Buzz before the buzz

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All was quiet, extremely quiet, at Keeneland’s nine-barn area just off Rice Road that will house the Breeders’ Cup horses, a little after 6:30 Tuesday morning.

It was pretty dark, too, and empty, as in barely any cars, people or horses, a stark contrast to what it’s usually like in the area that’s essentially a year-round base for many horsemen. The big event of the morning was supposed to be Beholder’s first bit of exercise on the Keeneland main track and folks on the frontside were patiently waiting for the champion mare as they split time between sipping coffee, shivering and making small talk.

Right around the time Beholder was supposed to train – about 7:15, in still muted light and before the sun was up – some buzz went through the grounds. The first word was that Richard Mandella was at the barn, followed by news that Beholder wasn’t going to train.

The next few words were those that nobody wants to hear, horsemen and racing fans alike.




Blood tests.

The official word came from Mandella, that Beholder indeed spiked a small fever in the short time she’d been in Kentucky after arriving from California Monday afternoon. The two-time Eclipse Award winner pulled a similar stunt last year and it forced her to miss a chance at defending her title in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff back home at Santa Anita.

Beholder is scheduled to go in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, where she’ll need to be at her best against the likes of American Pharoah, Honor Code, Keen Ice, Frosted and others.

Meanwhile the morning show continued on with plenty of activity. There’s plenty of horses still on the grounds for the fall meet and roughly 50 whose names will appear on the Breeders’ Cup pre-entries Wednesday morning.

A couple of those would-be Breeders’ Cup horses worked Tuesday, including European filly Mutatis Mutandis. Third in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl last time, the 4-year-old Mastercraftsman filly went a half in :48.20 with barely any encouragement from the rider. The 3-year-old filly Osaila was also out, going a half-mile on the turf course in :49.60. They could both show up in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Catch A Glimpse, winner of the Grade 2 Natalma at Woodbine and a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, went 5 furlongs in 1:01 for Mark Casse.

Things got pretty quiet again pretty quickly, as the slightly warming sun came up over the grandstand. Four days remain for the Keeneland fall meeting, then three days of racing next week with the Breeders’ Cup Oct. 30-31.

Plenty of preparations continue, in the Rice Road barn area and in the clubhouse and grandstand. By 10 a.m. workers were busy with what’s probably a usual dark-day activity, unloading pallet after pallet of boxes labeled Tito’s, Frito Lay, Sysco and more.

It’s definitely Breeders’ Cup time in the Bluegrass.

Only 10 days to go.