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Behind the Scenes: DeLuca Plays Key Role in Keeneland's Successful Stakes Program

October 15, 2016

LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 15) Major race tracks employ stakes coordinators to closely follow races throughout the country and even beyond in search of suitable horses to recruit for their upper-level races. For Keeneland Stakes Coordinator Allison DeLuca, the simplest part of her job is also the most difficult part.

“My job is easy at Keeneland because everybody wants to race here,” she said. “The hardest thing is when a stakes looks like it will overfill and I have to advise (out-of-town) trainers to not ship in for the race.”

To run in a stakes, horsemen must nominate horses to the race a few weeks in advance. Keeneland posts lists of horses nominated to stakes at http://www.keeneland.com/horsemen/conditions-stakes-info. About three days in advance of the race, horses will be entered.

In between, DeLuca keeps in touch with the horses’ trainers with a goal of having a full field of quality Thoroughbreds in the starting gate for Keeneland’s stakes, which are exceptionally attractive thanks to their lucrative prize money and the track’s premiere facilities. When the number of entrants outnumbers spots in the starting gate, preference usually is given to horses that have earned the most money. 

“I am always looking for the best horses,” DeLuca said. “I contact people a lot but they are always very polite even though they probably get a million phone calls a week.”

DeLuca, whose grandparents introduced her to racing, has been involved with racing office procedures since her college days. She took race track management classes at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program and majored in political science. DeLuca started working in racing offices around 1980 and since has held various positions at tracks throughout the country. She has been director of racing and racing secretary at Tampa Bay Downs since 2006 and is one of the first women to serve as racing secretary at a major U.S. track.

“I tried to get whatever job came open if I had not had it before,” she said. “That is what all young people should do. I think it is good to do every job you can so you can learn.”

For DeLuca, being Keeneland’s Stakes Coordinator is a dream job.

“Watching the stakes races with such good horses is always rewarding to me,” she said. “Everybody wants to win a race at Keeneland, so I am always happy for the winner.”