Approximately 1:15PM on Friday afternoon, a loud bell will ring, a cheer will rise up from the crowd, and twelve horses will spring from a gate at Keeneland in Lexington, KY. This is the true beginning to fall in the Bluegrass. You may have been to a racetrack before, but if you’ve never been to Keeneland you just don’t know what you’re missing. Keeneland is much more than just a racing experience. An experience that starts when you pull in to the parking lot and may not end until way, way later that night. Rain or shine, snow or oppressive heat, the faithful will always be there. People show up from Louisville to Lisbon, from Danville to Dubai (Oh, Dubai?). Why you ask? What is the lure of Keeneland?
Horses, bourbon, crack-beer, and so much more after the jump…
What are the top 10 things that make Keeneland so appealing? Glad you asked.
10. Dressing to Impress: Going to Keeneland is not something you do every day, so don’t wear every day clothes when you go. Men don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, and women don’t have to wear an Easter dress, but make it fun… dress well.
9. Pre-Race Activities: Getting to the track early is a must. Bring a cooler full of your favorite beverage and some sort of entertainment. Cornhole is a crowd favorite, and there is usually space to set up your boards. Croquet has been played (in the snow, at that), and some frat boys were even once seen working on their short game. But, again, remember to bring your favorite beverage.
8. The Kenny Mayne Factor: On a weekend with good racing, like this one, the Mayne event himself will be there. Take this Friday and Saturday for example, there are seven stakes races leading up to the Breeder’s Cup at the end of the month. ESPN will be there, and that means everyone’s favorite SportsCenter-hosting-lush will be there as well. He actually gave me a tip last spring that paid off.
7. Horses: Call me a Kentucky-bred homer, but horses really are the greatest animals on God’s green earth. They are powerful, personable, and extremely entertaining. They had to be on this list, otherwise there would be no Keeneland.
6. The Kentucky Women: Now that we talked about the four-legged fillies, let’s speak about the two-legged variety. The girls come out in force, dressed to the nines, and are absolutely distracting when you’re trying to pick a winner. But, it is very much worth looking up out of your program to enjoy the scenery.
5. Crack-Beer: It’s hard to describe, but the beer at Keeneland is magical. Seriously. The alcohol content must be double what it is in normal beer. That’s just one thing you’ll have to actually taste to know about.
4. Bourbon: There’s nothing like sipping on some ice-cold Maker’s and coke while at the races in Kentucky. It’s almost like the inventors of bourbon had that in mind when they were mixing the first batch. It’s not exactly crack-bourbon, but it tastes good all the same.
3. Food: If you enjoy a little too much Maker’s or crack-beer and need something else in your stomach, the food is top-notch. Popcorn, nachos, and hot dogs are all around, but there are much better options. You may have to take a few extra looks around, but go and find a stand that features some Burgoo. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a Kentucky stew that you must taste before you judge. I’ve also been informed that the BBQ Sandwiches on the 3rd floor are amazing.
2. Santa Claus & The Tubby Smith Hair: These are the nicknames for the best bet-takers at the track. Betting Window 136 is home to a man who is Tubby Smith’s exact hair twin. I just hope he’s still there, and didn’t move up to Minneapolis with his follicle mate. TSH’s next-door neighbor is Santa Claus at #137. This is pretty self-explanatory. To make a little money for Mrs. Claus’ cocaine habit, Santa works the betting window during the races. You didn’t read about that in “The Night Before Christmas.”
1. Gambling: You didn’t think I’d forget this part did you? Exactas, Trifectas, Pick 3′s and Pick 4′s are great ways to blow
your rent money a little extra cash you may have saved up. Even if you prefer not to gamble, you need to make at least one bet while you’re there. Just remember to find a friend before you go up for the first time so that you don’t get in a hardcore gambler’s (my) way.
There you have it. We at APIAS.net hope to see you out there. Come find us playing cornhole, croquet, or just passed out in the back of 2SL’s car (at 9:30 in the morning, right EDay?).