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:
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!