Keeneland, sights and sounds and…tastes…

I think it’s awfully nice when school holidays coincide with Keeneland racing; it’s even better when it happens in October, when part of the journey involves wending through the West Virginia and Maryland mountains as fall foliage explodes in color.

So at the end of yet another Backstretch road trip (24 hours in the car, 50 hours in Lexington—totally a fair deal), I’m back home in Brooklyn, feeling a little like I’ve been ridden hard and put away wet. It takes just a few seconds, though, of recalling the last couple of days—OK, and a sip or two of Kentucky-purchased bourbon—to make the road stiffness—or at least my awareness of it—a little less uncomfortable.

I was introduced to a wonderful, wonderful restaurant named Murray’s, at which I feasted on shrimp, and on pork tenderloin, and on bread pudding, and on bourbon that was served in a glass the size of a bathtub. I ate breakfast at the track kitchen, and for the first time, lunch, too (fried chicken—I recommend). In two days, I ate three servings of bread pudding, and the serving at Keeneland is still second only to the one I ate at the restaurant at the Fair Grounds.

Did you know that the publically available Keeneland wireless network doesn’t allow access to the Daily Racing Form? Now I do.

The weekend was bourbon-infused, which turned to heavily inflected on Sunday night, when I made my regular pilgrimage to this place, at which I discovered a new bourbon—a full report when it’s opened.

I made friends with the bartender at Malone’s, and his girlfriend, and we’re arranging a holiday housing swap at some point in the near future. And just to show him that not all New Yorkers are jerks, I gave him my winning ticket on Mushka. Yeah, I forgot to cash it. And yes, I tipped him, too.

And oh, yeah, I went to the races (and to Old Friends, too, but that’s the subject of another post), seeing old favorites like Forever Together and new ones like Swift Temper and Diamondrella. The racing was great, start to finish, but the weekend couldn’t have ended, for me, on a more satisfying note than Mushka’s win. I bet her in the Demoiselle, way back when, and I’ve followed her ever since. I’d rather see her win on grass or dirt than on Poly, but win at Keeneland she does, and she will be my sentimental favorite in the Breeders’ Cup.

Diamondrella winning the First Lady—too bad trainer Angel Penna, Jr. wasn’t there to see it.


In what has to be the most bizarre and incongruous assemblage of racing personages anywhere, any time, Marylou Whitney presents the First Lady trophy to Michael Iavarone of IEAH.


She didn’t cross the wire first, but at least for now, Forever Together is still the champ…


…and let’s hope that she’s not too envious of her stablemate Informed Decision, who won the Thoroughbred club of America.


Court Vision was saddled away from the crowd, solitary under the trees…


….and won the Shadwell Turf Mile by a nose.

Is Mushka looking disdainfully at her competitors? Is she saying, “Come and get me”?


Swift Temper, second in the Personal Ensign and winner of the Ruffian, looked good before the race…

…and established once and for all that she is, emphatically, a dirt horse by finishing up the track in the Spinster. No Breeders’ Cup for her, and don’t we wish that she’d stayed here and run in the Beldame instead?

The stretch run of the Spinster, seconds before Proviso came out and Mushka nearly jumped onto the apron… (love Keeneland, but watching those races straight into the sun can be a little rough…)


Those given to anthropomorphism might suggest that Proviso is looking anxiously at her competitor…apologizing, maybe? Pleading to be left up in first place?

Regal before the race and regal after, Mushka gets her picture taken…


…a perfect ending to a perfect weekend for this racing fan.

6 thoughts on “Keeneland, sights and sounds and…tastes…

  1. Bourbon–Yeah! You know what I learned from Tree of Smoke, the incredibly great Vietnam novel by Denis Johnson? How to make a Depth Charge: a shot of bourbon poured into a draft beer.Nothng to fear as long as there's beer; Hold onto your turban it's spiked with bourbon.

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