Lexington, KY April 25, 2007
Keeneland is the experience we have been looking for throughout our adventures through the sporting world. This is a facility that is second to none, and has some of the friendliest folks working there we have ever experienced as well.
We were covering the Rolex **** Three Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington and figured that we should drop by Keeneland to see what all the hoopla we have heard over the years was all about and did we ever find out. There were only two days left in their Spring season of racing and the air was filled with electricity as we were driving through Lexington to get there. The incredible horse farms on the way there set the mood and when you see the incredible red and white structures of Calumet Farms is when you start understanding what the history of Thoroughbred racing in Kentucky is all about.
We then approached the entrance framed within large stone columns which stood like big monoliths welcoming you to racing history. Keeneland was first opened in 1936 and is definitely the Queen of all the racing facilities in the United States. The drive up the magnificent lane with brick insets along the way is exciting. The estate is covered with beautiful stone structures that look like they should be at Camelot with King Arthur presiding.
We pull into the parking lot and walk up to the administration building to get our credentials and are greeted by some of the friendliest smiles and helpful folks. Our adventure begins in spite of the rain and cool temperatures as we proceed to the main gate. Once we go through the gate we enter into a brick-lined courtyard which has large oaks and willows and a huge Rolex clock with the name Keeneland at the top. This is the trademark of Keeneland and of course is a clear demonstration of the classy side of the facility. The courtyard is the area where the horses for the next race are brought up from the bordering barns. The grooms begin their warm-ups prior to the race by walking them around on the brick-lined paths. The other commanding feature of the courtyard is how the walls are covered in ivy and the entire feature is lined with great green hedges.
Next the horses are then taken to another adjoining yard lined with hedges where the jockeys join their steeds. Once they have been paraded around to the observing betters then they go through a tunnel toward the track. Of course the public is not allowed in the tunnel area so you must traverse to your seat via the route of the betting windows. You can cut the excitement with a knife and like most tracks there is an air of fun mixed with the serious concentration of pouring over the racing forms.
When we approached the front of the stands we saw what folks had been telling us about concerning some of the renovations at Keeneland. The infield is sporting a nice new electronic leader/tote board replete with a great jumbo-tron television screen and then another screen which is an electronic representation of the positioning of the horses as they go around the track much like you see on the television watching the NASCAR races. This is a great addition and is the only one like it that we have seen and was a great investment by Keeneland for the fans.
Of course you can’t have a race without the bugler calling to colors before the race, and as at most tracks you have a gentleman that has been a fixture at the facility for years. Keeneland is no different. After watching seven races we finally decided to have our ritual track-side meal of a great hot-dog covered in mustard.
To make a short story of a great day, Sports Image Times definitely recommends that if you have never had the pleasure of visiting Keeneland get moving when they have their next racing season beginning on October 5th through the 27th. For that matter, even if they aren’t running the ponies you still need to visit them. It is definitely a great facility with great employees and can provide smiles galore when you walk through the gate.
Story by: Jeff Kluss/ Sports Image Times
Copyright Sports Image Times 2007