Keeneland in the spring is a magical place; and in the morning, when horses are training, it’s even more so. The air still has a nip in it, but the sun is warm and blossoms are just starting to emerge to welcome the change of season.
While I was out taking photos this morning, I had the great fortune of running into Jennie Rees, who’s one of the sport’s great writers. She was going to go visit trainer Chad Brown, who has 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Stephanie’s Kitten running in the Jenny Wiley Stakes on Friday as well as Kentucky Derby hopeful Bobby’s Kitten running in Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes. I decided to tag along with Jennie, because I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and also because I wanted to see the pretty horses. Multitasking!
We arrived at Chad’s barn just as Stephanie’s Kitten was about to head to the track for training. She’s a very big filly, and has a fantastic demeanor. I recognized her right away because she has a very distinctive and flashy blaze on her face.
Chad had Stephanie school in the paddock before heading out to the track; this helps the horse familiarize herself with the area where she’ll be saddled and paraded before her race as well as allow her trainer to give last-minute advice to her rider before their training session. Stephanie’s Kitten seemed perfectly happy to stroll under the budding trees in Keeneland’s paddock, taking in the beautiful morning.
After that, Stephanie’s Kitten headed out to the track to take her morning exercise. She seemed very comfortable and happy to be out, and she galloped around with her ears pricked forward. (That’s an indication that the horse is alert but happy; horses ears tell a lot about their emotions and mental state.)
After that, Jennie, Chad and I headed back to his barn to pick up Bobby’s Kitten, the early favorite for Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes. As Bobby’s Kitten emerged from the barn, I was impressed by the colt’s athleticism and poise. He’s at the peak of his fitness coming into this race, but he was calm as he posed to have his photo taken in the crisp morning air.
I did get a photo of him shooting me epic side-eye as well, which I just have to share with you. That is the look of a horse who doubts that I’m shooting him from his favorite angle.
After posing in the barn area to get his photo taken, it was time to head to the paddock for a little schooling. His trainer Chad Brown led him there himself, and once they were in the paddock the two shared a moment while enjoying the sunshine.
After that, Chad led Bobby’s Kitten into several of the saddling stalls to get him used to the area where he’ll be tacked up on Saturday.
Then it was time to train. As Bobby’s Kitten galloped around Keeneland’s race course, he visibly sharpened up and seemed to enjoy taking a lap over the track.
After Bobby’s Kitten had trained, I stuck around the track to watch the last of the horses exercise for the day and to enjoy the sights of Keeneland. One of my favorite things about coming here in the morning is the level of interaction that horsemen here afford fans. This pony rider was letting the people at the rail pet her horse, who was clearly basking in the attention.
Because I am, at heart, a horse-crazy little girl trapped in a grown-up’s body, I had to take a pony selfie. I was powerless to resist my impulse.
I am also a terrible friend, because the awesome Claire Novak first offered to take the photo and then asked to be in it with me. And because I am greedy for equine affection, I for some reason refused completely. (Those who know me well would be shocked – shocked! – by this display of selfishness. Actually, no, they wouldn’t be; not if there’s a horse involved.)
But because Claire is a very helpful friend indeed, she still gave me a ride to pick up my rental car. I owe her one!
With that, my morning at Keeneland drew to an end. As always, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back tomorrow with all of the action out of Keeneland for Maker’s 46 Mile Day featuring my favorite horse, Wise Dan!