be a drum roll but the sound of hooves striking the ground in a rhythm that lets you know it is something living that makes the noise. 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 a 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.
That perfect day reminds me of some opening days at a place called Keeneland, nestled in the heart of thoroughbred country. Even though there are tracks that run in the winter, that first day of racing in Lexington, Kentucky should be declared the official opening of racing season everywhere. My favorite way to describe Keeneland is the track “on loan from Heaven.”
Keeneland will open April 8 and run until April 29. The big features will be on April 9 with the running of the Grade One Blue Grass and the Grade One Ashland. What a wonderful place filled with great racing and superb, intelligent racing fans.
I just can’t wait.
Below is an excerpt of Parker’s Keeneland Trainers book, coming soon to AGameofSkill.com.
Kenneally, Eddie – 28 wins at Keeneland
Winning Patterns: 1st Race after Layoff of at least 45 days (8), Second career race (6), First career race (4),
Turf-to-Main surface switch (4)
The 49 year old was born in Ireland into a family that was involved with horses. His father, uncle and brother have been in the horse business. Kenneally came to the US in 1987. He was an exercise rider and assistant trainer before he started his own stable.
Kenneally does well with horses in their run after a layoff and also first time starters. About 29 percent of his winners are runners coming off a layoff and 3/4 of those are dropping in class. When it comes to debut runners Kenneally strikes at a 14-percent rate while at Keeneland and his second time starters, all of which that have won were ridden by Corey Lanerie, do even better providing Kenneally with 22-percent of his winners. Together, Kenneally does unusually well with either first or second starters, which is definitely a pattern to look for; but keep in mind that he does not turn a rookie horse around very quick.
His winning second time starters usually come back to the track after being idle for 4-5 weeks. Keeping with his first layoff horses dropping in class, Kenneally does not strike often with horses moving up in class, in fact less than 10 perce3nt of his winners fall into that category. Kenneally can get you a price as close to 35 percent of his winners paid in double digit. As far as riders go, Kenneally’s main man is Corey Lanerie, who rode half of his winners and Julien Leparoux who piloted 36 percent of his winners. The Lally Stable has been Kenneally’s top client and cashed in on 19 percent of the trainer’s Keeneland wins.