I was fortunate to spend last week in Louisville, Ky. for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The first half of my week was dedicated to volunteering at OwnerView’s Thoroughbred Owner Conference for new and prospective owners, while the second half was focused on the Breeders’ Cup itself.
I enjoyed seven fantastic days in the Bluegrass State, and I highlighted some of my top moments below as both a racing fan and a racing employee:
1. Big-event buzz: Normally, I travel to cities the night before the racing event starts and leave the morning after the event ends. For this Breeders’ Cup, I was at Churchill Downs and in Downtown Louisville for the entire week leading up to the World Championships and was able to soak in all of the excitement surrounding American racing’s biggest weekend.
2. A morning with the stars: On Tuesday, conference attendees were able to watch Breeders’ Cup horses gallop under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs at the Breeders’ Cup breakfast marquee. Watching the sun rise over the grandstand while world-class Thoroughbreds exercised below was breathtaking.
3. Farm visits: As part of the Thoroughbred Owner Conference, I was able to chaperone visits to Calumet Farm and WinStar Farm. Calumet does not offer tours to the public, so it was a privilege to be able to go inside the infamous white fencing, see the farm’s stallions, and visit the cemetery where so many legends are buried. It was also great to meet WinStar’s plethora of top stallions.
4. Racing celebrities: Staying in Louisville during Breeders’ Cup week made for ample opportunity to connect with racing’s biggest names. On my flight to Louisville, I sat within two rows of Chad Brown and Barclay Tagg, and I ended up chatting with Bob Baffert in the elevator of the hotel that was hosting the Owner Conference.
5. An educational opportunity: While I have no intention of purchasing a racehorse, volunteering at the Owner Conference was also a learning opportunity into the various aspects of Thoroughbred ownership, from accounting and legal issues to picking out horses at the sales. If there is anything that I have learned about the racing industry, it is that you never stop learning.
6. The people: The best part of horse racing is the horses. The second best part is the people. I reconnected with so many old racing friends and colleagues who were in town for the Breeders’ Cup. The love we all have for horse racing is an unmatched bond that makes the sport even better.
7. The weather: Friday was cold. However, Saturday was a perfect fall day. If I were to tell you that I got sunburnt at the Breeders’ Cup, you would probably assume that I was referring to a Breeders’ Cup held in California. You would be assuming wrong.
8. The equine stars: Attendees at this year’s Breeders’ Cup were treated to incredible performances by our equine athletes in all 14 races. I’m sure I am not alone in saying that Enable’s victory in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf was the highlight of the weekend. While watching the stretch drive of the Breeders’ Cup Turf live, it was obvious that the crowd was rooting for this spectacular filly to make history, and we were all so happy that she did.
9. Visiting the sales grounds: For all of the opportunities that I have been fortunate to have in the horse racing industry, I had never attended a public auction or sales grounds. While I did not have time to stick around for the Fasig-Tipton November sale or Keeneland November breeding stock sale, I was able to visit Keeneland and take a look around. For those who do not know, the sales grounds are free and open to the public. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the incomparable Lady Eli, and lucky for me, she was out of her stall and showing for potential buyers when I found her barn. She is one of my favorite racemares, and I had not seen her in person since she won at Saratoga more than a year ago.
10. Seeing old favorites: Anyone who knows me knows that I wax poetic about Thoroughbreds, especially my favorites. While at Calumet, I got to see English Channel, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner. His groom was kind enough to hold him in his stall with the door open so that we visitors could take pictures, and I casually mentioned that he was one of my favorite horses. His groom then asked me if I wanted to take a picture with the champion, and he brought English Channel out of his stall for me.
On Sunday morning, I was able to reconnect with a Breeders’ Cup winner who is one of my all-time favorites: Ashado. I have loved Ashado (“love” is an understatement) since I was a pre-teen, and I have visited her at least once a year since 2013, when I got the break of a lifetime and interned at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm, where she resides. For this visit, I had to drive to a field at the back of the farm, where Ashado is currently living with other barren (not pregnant) and maiden (never been bred) mares. I would have been perfectly content to walk through the field to find Ashado, but the wonderful staff at Gainsborough brought her in for me and groomed her.
Between the magnificent horses, kind and generous humans, exciting races, and social events, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup was one to remember, and I hope I have the opportunity to attend again next year in California and celebrate my favorite sport.