Unlike most sports, the North American horse racing calendar doesn't really have an off-season; on almost every single day in there is at least one thoroughbred track running a race card. But while there isn't an off-season, there is what can certainly be described as a "slow season". The first slow season hits the day after the Breeders' Cup and continues until the opening of the Gulfstream and Santa Anita meets in late December. Things start to pick up a little bit in late-January with the running of prep races for the Derby, but the real action, in my mind, doesn't begin until the start of April and the opening of the Keeneland spring meet.
The 2010 Keeneland spring meet opens this Friday, April 2nd, and will feature fifteen graded stakes races, including four Grade 1s. Because of the combination of a short meet and high purses, there are few places better at providing top quality thoroughbred racing on a day-to-day basis.
I'm currently working on a Keeneland preview that I'll have up in a day or two that will examine the statistical trends at the track since the dirt surface was replaced with Polytrack prior to the 2006 fall meet. I'm also planning on providing previews and re-caps for each race day during the spring meet. With the spring meeting only running for fifteen racing days the horseplayer can't afford to wait a week or two to gauge the hot trainers, jockeys, and trends - you have to be ready to go from the first day.
In addition to Keeneland, this Saturday will feature the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, along with a virtual cornucopia of stakes races on the undercards. The Wood is scheduled to include top Derby contender Eskendereya, while the Santa Anita Derby will likely feature the other top contender, Lookin at Lucky.
Quite simply, it's wall to wall top quality racing next weekend.