Keeneland is Magic for Horses and Fans Alike
Keeneland is Magic for Horses and Fans Alike: Opening weekend of Keeneland, I was told, was a crowded, normally windy, event. I decided, after being denied media credentials, to attempt to experience Keeneland as a fan. I started asking whom I was going to see there. I started researching Keeneland. I began to ask question after question to those veterans of the venue and sport. I wanted to know what magic I was hoping to find.
Saturday morning, my parents and I awoke to begin our adventure. We all get bundled up in our fall sweaters. Pants and boots finished everyone’s attire. From there, we piled into the tiny hunk of metal that is my mothers car, and along with our jackets and blanket that clung to my mother’s side, off we went. The drive to Lexington is one of the quietest, most beautiful drives. I love driving through Kentucky. The colors, the abandoned barns, the valleys, the scenery in all, are breathtaking. The drive doesn’t seem long when you are caught up looking out the window, and possibly reading your favorite book. I finished a book in the two and a half hour drive.
The best part of the trip to Keeneland was seeing the crimson red that was the legendary Calumet. The mares and stallions were easy to pick apart, due to the fields with multiple horses in them, were the mares. Then, the lone horse in a paddock, was the stallions. To think that at one time, Alydar and Affirmed grazed in those paddocks was jaw dropping. I was in awe, just staring, soaking in the site of those crimson red gates.
Pulling into Keeneland was exciting, to think that I was finally there. The drive up was beautiful. I couldn’t wait to see what the racecourse held for me. What magic would I unlock? What scenes would I see?
After soaking in the beauty of the trees and clock and the stone that surrounded the paddock, I got to meet Horse Racing Nation’s Brian Zipse. I must say, he was one of the softest spoken, nicest, warm-hearted people I had ever met. Later in the day, I would run into him multiple times. He would even introduce me to Peter Rotondo, expert handicapper and VP of Media & Entertainment of the Breeders’ Cup. After talking to him about some possible Breeders’ Cup participants and the race that took place while we spoke, I returned to my dad, who had made a friend with security guard, Frank.
As the day went one, I met up with my friend, Jessica Rose, an exercise rider D. Wayne Lukas. She was kind enough to introduce me to the team at Keeneland, all the horses in their barn at the time. I was lucky enough to see Mr. Z and Sharm up close and person. I was able to cuddle a bit with Sharm, who has the most gorgeous deep red coat. I was able to meet Volgner and see Courageous Julie, who was getting prepped for her race at the time. Courageous Julie would go out and win her race.
The day was filled with up close pictures of horses such as Somali Lemonade, Discreet Marq, Hashtag Bourbon, Seek Again, and Wise Dan.
Wise Dan was the whole reason I wanted to be at Keeneland in the first place. I wanted to see the champion again. I hadn’t seen him since the 2013 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, on Derby day. The two-time Horse of the Year did not disappoint either. He had never looked better than he did on Saturday. He was toned, sleek, and prestigious. He knew he was better than the rest of the field, even when the race took place, he would let the long shots think they had the upper hand on him.
Dan broke last in the field of nine. He seemed to just not care where he was. He loped along, moving up slightly throughout the race. At the top of the stretch, Wise Dan had just enough room to angle out, and angle out he did. John Velazquez hardly moved as Wise Dan kicked on, grinding down the field. Dan looked a winner the entire stretch. He only got running the last half-mile of the race. After a one-length victory, seeing Wise Dan strut his stuff into the winner’s circle, I felt complete.
With a stop in the gift shop, off we went, for a long drive home. All I could think about was how perfect the day had been. While it had been cold, all I focused on was the horses. In less than a year, I would call Lexington home. I would be able to visit Keeneland whenever I wanted. I would be able to visit all the farms, and make friends and connections with people with similar loves of my own. Keeneland opened my eyes to the wonderful world that I would soon clench, able to call it my own.
Keeneland is magic.