Together at Keeneland
LEXINGTON, KY – I’ve been coming to Keeneland Race Course since I was 16 years old. Got Pat Day’s autograph one afternoon. Picked up a random aluminum horseshoe from under the rail of the old dirt track. Stood by that rail on crisp autumn mornings and watched – and felt – the runners gallop down off the turn, the quick inhale of breath, the rhythmic rush. Then, for me, being here was everything.
Things change and life goes on – now I interview figures in the sport instead of asking for their autographs, and my horseshoe collection includes plates from Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Arlington Park, Monmouth, Oaklawn. But Keeneland will always be a part of me, visits to the Lexington oval as regular as the changing seasons.
That’s the way it is here in the “horse capital of the world.” Racing is engrained in society, written in the history books. From street names to farm signs, references to Thoroughbreds offer a constant reminder of the sport we love. Our friends and relatives are farm managers, bloodstock agents, equine photographers, just plain fans. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who does something with horses, and going to the track is as much a part of autumn life as football games at the University of Kentucky or a cold glass of bourbon barrel beer.
In case you didn’t notice, I love it here. And today at Keeneland, as fans turned out to enjoy the autumn sunshine, a beautiful day at the races, I was struck by the sense of community, by the way the sport brings us together. There was tailgating on the hill and cornhole in the parking lot and pleasantries in the paddock and a crowd that filled the stands, something for everyone, a good time had by all. And even though it was business as usual for the horsemen and jockeys, that business was of the pleasantest kind. Everyone loves a day at the races
Tonight, there’ll be time to dissect wagers lost and won, and to catch the game, UK hosting Georgia. Tomorrow, it’s day 13 of the fall racing season. The tradition continues. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be.