Keeneland Diaries, Day 2
I didn’t want to bring this up yesterday, because I felt like saying it would give it power, but it was supposed to pour here today. And be wretchedly cold. So what a fantastic surprise to find out upon waking that it was a perfect autumn morning – crisp and clear, with the sun blazing and birds singing. It was time to get to the track!
I headed back out to Keeneland, and once again set out for the tailgating section. This time, though, I got to participate instead of just wander around creepily taking photos of strangers. My Twitter friend Matt Watts (give him a follow at @DerbyFan78) had barbequed pork shoulder for 22 hours to make some of the most succulent pulled pork I’ve ever had. It was magnificent.
After that, a few more Twitter folks joined us for some food and socializing and then we headed to the rail to take in a race. It was a really cool perspective to experience the races, and I highly recommend that anyone who has a few days to spend at Keeneland bring a tailgate and take in a few contests there.
Here we are right next to the racetrack – and the coolest thing about this is that anyone can go here. No credentials or tickets are required. It’s awesome.
After enjoying some seriously great food and company, I was back to creepily taking pictures of strangers. There were plenty of people tailgating today, and the scene was a feast for the senses.
There were also some characters wandering around the tailgating area. This guy had a full on ball-and-chain motif going on.
And don’t go thinking that that’s some papier-mâché shenanigans, either. That’s a full-on bowling ball with a bicycle chain attached to it. Dude was not messing around. Most likely he was there for a bachelor party, but I like to think that he busted out of jail, stopped only to get a tie and came straight to the races. Because Keeneland Fall Stars can do that to a person.
I also saw these guys really committing to the sporting life.
That, in case you can’t tell, is a satellite dish. They had brought it with them to ensure that they could watch both the UK football game as well as the afternoon’s races. Amazeballs.
After stalking people in the parking lot, I decided that I was due for a little quality time with the track itself. So I headed up to the grandstand entrance, and who did I find but Bucky, the track bugler. This man is a Keeneland legend – he’s been here for almost 50 years, and today he was signing autographs and letting fans take photos with him.
Needless to say, I got right in line. He is so cool!
Then it was time for some seriously quality racing to start up. First on the afternoon’s docket of stakes races was the Woodford Stakes (G3). A field of seven lined up to try for the lion’s share of the $150,000 purse, and it was Bridgetown who ruled the day.
Up next was the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2). This one is a Breeders’ Cup "Win and You’re In" race for the Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) division. The favorite is a filly called Groupie Doll, who is perhaps one of the best-named horses that I know of, since she quite literally has groupies. She’s a determined chestnut horse, and today she didn’t disappoint her legion of followers, winning the race with daylight between her and the runner-up.
The 15th edition of the First Lady Stakes (G1) was up next, and the star of the show was Tapitsfly. I am a total sucker for a gray (my own off-the-track Thoroughbred is a gray, and he is the most beautiful horse in all of the world. I will hear no argument to the contrary.) So needless to say, I was delighted when Tapitsfly took home victory.
One of the more interesting races of the afternoon came next: the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, a 1 1/16-mile long Grade 1 test that is also a Breeders’ Cup "Win and You’re In" race; this one gets the victor into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), which is one of my favorite races of the year. Fourteen horses lined up to take their chance in the Futurity, and it was a very exciting race to behold.
It was Johar who took a trip to the winner’s circle today.
Interestingly, his trainer is a man by the name of Mike Maker, who trained last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen. Here’s the swag waiting for him and the owners on the turf course after Johar won the race.
Finally, it was time for the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). This Breeders’ Cup "Win and You’re In" race earns the first-place finisher a guaranteed spot in the Turf Mile, and 12 horses lined up to take a shot. I was rooting for favorite Wise Dan, which will come as no surprise to anyone who read my Woodbine Diaries. I am a big fan of this horse – he just tries so hard every time he runs, and he genuinely seems to enjoy winning.
So imagine my joy as he made this tough race look so easy, winning by 2 ¼ lengths.
As he crossed the finish line, I kind of lost my mind a little bit and exclaimed, “He did it! That’s my boyfriend!” The other photog smiled at me and asked how long I’d been dating the jockey. I explained that Wise Dan was my “chestnut horse boyfriend.” He gave me a very strange look and avoided me for the rest of the afternoon. Something I said?
Anyway, as Wise Dan was returning to the winner’s circle to get his due, he looked so proud of himself.
As well as he should – there was some serious loot awaiting him and his connections back on the turf course.
That’s it for me today – I’ll leave you with a few extra photos from the afternoon. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back with even more from Keeneland tomorrow!