Call me a little slow but I have lived in Lexington for sixteen years and never had a day at the races, at Keenland, which is only 10 minutes from my house. I have owned two horses in the past which my girls rode, but never had a day at the races. Nor have I been to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby either, something I hope to fix soon. You might think there are reasons— like I don’t believe in gambling. True enough, but you don’t have to gamble to enjoy watching beautiful animals race. So when my friend Dan Crockett called yesterday and told me he had two spare tickets for the 5/3rds Corporate Box, I was all over it. So what happens at Keenland at a day at the races? Well, first of all its not just the horse flesh you go to see, its all the people in various conditions of fancy dress (or not). For example, here are some likely young lads and lassies duded up. The hats and vests and dark glasses thing was clearly popular today. Not to mention all the Kentucky ladies in their Easter bonnets as you can see in the third picture down. You see people dressed to the nines juxtaposed with Harley Riders in their biker jackets, and everything in between. Its a strange menagerie. Most of the major corporations in Lexington (Lexmark, Altech, Amazon, Toyota, and various horse farms) have corporate boxes or rent someone else’s during the racing season (April leading up to the early May Derby, and then in October as well)
Races run every thirty minutes once they get started after lunch. I watched one from the corporate box, and one from right on the rail on the track so I could feel the horses going by and watch the dirt fly. Of course you can watch the race on the big board in the infield, but you can watch it online as well. What’s the point of watching a television feed when you can get up close and personal to the horses and jockeys. One of the nicest features of Keenland is that you can go down next to the paddocks and watch the horses walk out and parade around before they head for the track. And despite the fact that there was huge rain last night and this morning, the track was fluffy brown dirt tractor racked to perfection. No mud at all— well not very much. I was surprised how many thousands and thousands of people were there including tons of children— it was in many cases a family affair. There is of course old money, horse money in the Bluegrass of Kentucky, and when you walk in the clubhouse you get a sense of that. And there are rules. To sit in a corporate box its a coat and tie or nice dress affair. And the people manning or womaning the doors are old Kentucky folks— retired men and women making a little extra cash. I had to rent a tie from a man who kept the Gents clean, as I had not been told I needed more than a blazer. Lots of unexpected factors. But lest you think it was just old home week at your old Kentucky home there were all these sheiks in suits as well oggling the horses, checking the betting forms, and talking in Arabic. If you’ve spent any time at Lexington Bluegrass Airport (and I have about 50 flights a year doing events) you will have seen the Saudi jumbo jets which the sheiks bring to fill up with horses from the Keenland sales, or to bring horses to race. It’s an international affair even if they do sing ‘Our Ole Kentucky Home’ at the Derby.
Here is where I say a special thanks to Dan Crockett and the 5/3rds bunch for letting me hang around and have a cup of burgoo and see the real attraction in Kentucky—- the sport of kings (and queens— Elizabeth sometimes comes). And as for my pictures taken of one of the races—— here you go.