Between the Pages
We Kentuckians say it all the time, but really, there is NOTHING like Kentucky in the spring. And there’s no place I’d rather be on a Saturday afternoon in April than Keeneland.
However you choose to enjoy the Keeneland grounds, it is an experience that just can’t be replicated. Whether you decide to indulge in burgoo and bread pudding in the dining room, watch the races from a seat in the grandstand, or wander around the paddocks surrounded by hundred-year-old trees and ivy-covered stone walls, every corner of Keeneland oozes history, excitement and grandeur.
And there’s nothing better than sharing a quintessential Kentucky experience with a few dozen new friends, which is what I found myself doing on the afternoon of the 2012 Blue Grass Stakes.
I’m giving away my Keeneland secret now at the risk of ruining it: my favorite place to watch the races is right on the rail in between the third and final turns, amongst the tailgating festivities.
For just five bucks and the physical toil of waking up early on a Saturday morning, you can park your car and pull your lawn chairs right up to the rails, with a view of the entire grandstand and the racecourse. (Yes, you can bet from out there too, without ever going inside!)
And on a day like the Blue Grass Stakes Day, getting there early means that you arrive at the track by 9 a.m. This, for me, means that in order to gussy myself up in proper Keeneland attire, my Saturday begins at 7 a.m. But the sacrifices are worth it… and a mimosa around 10:30 helps, too.
In true Keeneland style, Bluegrass Stakes day turned into quite the celebration around the final turn.
It began with a small group of friends gathered around the bed of our truck with mimosas, muffins and a hashbrown casserole.
Soon enough, some “friends of friends” arrived from Indianapolis. It was their first time at ANY racetrack, so of course, they needed a proper education. Being a good Kentuckian, I immediately whipped out my racing program to detail the basics of Betting 101. But of course, I warned them that a catchy name and good feeling had as good of a chance as the most carefully studied of wagers.
Soon after, a couple from Ireland said hello. They had come to America on holiday last August, and chosen Northern Kentucky as their home base while exploring our country (I’ll save the commentary on how to get a six-month “holiday” for another post). It too, was their first time at the track. They were completely enamored with Keeneland and the atmosphere surrounding the track. Being from Ireland, they were a bit familiar with horses already—but they were NOT familiar with cornhole. A quick lesson was necessary—and they were pretty good!
By noon, things got a little crazy. More “friends of friends” arrived with 20 pounds of crawfish, and our modest breakfast affair turned into a massive Southern-style crawfish boil at noon. Before the bugler called the horses to the post for the first race, more than 100 people were gathered around a newspaper-covered folding table, enjoying fresh crawfish, corn, potatoes and new friends.
I didn’t win any money Saturday, but it was a lovely Kentucky afternoon full of new friends and lots of fun. And the best part is that I am certain this same scenario was played out all over the grounds of Keeneland Saturday.
Good friends, beautiful weather, amazing horses… I’ll bet on that any day!
Multi-Media Development Director