Opening day won't be balmy but it will be Keeneland at its best this afternoon: trees in spring bloom, top horses and great racing.
Consider the above when huddling beneath the grandstand, trying to warm your hands and your thoughts in these wintery temperatures.
Despite the turn-back weather, Keeneland fans should feel warmed by good fortune because:
While we don't know who the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner will be, we have the 2003 Derby winner racing today: Funny Cide, making his debut as a 7-year-old, for the first-time on Polytrack.
While we don't have the Dixie Chicks performing on an infield stage, we do have the return of the "chicklets," those color tiles from Trakus that show the positions of horses in their races.
While our premier races, the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and the $500,000 Ashland Stakes, are viewed at Churchill Downs as warm-ups to their two big races, we do expect some memorable moments today in the $150,000 Central Bank Transylvania Stakes, on Saturday in the Ashland Stakes, and April 14 in the Blue Grass.
While it might be hard to think about on a cold day, Keeneland is doing its part to lower global warming, with 2,148 forsythia bushes and 400 trees planted. New this spring: the forsythia extending around the first turn.
While we won't get Queen Elizabeth II among celebrities attending Keeneland this spring (she opted for the Derby), Keeneland will have Bill Samuels, president of Maker's Mark Distillery, returning for yet another Maker's Mark signing on April 13. Bigger lines for this one than to meet the Queen.
In lieu of a Queen sighting, Keeneland has planned a Hall of Fame Jockey Day for April 18: Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, Steve Cauthen, Don Brumfield, Angel Cordero Jr., Bobby Ussery, and Earlie Fires will sign autographs and participate in a fan question-and-answer session.
But before the race meet gets that far into April, we will see one Kentucky Derby hopeful, Sedgefield, trying to earn enough graded stakes money today in the Transylvania Stakes to earn his way into the Derby. Sedgefield was among 10 entered for the 1-mile, Grade III stakes on the turf.
While racing on the turf in the Transylvania might seem like a non-traditional way to get to the Derby, it has been done before: Shy Tom went this way in 1989, although to little success. He ran 10th in the Derby.
Among others in the Transylvania is Marcavelly, second to Twilight Meteor here last fall as odds-on choice in the Bourbon Stakes. Marcavelly will have in the saddle Edgar Prado, one in the powerhouse of jockeys here for the meet.
U D Ghetto, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turf-way last fall, is also entered in the Transylvania, after a fifth-place finish behind Curlin in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
The high point of this weekend's racing will be the Ashland Stakes on Saturday, a longtime prep for the Kentucky Oaks. In this renewal, Mistical Plan and Octave will take up a rivalry they began March 10 in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Mistical Plan comes from the training barn of Doug O'Neill, who also is well-stocked with Kentucky Derby hopefuls. She went wire-to-wire to win the Fair Grounds Oaks over the favorite, Octave. The latter, from Todd Pletcher's barn, was making only her first start of the year.
Another rematch in the Ashland will occur when Christmas Kid and High Again meet for the third time, with one victory apiece over the other.
TVG plans expanded coverage of Keeneland this meet, including a live show April 11 for the drawing of post positions for the Blue Grass Stakes.
When: Today through April 27
Post time: 1:15 p.m.; gates open at 11 a.m.
Admission: Grandstand $3. Reserved seats $6 weekdays, $8 Saturdays and Sundays. Parking is free.
For more information: Call (800) 456-3412 or go to www.keeneland.com