The start of Keeneland’s fall meet is less than a week away, and it will not take long for the action to heat up.
Fall Stars weekend raises the curtain at the Lexington track and the opening three days (Oct. 6-8) will feature nine graded stakes.
Included in that array of stakes tests is Keeneland’s premier turf race, the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes on Saturday that offers Grade 1 status to the winner as well as an automatic spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series and its “Win and You’re In” provisions.
That means the Shadwell Turf Mile serves as a road from Kentucky to California, though lately the trip has been starting in New York.
Looking back at the last 10 editions of the Shadwell Turf Mile, what stands out is that the last four winners competed in a race in New York before shipping to Keeneland.
Interestingly, that foursome consists of three different races, though all of them were held at Saratoga Race Course.
In 2013 (Silver Max) and 2014 (Wise Dan) it was the Bernard Baruch Handicap that propelled a horse to victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile, followed by the Fourstardave Handicap in 2015 (Grand Arch) and then the Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes in 2016 as a filly, Miss Temple City, beat males at Keeneland.
In the other six years, the only other winner coming out of a New York race was Thorn Song (2008), who exited the Bernard Baruch.
The other five steppingstones were the Arlington Million in 2010-11 (Gio Ponti both times), the Woodbine Mile Stakes, United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, and the John Henry Stakes at Arlington Park.
Aside from the New York link, there are a couple of other traits to look for in a prospective Shadwell Turf Mile winner.
In terms of running style, the majority of winners were in mid-pack after the opening half-mile. Seven of the 10 were between fourth and sixth after the first four furlongs.
Only two of the last 10 winners were on the lead after the first half-mile, and one of those, Silver Max, came when the race was moved off the grass to the synthetic main track because of heavy rain.
Favorites have also done well with the chalk prevailing in five of the 10 years.
Overall nine of the 10 winners have been 7.7-1 or less, with the lone longshot being Purim who returned $43.80 for his victory in 2007.
Put all of that together and it could take you down the path to victory at Keeneland, with a journey that once again just might start in New York.