I held off on the final part of this series because I was hoping to write about the winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes being the winner of the Kentucky Derby….but it was not meant to be. We got a chance to visit Keeneland on Friday and Saturday. They were 2 days of packed races with Derby and Oaks implications. Millions in purse money to be won and Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks points to be earned as well. Friday we had a tour at Woodford Reserve. Once we finished up with that we headed over to Keeneland. We also had our Coolmore tour in the afternoon so we would miss everything after the 4th race. We got to the track and it was on and off sun and rain. A little chilly but not terrible. In-between rain it was actually pretty nice out. We had a horse in the 4th race (A Mo Reay) so I was hoping to get a peak of her in the paddock. The parking lot at Keeneland was great. Full of people happy to be at the track for another spring season. It was a totally different experience then Saratoga but equally as beautiful. We got our burgoo and bread pudding. It was glorious on this chilly day. Caught a few races and had to split to Coolmore. On our way to Coolmore it was colder and sleeting on us. We are absolutely gassed after a day all over the area between bourbon tours and horse tours. We decided to head back to the hotel and watch the rest of the card on TV. We watched Nest romp the field to head to the Oaks. Called it an early night and got some rest for Day 2 at the races.
We woke up on Saturday morning to snow mixed with rain. It was cold and miserable out. Any other day we are not heading out into this slop. This was our last day of our Kentucky trip. We had 9 hour drive home ahead of us tomorrow. I put on 4 layers for today and wore a winter hat. We were used to the summer temps at the track, but this was not the case today. We got there early, and I wanted to be on the rail for most of the day. Lots of big races to include the G3 Commonwealth, The G2 Shakertown, The G2 Appalachian, The G1 Madison and the G1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes which would score big points for the winner toward the Kentucky Derby. Again as we pulled in there were plenty of people tailgating at their vehicles. Everyone was upbeat and happy to be at the track today regardless of the weather. Within 10 minuets of getting there, we saw a white wall slowly work its way toward us. A snow squall put a trace of snow on al the grass at the track. Then sunlight and wind. It was freezing out for the entire day. I was lucky to get on the rail for most of the races. We saw a few great performances from Iron Works, Golden Pal and Zandon. We saw plenty of Breeders Cup horses as well as future Derby participants.
While the G1 Madison horses were on the track for their post parade Steve Asmussen came strolling through the crowd. He had a horse running in the Madison named Klaypso. He was rocking a 3 chimneys “Gun Runner” jacket. Most of the crowd had no clue they were bumping shoulder with North Americans most winningest trainer, but he got an occasional fist bump from a few fans.
As the day went on the track went from sloppy to good. Most of the races stayed on the turf. It was still a little wet but Keeneland had great drainage. I guess the grass is so green in Kentucky because all it does is rain in the spring. The horses went through the post parade and loaded into the gate. With so many Kentucky Derby implications the crowd was so tuned up to this race. The horses left the gate and stormed by. 11 horses all trying to get out and on the lead. This race would bring them passed us twice. In the end Zandon the number 4 horses came from last place and closed in on Smile Happy to win the G1 Toyota Blue Grass and earn his trip to the 148th Kentucky Derby. Zandon would finish 3rd in the Derby behind the favorite Epicenter and the 80-1 longshot Rich Strike. We took time in between the last race to head inside to catch the Santa Anita Derby on TVG. Taiba and Messier took 1 and 2 and put the favorite Forbidden Kingdom away with ease. They would both go to the Kentucky Derby.
This was a great trip. Kentucky was beautiful and we got a chance to squeeze in so much. We got a chance to see some world famous horses that are easily going to remember for many years to come and put their mark on the future of racing. Keeneland was a great track to visit as well. It made the lead up to the Derby pretty awesome. Now that it is over and a $30,000 claimer took the run for the roses I guess its time to recoup and rethink about next year trip and how to do it better. On top of that we still have Saratoga and maybe a visit to the Breeders Cup this year.
Friday afternoon we had a tour set up with Coolmore. WE spent the morning at Keeneland taking in the sights of their opening day. Regardless of the weather the track was packed. I got up early and caught the morning works. Something magical about any track in the morning watching the horses get their works in. It was sort of sunny in the morning but cold. I had a coffee with me, so all was good in the world. We also had a tour at Woodford Reserve that morning as well. Woodford was awesome and right down the road from Coolmore, so we saw where we were going to end up later in the day. Once we finished up at Woodford, we headed back to Keeneland. We got our burgoo and bread pudding. And caught a few races. It was the first time I was able to see one of my horses in person. (A Mo Reay). She was in the 4th race and was the last race we could watch before we needed to head out to Coolmore. She didn’t run well and was pulled up by Luis Saez. She checked out fine post-race. They chalked it up to it being her first race since a long layoff. We arrived at Coolmore a little late. I was I could say the weather was great and the light was fantastic, but it wasn’t. It was sleeting on us and dark and gray. From a photography standpoint it was terrible. The light was horrible, and I knew I was going to have to really work to get some good pictures of some awesome horses. We were scheduled to see some great ones at that! We walked from the welcome center to the first barn. It was the barn we have all seen on Television with American Pharaoh and Justify standing outside. The grounds were beautiful at Coolmore I just wish the weather was nicer for us. We walked inside the barn and immediately saw Mendelssohn. Coolmore had a few works in the barn and got Justify out for us. He was a tall, large horse. Like so many of these stallions he looked as if he could put a saddle on and run today. He was in great shape. Justify was a handful. He was testing his handlers the entire time. And they had to constantly keep him moving. Next, they got American Pharoah out for us. He was the exact opposite of Justify. He was smaller then Justify and very relaxed. He sat and took in all the pictures. Those were the only horses they really took out for us for the tour. WE hit a few of the other barns and saw the other big names. Tiz the Law, Maximum Security, Echo Town, and Uncle Mo. We got a tour of the breeding shed which was pretty similar to Spendthrift. Coolmore was beautiful and I really wish we had better weather for our visit. Next year we will more then likely go back to check it out. Big thanks go out to Coolmore and our guide for giving us a great tour and welcoming us on their grounds for a few hours.
Thursday afternoon we took a ride down Iron Works Pike to Spendthrift Farm. We were both excited for this afternoon visit because of our connections with Spendthrift/MyRacehorse. Located in Lexington KY, Spendthrift is a mere 1200 acres of green grass and white barns. Home to recent Kentucky Derby winner Authentic and one of racings most popular and sought-after stud Into Mischief. The colt that my father and I are part of is a son of Into Mischief (Provocateur). This year Into Mischief’s stud fee is a whopping $250,000. The only thing close to that in North American would be Tapit ($185,000), Curlin ($175,000) and Uncle Mo ($160,000) who we would see on our next tour at Coolmore. (I also have a small share in a Uncle Mo filly named A Mo Reay).
We started our tour at the stallion barns. At the time we started all the stallions were out in the fields rolling in the mud. It had rained the past few days, so the fields were wet and muddy. You will see in the pictures that none of these horses could help themselves. Our guide for the day was named Kendall. She did a great job to tell us about the history of Spendthrift. She told us that Beholder one of the famous mares that is located at the farm gave birth the night before. Monomoy Girl was pregnant with an Into Mischief baby.
We were show the breeding shed and all the complexities that goes into the crux of Spendthrifts business model. The money made through their commercial breeding program is what they focus on. On the norm they have 3 and sometimes 4 breeding sessions a day. Not all horses participate in each session, but the top stallions like Into Mischief and Authentic likely do. Authentic was a Kentucky Derby winner in 2020. He beat out Tiz the Law in a late season derby. Rode by John Velazquez and trained by Bob Baffert. Once we finished up with the Breeding shed, we got a chance to go outside and see them walk a few of the horses back into their stalls. We saw plenty of big names from the past few years. Mitole, Cross Traffic, Omaha Beach, Vino Rosso, and lastly Into Mischief. Everyone who walked past us stop and posed for a picture. They all had mud on them. From here we went over to the U building where they were putting others back in their stalls. A few bloodstock agents were on hand examining the horses for breeding session to come. Other names we saw at the U building included winner of the G1 Forego at Saratoga Yaupon, made famous by the attack by Firenze Fire. Gormley, Goldencents, Maximus Mischief (son of Into Mischief) and Known Agenda.
We finished up and headed back to the Stallion barn. 2020 Kentucky winner Authentic was back in his stall. We were told that he was a biter and to be careful around him. When you would walk up to his stall, he would meet you and wait for a camera or hand to get close. The farriers were at the barn and doing some hoof work on the horses, so we got a chance to hear them talk about what they were doing. The first tour ended, and we got to stick around for a more in-depth tour of the breeding business that is done at Spendthrift.
The tour was compromised of people who had ownership in at least 1 horse with MyRacehorse/Spendthrift Farm. It was a big week with A Mo Reay running on Friday and Iron Works running on Saturday at Keeneland. We got a rundown of the breeding shed again and more in-depth of the process. Most of us were there for the first tour. The afternoon breeding session was in full swing. The barns that were empty in the last tour were full of mares ready to go. We got a chance to ask questions to the Vet on site who oversees every live cover. This operation runs from Feb-Jun, 7 days a week, 3-4 session a day. We saw 5 live covers. It was an interesting process where a lot can go wrong. Everyone at Spendthrift was really good to us and gave us a chance to get more photos and time with the other horses. We were asked not to reveal the names of the mares for the sake of the client’s privacy at Spendthrift. It really was a great tour and look forward to seeing it again. Hopefully the next time around they offer something with Got Stormy and Monomoy Girl. They were both MyRacehorse offerings during their racing career and were now in foal at Spendthrift. I hoped you enjoy the write up and pictures. Part 3 will be our visit at Coolmore with American Pharaoh, Justify and Tiz the Law.
Omaha Beach, trained by Richard Mandella. Scratched out of the Kentucky Derby just days before as the ML favorite. Breeders Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso trained by Todd A. Pletcher Breeding shed at Spendthrift farm Kentucky Derby winner Authentic trained by Bob Baffert Spendthrift wall of fame, 2 Triple crown winners on this wall. Seattle Slew and Affirmed Multiple Graded Stakes winner Yaupon
I was born in Saratoga, NY. My father worked in the horse business on the harness racing side of things. I can just barely recall days spent with my father in the barns, climbing on hay bales and making funny noises at the horses. With my father in the industry, we were able to get on the back stretch of Saratoga racecourse. I remember playing in the dirt with my cars eating hotdogs well the outriders would talk to us while we watched the races. He got out of the business, and we ended up in the southeast/Mid-Atlantic. Far away from Saratoga. When we visit, we still make our way to the track but not nearly enough if we were still living in New York. As I’ve grown older, I have come to fall in love with racing. I can’t describe why but just something about it. I’m not a huge gambler but I enjoy sitting down with a glass of bourbon, looking at past performances and going over the next big racing card. Beside that there is just something absolutely magical about horse tracks in the morning. Something that is hard to describe you just have to be there, I guess.
My Father with hair.
My father in the winners circle with my Mom and sister. I was 3 at the time.
Keeneland Friday Afternoon
Last year my father and I started planning a trip to Kentucky. The purpose was to hit as many horse farms up as possible. We picked April since that was smack in the middle of breeding season and most of the horses would be around. Once we got into planning things out we found out that Keeneland would be having their opening week and one of the big prep races for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. It was a no brainer. We packed as much into 5 days as we could. When the dust settled, we had tours booked at Spendthrift, Keeneland, Coolmore and of course Woodford Reserve Distillery. In a perfect world we would have been able to fit in Darley and Three Chimneys, but we were already booked on time.
We arrived in Lexington on Wednesday. It was rainy and 55. It was just under a 10-hour drive from Virginia Beach area. With traffic and stops along the way it was a long day. Fueled by Krispy Kreme coffee and donuts we made our destination. Kentucky is absolutely beautiful, even in the rain. We got to our hotel and unpacked the car. I did one last swipe over my camera gear well my father shut his eyes for a bit. The rain had kind of let up around dinner time and I was itching to see the countryside. We decided to go out driving and check some of the area out. We ended up going through rolling hills of green grass and horse farm after horse farm with an occasional cattle farm thrown in there. We made our way to Keeneland and took a look at the track. It was a muddy mess. We called it a night and headed back to the hotel to get some rest for our next few days in Kentucky.
The next morning, we had a tour booked at Keeneland to see the grounds. We went a little early to check out some of the morning works and to just see the racecourse. Like I said earlier there is just something about the track in the morning. We walked around and watched the works. Keeneland is a very beautiful track. Everything is made of nice white limestone and looks very fancy. Both Saratoga and Keeneland are beautiful tracks but in a different way. We walked through the grandstand and made our way to the rail. Soon after that it was time for our tour, so we went to the meeting spot for it and waited our turn.
We had a small group with another small family from Texas. They owned a few horses, so they had a little clue about the race industry. Our tour guide Mike gave us a great tour. He showed us the ins and outs of the track from top to bottom. Took us to the fancy 3rd floor even though we didn’t have on a suit and tie. It was a great morning. We got to see the sales pavilion. This is the place where millions of dollars have changed hands the last few years. It was cool to see how the horses made their way through the line and into the sale. We sat in the seats and the Guide told my father he was sitting in Bob Baffert’s seat. I was lucky enough to be in Todd Pletcher’s spot so there was no need to get up. After that we got a chance to walk around some more and catch a few more of the sights. Like I said before Keeneland is beautiful. Later in the day we had a tour at Spendthrift. Ill cover that in part 2. I’m going to break this up into a few parts. Part 2 will cover our day at Spendthrift farms, Part 3 will be Coolmore with Pharaoh and Justify and Part 4 will be Race day at Keeneland. That will cover some of Friday’s races and all of Saturday. It was a great trip and I hope you enjoy these.
Doing what's called paddock schooling with a horse new to Keeneland. So that when they hit the paddock and its busy they are somewhat used to it
Be sure to try the Burgoo!!