Keeneland Diaries, Day 1
Oh, how I love Keeneland! I know I say this in almost every one of my diaries, but there really is something special about racing here in the heart of the Bluegrass.
You may have noticed the radio silence over our various social media outlets yesterday. That’s my fault – I was road tripping from New York City to Lexington, so my tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking capabilities were severely limited. But I did manage in my travels to get in one snapshot that I wasn’t going to miss:
I know, I know, I shouldn’t have taken that photo while driving, but the excitement that I felt upon seeing that sign wasn’t just due to the fact that I was closing in on the end of a 10 ½-hour voyage. Way back in the day, I worked on a farm here, and after work, my fellow grooms and I would often come out to Keeneland whether they were racing or not to relax, watch horses run either live or on TV, and just take in the magic that surrounds this place. It was great to see the sign welcoming me back to the place that was briefly my home and has stayed in my heart since then.
Needless to say, I was a little punch drunk after my drive when I arrived at my hotel last night, so it was a quick burrito for dinner and then straight to bed for me. After all, FallStars was kicking off the next morning!
Team ABR converged at the Keeneland Library bright and early today to do a little last-minute planning, and then it was off to the races. (Literally. Sorry, bad pun – but did I mention that I drove alone for 10 ½ hours yesterday? Please allow leeway with my writing!)
Anyhoodle, the first thing I wanted to check out was the tailgating scene here. So many people come to the track early, set up shop with all sorts of delicious food, cocktails and party games, and get ready for the excellent day of racing in front of them. It’s like the lead-up to a football game, but cooler because everyone’s really dressed up. Heaven.
After that, I headed to the paddock to catch the cast of the Phantom of the Opera as they performed a selection of numbers from the musical and then gave an amazing rendition of the National Anthem to kick off the afternoon’s races. They were fantastic, and did the whole thing in full costumes from the show. Very cool!
Then it was time for FallStars weekend to begin! The first race of the season was a maiden race for 2-year-olds. That means that none of the horses in the race had ever won a race before; I love these types of contests, because each horse has a world of possibility in front of them. Any one of them could be the star of tomorrow.
At the end of the 1 1/16 miles, it was Admiral Kitten who bested them all. I’m excited to see where he goes from here!
From there, I just had some fun taking in the Keeneland scene. FallStars is the perfect way to describe this meet, because it’s the kind of event where everyone – horses and human, alike – can feel like a star in this show. Everyone dresses up, everyone has a great time hanging out with friends, and the atmosphere is unparalleled.
Then I headed over to the ABR Fan Hub, where our team was helping people new to the sport with the basics of betting. The Fan Hub was bumping all day, which is great. We (along from the great folks from HorsePlayer Now) absolutely love teaching people about all aspects of horse racing, and Keeneland is about the coolest schoolhouse you could ask for!
The other cool thing about the Fan Hub is that we always have great people stop by to talk about their life in horse racing. Today, top jockey Javier Castellano, swung by for an interview and then graciously answered questions from fans and signed autographs for some tiny admirers.
We also had our friend Pat Cummings (who blogs for us – you should check out his stuff!) stop by. He’s Very Important at Trakus- that’s the company that puts computer chips in the horses’ saddlecloths during races to collect key information about how the race was run, how much distance each horse covered, and what path they took to get to the finish line. It’s all fascinating stuff, and Pat was kind enough to explain it all in terms that even I, who stinks at all things numerical, could understand. Thanks, Pat!
After that, it was time to take in a little racing. The crowd here was huge, and it was great to get in the middle of the action and get swept away by the excitement.
While I was out in the crowd, I think I spotted the cutest racegoer ever. I’m not sure that he was allowed to be here, but I won’t tell if you won’t!
Then it was time for the afternoon’s main events – the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G3) and the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1). Both races were really tough, which isn’t surprising - Keeneland is one of those racetracks where owners the world over dream getting to the winner’s circle.
The Phoenix was a six furlong (AKA three-quarters of a mile) sprint, and at the end of the day it was Sum of the Parts who added up. See what I did there?
Up next was the Darley Alcibiades. This is a Breeders’ Cup "Win and You’re In" race, meaning that whoever finished first would get an all-expenses-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita to compete in the Juvenile Fillies division. So the stakes (ahem) were high as 14 2-year-old females went to the starting gate.
After a hotly contested 1 1/16 miles, it was Spring in the Air who proved to be the best, and we’re looking forward to catching up with her again next month as she faces off against the best juvenile fillies in the world!
That’s all for today – thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back tomorrow with even more action from beautiful Keeneland!