A Day at the Races…Keeneland

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~ Winston Churchill

Welcome to Keeneland
Welcome to Keeneland

When in Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, spending a day with thoroughbreds is a must in my book.  Keeneland moved to the top of our must-see list as this satisfied my desire to see some magnificent horses and Terry’s interest to go the races for the first time.  It was also Keeneland’s final race weekend of the year.  In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America ranked this track the number one thoroughbred race track in North America so it seemed the perfect place to get our fix.

Keeneland was founded in 1936 as a non-profit, dedicated to racing and auctions, on a gorgeous piece of Lexington property that had been owned by Jack Keene. Much of the profits from the racing and auctions are used to further the thoroughbred industry and support the surrounding community.  In 1986 Keeneland was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.  They have two racing seasons here, the month of April and that of October.  April races contain several preps for the Kentucky Derby and October races focus on the Breeder’s Cup.

We arrived at the track early to explore the property, in the hopes of seeing some horses being prepped for the big race day.  The surprise of the day was encountering Tom, one of Terry’s fellow high school football players, who worked at the track.  He generously allowed us into the inner track, giving us the opportunity to watch the race from the rail, up-close and personal, right next to the winner’s circle (be still my heart).  Our escort was a warm, engaging man of 86, Jim “JR”, who has volunteered at Keeneland for 20 years, and is quite the ladies’ man I soon learned.

Me and my good buddy JR.
Me and my good buddy JR.

Having purchased tickets at the last minute, our seats were in the grandstands so we thought we would be watching the races from the monitors, for which we were quite content.  Imagine our excitement to watch from the rail, horses flying by, thundering hooves reverberating in our ears.

For those who think the thoroughbreds here run on a dirt track, you would be mistaken.  Although it looks to be exactly that, it is Keeneland’s own proprietary Polytrack, a mix of silica sand, recycled synthetic fibers, and recycled rubber/PVC, which they converted to in 2006.

I was ecstatic to think I would be so close to the winner’s circle, watching horse and jockey being brought in, almost close enough to touch.  Riding on Dream Softly, Joseph Rocco, Jr. was to claim the first win of the day.

Dream Softly, ridden by Joseph Rocco, Jr. in the winner's circle
Dream Softly, ridden by Joseph Rocco, Jr. in the winner’s circle

We didn’t realize at the time that we had snapped a shot of him before entering the tunnel to head onto the track.  And I was not prepared for the surprise my good buddy JR had for me immediately after the race.

JR, me, and jockey Joseph Rocco.  I'm a happy girl!
JR, me, and jockey Joseph Rocco. I’m a happy girl!

After leaving Keeneland, we decided to drive part of the Bluegrass Driving Tour, where beautiful rolling hills and pastures and the trademark black picket fences of the horse farms can be found.  It was a perfect way to end the day.

Time permitting, I would have loved to explore Old Friends Farm for Retired Thoroughbreds just outside of Lexington, an organization dedicated to giving these magnificent, gentle beauties the respect they deserve after their careers have ended, much preferred to the slaughter auctions that so many face.

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73 thoughts on “A Day at the Races…Keeneland

  • What a brilliant experience this must have been… I think of all those in the stands and other areas, who spent the day wondering who you were being in the privileged area… they must have thought of you two as some one important. (which you are of course) …. I love to take photos of horses and you really must have seen some beauts…

  • Wow! What a lucky day for you two! Nothing like an up close and personal experience for a total thrill. Your wonderful smile says it all, LuAnn! You are definitely in beautiful country.

  • Once again LuAnn, you’ve hit on one of my KY favs. Terri and I went to university at UK, and have family in Lexington, and consequently, have been to Keeneland quite a lot. It’s such a beautiful place, and there’s nothing like a beautiful spring or fall day out at Keeneland. We try to make it at least once a year, but haven’t been this year. Of course, when we go we’re part of the commoners, and don’t get the Royal Treatment like you and Terry. That must have been wonderful. Great post and wonderful photos – both stills and action. ~James

      • One of Terri’s sisters worked at a TV station in Lexington, so she had some pull. She and her husband got to actually meet Secretariat. To this day, they have a hair from his tail taped to their computer monitor. When there are home DNA extraction kits, they’ll be set. ~James

      • How wonderful. We had watched a documentary a few weeks ago about how “prison farms” have been developed to take care of thoroughbreds past their prime. It was fascinating to see the connection made between prisoners and horses. It made me want to go to the Old Friends Farm, but unfortunately time ran out.

  • What a grand experience you had, and you were in the inner track!!! I love the photo of you, JR, and jockey Joseph Rocco. Thank you so much for the wonderful virtual tour! Btw, love the header 🙂

  • Another lovely header photo.

    I have never seen a roll-over description before. I went to look at a larger photo of your first shot and saw…Honoring the jocks…pop up. Excellent idea! How clever.

    WOW…big shots getting to watch the race from the inside and meeting Joseph Rocco, Jr. I actually recognize the name. Nice job! What a fabulous day!

    • Thanks Marsha. That header photo was from Amish country. We were not expecting to be taken to the inner track, which was pretty exciting. We were able to spend time with the bugler, as well as the jocks. 🙂

  • What a great post. We visited Keeneland several years ago but it wasn’t during race weeks. How exciting to see your photos and to have you share your day.

  • This is fantastic. How exciting and wonderful for you. So up close and personal (and then to have the win too) and share in the moment! The energy at this time is just electric, isn’t it, LuAnn? I am so happy for you and Terry and that you were able to capture such excellent shots (you look great btw) for this adventure. So incredibly cool! Way to go! 🙂

  • Al and I used to visit the track in Arlington Park, IL….loved watching the ‘ponies’ race and of course winning a little money here and there. Great new header photo….BUT more importantly I like the new ‘do’ and camera. What camera did you finally get?

    • I used to go to Arlington Park when I lived in IL as well! We didn’t do any gambling but it was still great to be up-close to those magnificent horses and feel the excitement of the race. I had grown my hair almost shoulder length but don’t have the thick, wavy locks that you have so it was a lot of work, not something I wanted to be doing. When we went to Lexington I made an appointment to get it all chopped off. The camera I decided upon was the Panasonic Lumix FZ200. Now to have the time and weather to get out and learn how to use it! 🙂

  • First, beautiful reflection photo on the header.
    Second, you are so lucky to be in the front seats. I can feel how excited you and Terry must be.
    Thirdly, Is that a Lumix GX3 or GH2?
    Lastly, when we get to KY we hope to see those thoroughbreds and a race to watch.

    • Thanks! For me it was great to be that close and get to touch some of these magnificent horses and Terry had never been to the racetrack so it was a treat for him. The camera I decided to get, after much studying, was the Lumix FZ200. I went back and forth on whether to get a DSLR, but honestly, since a lot of my photos will probably be taken while hiking, I opted to not have to deal with all the lenses and the weight. It is going to be enough for me to learn how to use this one!

  • We never saw the horses when we went to Kentucky..can you believe that? I’m still kicking myself. Love the pics, plus you are looking beautiful as always. Is that a new “do”? It suits you!
    Nina

    • For me, if you are going to be in KY as long as we are, you must see the horses. Keeneland was all about being up-close to these beautiful animals and feeling the excitement of the day. The added bonus was getting to visit with the bugler, the jockeys, and of course, my new flirtatious buddy JR, who kept trying to send Terry away (lol).

      It is a new “do” for me. I had grown my hair almost down to my shoulders, but with it being so fine and straight, it was always a struggle and a lot of work. Terry suggested getting it all cut off so I made an appointment in Lexington, not knowing for sure what I was going to do. I started to look at some photos and said “cut it all off”. I can always let it grow again if I tire of it.

  • What a great experience and thank you so much for sharing it with all of us. I have been to Kentucky Horse Park and enjoyed that immensely. While in AZ I also went with a friend to the races in Prescott to pick up a horse she was going to purchase as soon as he completed his final race. He turned out to be a great pleasure horse for her.

    • The Kentucky Horse Park was on my list but we ran out of time. Given how much time we were able to interact with the horses at the track, I was not too disappointed.

  • Hi LuAnn, nothing more beautiful than a horse. What a fun day for you and Terry. WOW, getting to watch from the fence!! This could be a once in a life time event! It looks like you were enjoying yourself!!

  • LuAnn, you and Terry must of felt like VIPS being so close to the horses. And fancy Terry meeting up with an old school friend, they must of had a lot to chat about. Interesting to hear that the horses don’t run on dirt track, I wonder why the changed to Polytrack. Your photos are beautiful,thank you for sharing.

  • So great to have you blogging again! Loved all of the pictures….what an exciting and special time for the two of you. Not many people get into the winner’s circle for a picture with the jockey. Now you and Terry can check that off your bucket list and get on with the rest of your adventures!
    Also, I love the new hair cut….it looks great on you, Lu.
    Miss you terribly.
    Doug and Donna

    • Thanks Doug and Donna! It was a wonderful day and we could not have experienced some of it without meeting up with Tom. As far as the new haircut, I had grown my hair almost down to my shoulders and just couldn’t deal with all the time it was taking me. As a hairdresser told me once, my hair is like frog fur (lol), as was hers. It seems to work better when it is shorter. We miss you two as well but have this winter in FL to look forward to. 🙂

  • I am sooo glad that you got to see the horses, as you had wanted to do, AND the truly special treatment you received for your new friend. I love your haircut, also. Glad to see it short again.

  • What a lovely day out. And how nice to be given special treatment 🙂 My friend’s dad used to be a steward in the race club here, and we have had access to the air conditioned stewards box and all its perks on a couple of occasions, And boy was it special! Losing my bets didn’t hurt that much 😀

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