Updated 1 month ago
The sixth annual Make-A-Wish Day at Keeneland on Wednesday concluded with the type of moment that reminds people just how generous the human spirit can be. Moments after the ninth and final race of the day, a man walked up to the Make-A-Wish Foundation donation table and left everyone speechless.
The anonymous man donated a winning ticket to Make-A-Wish with little fanfare before disappearing into the crowds exiting the track. The winning Pick 4 ticket was worth $26,000, the type of gift the Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation rarely receives.
The donor divulged only that he was from Marietta, Ga. He asked two Make-A-Wish workers if they could walk with him to one of the betting windows to cash a "big" ticket but gave little indication of the enormity of the gift.
"He said, ‘I don't want anything from this,' tapped our shoulders and vanished," Make-A-Wish's Jessica Cary said. "He didn't want anything for it. (The teller) was like, ‘Do you know how much this ticket is worth?' When she told us, our mouths just dropped."
Keeneland and local Thoroughbred farms and organizations teamed with Make-A-Wish to grant nine children wishes and give them a VIP experience at the track, including presentation of trophies in the winner's circle. The partnership continues to help sick children see their dreams become reality.
"Make-A-Wish Day at Keeneland is about the Thoroughbred industry rallying around these kids," Make-A-Wish Marketing Communications Coordinator Emily Denholm said. "To have such a phenomenal gift like this is just inspiring. It speaks volumes to the courage of our kids, the power of their stories and the power of the wish. This gift is really going to help us grant more wishes. It's really, really generous to have someone walk up and literally grant several wishes."
MADAME GIRY TAKES ON DEEP FIELD IN BID FOR BUFFALO TRACE FRANKLIN COUNTY REPEAT
Nutmeg Stable's Madame Giry gave trainer Cam Gambolati his first Keeneland victory a year ago when she won the Buffalo Trace Franklin County by 2½ lengths.
The bid for a repeat victory comes this afternoon, and Gambolati believes the waters are a bit deeper this time around.
"It is much tougher than last year," Gambolati said Friday morning. "There are four or five quality fillies. You've got speed, you've got closers and you have stakes winners that have won on turf, dirt and Polytrack."
Madame Giry has won her past two races in a 2013 campaign that was sidetracked early in the year.
"She had a minor injury to an ankle after her race at Tampa (in January) and that accounts for the gap in her past performances," Gambolati said. "When I did bring her back, it was against the boys (in July) because there weren't any other races for her."
Finding stakes for a turf sprint specialist such as Madame Giry is a challenge for Gambolati.
"There just aren't a lot of stakes out there. This race today should be a Grade 3," Gambolati said noting the depth of the field. "On the East Coast in the summer, there will be three or four stakes (for the same type of horses) within 10 days of each other and they get short fields.
"For her, there are not a lot of options. At Saratoga there were two overnight stakes. Monmouth had one or two and Belmont had one and if it rains the race comes off the grass, you are stuck with nowhere to run."
TEAM BROWN LOOKING FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE QE II WIN
The Tuesday arrival of Martin S. Schwartz's Alterite (FR) at Keeneland to prepare for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) on Saturday marked the first time that Baldo Hernandez, assistant to trainer Chad Brown, had seen her. Based on his impression, the 3-year-old filly is on track to become Brown's second consecutive QE II winner following Dayatthespa last year.
"I think we're in good shape," said Hernandez, who saddled Kitten Kaboodle to win Wednesday's JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) for Brown, who has remained at his Belmont Park base. "I think she's going to prove she can run really well."
By Literato, Alterite began her career in France, where she was Group 1-placed and finished sixth to Treve in the Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks) (G1) on June 16. Alterite came to the U.S. and won the Garden City (G1) at Belmont on Sept. 14. (Finishing sixth in that race was Grade 1 winner Emollient, who returned to win the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster here last Sunday.) On Sunday, Treve won the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1).
John Velazquez, who rode Alterite in the Garden City, will be aboard the filly in the QE II. Velazquez has two wins in the race, on Perfect Arc in 1995 and Alwajeeha in 2008.
"She's a special filly. She's really nice," Hernandez said about Alterite. "I think she's going to run big on Saturday."
Schwartz has won six stakes at Keeneland, including two with French-bred fillies. His Lady of Venice (FR) took the 2006 Appalachian, and his Gorella (FR) won the 2006 First Lady (G2). Schwartz scored a Grade 1 win here in 2006 when Asi Siempre won the Juddmonte Spinster.
LEIGH COURT FACES TOUGHEST TEST IN QE II
In her eight-race career, Melnyk Racing Stable's Leigh Court has successfully navigated every new challenge sent her way.
First start on dirt: win by 3¼ lengths. First start on Polytrack: win by two lengths. First start on turf: win by three-quarters of a length.
"We liked her from the first time Mr. (Eugene) Melnyk sent her to us," trainer Josie Carroll said by phone from Woodbine.
On Saturday, Leigh Court will face her biggest test yet when she takes on eight rivals in the 30th running of the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Riding a three-race win streak, Leigh Court won the Ontario Colleen (G3) going a mile in August and in her most recent start won the La Lorgnette by 5¼ lengths going 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.
"I am not sure what her best surface is and I am not sure about her limitations," Carroll said. "The mile and a sixteenth was a concern the last time, but she handled it well."
Gary Boulanger, who has ridden Leigh Court in her past four starts, will have the mount Saturday and break from post position eight.
"It has been a good combination," Carroll said of the pairing of horse and rider that has produced three wins and a second. "She is growing up and Gary sits quietly on her and they get along well."
Leigh Court, a daughter of Grand Slam, has put together her win streak in gate-to-wire fashion and she figures to be the speed of the speed Saturday.
"I don't expect to see her anywhere else," Carroll said. "But she doesn't have to be on the lead. In her debut she came from out of it and in her second start she got bumped around and still ran very well. If she does not break well tomorrow, I would not be overly concerned."
CLOSING-DAY HAGYARD FAYETTE ATTRACTS 32 NOMINATIONS
Lael Stables and All In Stable's Willcox Inn, winner of the Washington Park Handicap (G3) on Polytrack at Arlington Park on Aug. 31 and third in last Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) that was rained off the grass, is the top name with Keeneland experience of 32 horses nominated to the 56th running $200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2) scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26, closing day of the 17-day fall meet.
Trained by Mike Stidham, Willcox Inn became a millionaire Saturday with his run in the Shadwell over a surface in which he finished third in the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (G1) in 2010 and eighth as the third choice in the 2011 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Also among the nominees are Nikki's Sandcastle, runner-up to Newsdad in last year's Fayette, and Salto (IRE), fourth as the favorite in last year's race.
Other graded stakes winners on Polytrack among the nominees are Winning Cause, winner of the Coolmore Lexington (G3) here this spring, and Eagle Poise, winner of the 2011 Valedictory (G3) at Woodbine.
Through the first five days of the 17-day fall meet, Ken and Sarah Ramsey lead all owners with six wins. The Ramseys won 12 races during the 2012 fall meet to equal the fall meet record for victories set by Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Roberts in 1968. During this year's spring meet, the Ramseys won a record 25 races. ...
Otto Draper, who was the exercise rider for 1988 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Winning Colors, earned his first Keeneland victory as a trainer Thursday when he sent out Epona Racing LLC's 18-1 longshot Key to Fame to win the sixth race. Marcelino Pedroza Jr. rode the 4-year-old Kela gelding, who won the 1 1/8-mile race by a half-length in 1:52.20.
FALL MEET SPECIAL EVENTS
Saturday, Oct. 12
Keeneland-Kentucky Football Double. Keeneland's first race at 1:05 p.m. and the Kentucky-Alabama game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Fans can park at Commonwealth Stadium early in the day, take the LexTran buses to Keeneland and return to campus in time for kickoff. The shuttle begins running at 11:30 a.m., with the final return shuttle from Keeneland to Commonwealth Stadium leaving at 6:45 p.m. The cost is $1 each way. More information can be found at LexTran.com.
Sunrise Trackside. Fans can experience the sights and sounds of Keeneland before the gates open for the race day. It's a morning filled with fun for family or out-of-town guests featuring:
Breakfast With the Works - Sponsored by Dunkin Donuts and LEX 18. Watch the horses during their morning workouts while enjoying breakfast in the trackside Equestrian Room from
7-8:30 a.m. Breakfast is $7; children under three eat free.
Children's Activities - Join us in the Kids Club Corner, adjacent to the Equestrian Room, from 7-9 a.m. for free children's activities, including photos in colorful jockey silks and face painting. Sign up for Keeneland Kids Club and meet the Kids Club mascot, Buckles.
Tours - Race fans can take a free tour of Keeneland's grounds from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Tours will begin at the Welcome Center in the paddock.
Paddock Demonstration - A demonstration by Old Friends, a non-profit facility for retired Thoroughbreds in Georgetown, Ky., will be featured in the paddock at 8:45 a.m.
Handicapping Seminar - Need a little help making your picks for the day? Keeneland offers a free trackside handicapping seminar at 11:30 a.m.
Jockey Q&A - Ever wonder what it feels like to ride a Thoroughbred? Fans can submit questions to Rosie Napravnik during a Q&A session at 12:05 p.m. in the walking ring.
Jockey Autograph Book - Patrons may purchase a full-color jockey autograph book featuring riders from Keeneland's legendary jockey colony at Sunrise Trackside or the Keeneland Gift Shop. The books are $5; proceeds benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Tailgating on The Hill. Located adjacent to the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center, The Hill will feature a variety of food trucks, a jumbo television screen featuring Keeneland racing and SEC college football, live Bluegrass music on Saturdays, the Keeneland Gift Shop, wireless wagering and wagering terminals, and race-day programs and general admission tickets available for purchase. A complimentary shuttle will take fans to the grandstand. BETologists will be on hand to assist fans.
The Keeneland Gift Shop Presents a trunk show with Southern Proper and State Traditions from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Craft Beer Tent. A craft beer tent in the North Terrace will feature popular local craft beer.
Sunday, Oct. 13
Chase Bank Customer Day. Patrons can present their JPMorgan Chase debit or credit card at South or East Gate entrances to receive free general admission.