Keeneland, 2010

Apr 13th 2010 07:25 pm |

My epic trip to Arkansas and Lexington turned into a three day trip to Keeneland after an unfortunate encounter with some bad road food. As much as I would have loved to see Oaklawn Park, three days at Keeneland is nothing to whine about.

Needless to say, the facility at Keeneland is beautiful, the level of racing superb, and the enthusiasm for racing in the state of Kentucky far exceeds anywhere else. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Keenland Library on Thursday and Friday and am still making my way through the mass of images that I took while there. Librarians Cathy Schenk and Phyllis Rogers were a great help and they do a fine job overseeing a significant collection of racing history.

On the gambling front, I had a heck of a time trying to figuring out the Keeneland synthetic track (was that a speed bias?). I didn’t cash a single ticket but, had a thrill heading into the Bluegrass stakes with a couple of live pick three tickets. In fact, one ticket had all but two of the Bluegrass runners.  Of course, like most everyone else, I didn’t have Stately Victor.  I could play that race a hundred times and still not pick that one.

While I had no luck playing the races, I enjoyed my first trip to one of racing’s jewels. It easily makes my top three favorite tracks but I still prefer the vibe and atmosphere at Saratoga. While racing might be central to the state of Kentucky, it felt secondary at Keeneland. I think it is outstanding that it attracts a young crowd and the marketing people there should be commended. For people like me though, who are there for the racing, the scene leaves something to be desired.  At Saratoga, the huge backside attracts those there for the party, Keeneland doesn’t have this type of accommodation.  So the party people mix readily with the horseplayers, making for an apron crowded with people seemingly unaware of the racing.

I don’t mean this as a criticism, this is just one man’s opinion, but, overall, Keeneland feels more like a country club than a racetrack and, while it is over 70 years old, it doesn’t feel old.  Of course, this could be perceived as a positive, which I can understand.  But, the rough edges and years of grit that pervade Saratoga is what, in my mind, a racetrack should be. For someone like me, who reveres the history of racing, nothing compares to the Spa.  Keeneland has a unique character all its own, but I will still take a summer afternoon at Saratoga over anywhere else.

Here are a couple of images from Bluegrass day on Saturday:

The Keeneland barn area that is surprisingly open. I was able to walk among the barns both before and after the races on Friday and Saturday.

Keeneland Race Course about an hour before first post on Bluegrass Day, 2010.

The backside at Keeneland

A row of betting windows and one of the few places at Keeneland that seems untouched by modern renovations (I could be wrong about this...)

Wasted Tears makes her way out of the barn heading towards the paddock before winning the Jenny Wiley Stakes

A Colins Ghost favorite, champion Forever Together, walking out the barn for the Jenny Wiley Stakes

Stately Victor, the inexplicable 40 to 1 winner of the Bluegrass Stakes, on his way to the paddock

The field for the Bluegrass Stakes enters the track

One of the hundreds of picturesque views around the Keeneland grounds

All around, I had an excellent trip and look forward to a returning to Keeneland.

It occurred to me as I was driving back home on Saturday night that this site turned two (racing age!) last month. So a belated Happy Birthday to Colin’s Ghost! Since we launched in March 2008, we have had nearly 42,000 visitors and over 74,000 page views. Not bad for a website that covers a marginal topic about a marginal sport. As always, thanks for reading and good luck!

Filed in Keeneland Library,Keeneland Race Course,thoroughbred racing history

6 Responses to “Keeneland, 2010”

  1. mainetraduh says:

    Nice article Kevin, love the pictures!

    I have been to the Spa, but never Keeneland. Hopefully this fall….

  2. dana says:

    Happy two year blog-a-versary!

  3. RG says:

    Once upon a time Calumet was the other side of the backstretch. No PA system. Just the mumur from the crowd to let you know they had left the gate.

  4. ML/NJ says:

    I’m also back from my spring weekend at Keeneland. After Saratoga it’s my favorite (leaving aside a possible rebirth of Hialeah). We eat at places like Dudley’s (expensive) and Ramsey’s (cheap) to avoid food poisoning, but wouldn’t think to give up some of our days at Keeneland for that place in Arkansas. (Sort of like a Saratoga – Del Mar thing.)

    The library and the freedom to walk the stables do add to the Keeneland experience. I hope you also got to eat breakfast at the “Track Kitchen.”

  5. Helene Conway says:

    Dear Kevin,

    Great blog + photos!!!
    I am a HUGE Keeneland fan as well as a Saratoga fan. Since most of my experiences at ea track were in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s – I am processing your comments from the experience of ea track during those eras. As you know the paddock side carnival at Saratoga (and the grandstand paddock side of Belmont as well) was not always like that. In fact the setup and experience was like what still exists at Keeneland. Personally, I believe Saratoga has been RUINED by the “carnival” in an area which was once used for saddling horses under trees.

    As always, thank you for your wonderful blog.

    Yours Truely (the equine facilities fanatic)

    Helene Conway

  6. Don Reed says:

    Right you are about KL’s positives, & I’ll take a chance & say that their snobbery rests upon the thin ice that so often is mistaken for actual achievement.

    Gentlemen, please, above all, keep those doors closed. Keep us out!

    That way, those of us who want to avoid the risk of infection with the three-generation, “from-shirt-sleeves-to-shirt-sleeves” inheritance blight will not be exposed to its influence, which is almost always initially incubated in the petri-dish of privilege.