Saturday, July 7 was a stellar day for racehorses who left their Keeneland base for graded stakes competition.
Seven hundred miles away at Belmont Park, Katherine G. Ball’s Limousine Liberal powered his way around rivals to score a neck win in the Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) and earn a berth in the $2 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. Ben Colebrook trains the 6-year-old Successful Appeal gelding, who was ridden by Jose Ortiz.
Six hundred miles away at Delaware Park, Sandra Sexton and Brandi Nicholson’s Red Ruby dominated her rivals with a 13-length win the Delaware Oaks (G3). Paco Lopez rode the 3-year-old Tiznow filly for trainer Kellyn Gorder.
Four hundred miles away at Arlington Park in the Chicago area, Normandy Farm’s Daddys Lil Darling drew off to a 2½-length win in the Modesty (G3). The 5-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. for trainer Kenny McPeek.
All three horses, who were favored in their respective races, are among the talented runners based at Keeneland, where a number of North America’s leading trainers have had horses in training following the Spring Meet in April. As many as 800 horses have resided in the main stable area (trainers there must depart by July 31 to enable Keeneland to prepare barns for the 4,000 or so horses expected for the September Yearling Sale from Sept. 10-23), and another 300 racehorses reside at the Keeneland Training Center – known as “Rice Road” for its location on the road that runs through track property.
Well-ventilated and -lighted, the nine Rice Road barns have extra-wide aisles around the stalls and roomy haylofts. Horses can be grazed, spend time in turnout pens and be ridden over the neighboring hillside.
“I don’t think there’s any better place in the country to train a horse,” Gorder said. “They take great care of the track.”
Colebrook said among the benefits of stabling on Rice Road is “people are going to send us better horses. They want to train here.
“It’s such a beautiful place,” he continued. “On Rice Road, we have all the grass and round pens as opposed to being at a race track that’s a concrete jungle atmosphere. The (Keeneland) track’s so good we can keep the horses sounder. Being in Central Kentucky is an advantage; all the (veterinary) clinics and farms are here if you do need to give a horse time (away from the track). It’s an advantage to be here, and that’s why the stalls on Rice Road are such a premium.”
Limousine Liberal, a multiple graded stakes winner and earner of more than $1.6 million in four seasons of racing, has trained at Keeneland his entire career. The gelding even spent his most recent off-season here.
“He loves the training atmosphere,” Colebrook said. “He likes structure, so we kept him here and just walked him and put him in the round pen for a month and tack walked him for a couple of weeks and started jogging him and brought him back.”
In a few weeks, Keeneland’s three graded stakes winners will hit the road again for their next anticipated races: Daddys Lil Darling in the Aug. 11 Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington, Red Ruby in the Aug. 18 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga and Limousine Liberal in the Aug. 25 Forego (G1) at Saratoga.