Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bluegrass Country


Kentucky needs scenic overlooks. Their Travel & Tourism Department should get right on that. (Just kidding ... mostly.) 

Their narrow rural roads make it difficult to find a place to pull over for photos. It certainly wasn't like our National Park trip last fall, when it seemed there was a scenic overlook every few miles. (Of course, that created a whole other problem. You can't stop at every scenic overlook. But, what if you miss the best one? And a thousand photos later (literally), how do you whittle them down?)

Kentucky thought they were dry. But after leaving drought-stricken Kansas behind for our trip, the Bluegrass State looked anything but dry to us Kansas farmers. 

We shared our general admission bench at Keeneland Race Track with a man who lived in the Lexington area. After he found out that we were tourists, he asked if we'd done the bourbon trail tour. We had done some of that when we visited Brent while he worked at Morehead (KY) State in 2013. But our new friend suggested that we drive out by the Woodford Reserve Distillery because of the picturesque drive. 


We were too late for tours, but the distillery and welcome center were beautiful anyway. The drive was even prettier.

All the way there, I was itching to have Randy pull over so I could take photos. It was beautiful. The rural roads wound through small communities, but there were no shoulders and steep ditches. It was tough to find a place to park to satisfy my shutterbug addiction.

We pulled into a private driveway and I took a few photos, but it was threatening to rain, and I was having trouble with my regular camera. The horses were pretty far away for the camera on my cell phone.

At one point, Randy said there wasn't anyone following us, so he stopped right on the road. 

I hopped out of the car and told him to keep watch. He was supposed to give me enough time to scramble up and down the ditch and hop back in the car. (Remember: I've never been very fast. And I haven't gotten any faster!)

But the stop was completely worth my frazzled nervousness when a couple of curious horses came right up to the fence. They even let me rub their noses.

This one even turned its head so I could see the name on its bridle - Auspicious Babe. She certainly was for me!


This gray beauty also let me rub her face, too. But then a car turned a corner, and I scurried back to our Jeep.

It wasn't our only chance that day to get a closer look at horses. We spent most of the day at the Kentucky Horse Park.

 On our trip in 2013, we also visited there. Then, it was January and bitterly cold. Our April trip was a little cool, but pleasant.

At the Hall of Champions, we watched Mr. Muscleman get a bath. In his racing days, he was the Harness Racing Hall of Fame 2005 Trotter of the Year. He earned $3.58 million in his racing career, with 67 races and a record of 37-17-7.


Later in the day, Mr. Muscleman got to do a little grazing away from the barn.

Randy got to offer a treat to Point Given.

Point Given was the first Thoroughbred in history to win four consecutive million-dollar races. He had an off day for the 2001 Kentucky Derby and finished fifth. The 2001 Kentucky Derby was the only off-the-board finish in his entire career. In the 2001 Preakness Stakes, he took command early to win. Five weeks later, his stretch run in the Belmont Stakes brought back memories of another chestnut, Secretariat. Point Given won the Belmont by more than 12 lengths.

We also saw Funny Cide, the winner of both the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His caregiver says he has an attitude.

These horses have a beautiful place to spend their retirement.


 In the Big Barn, we saw Conner getting a bath. 

The Belgian Draft Horse was born in 2010. He's 2,000 pounds and 19 hands high.


We didn't know it at the time, but Conner and his friend would take us on our trolley ride later.

We also enjoyed watching the Mounted Police gear up their horses and saddle up.

 Koda is ridden by Sergeant Johnson.

He's an 1,800-pound Persheron Cross born in 2015.

This was Junior, a 1,700-pound American Cream draft horse. He's newer to the mounted police lineup. It's quite a ways up there! No wonder the officer needs a boost.

We also watched the Parade of Breeds Show.

It was all about the animals at our next stop, too - the Ark Encounter. More on that next time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Horse Racing in the Blood


I think my Great Grandpa Neelly would have fit right in during our day at the Keeneland Race Track at Lexington, Ky.

Charley Neelly had a fondness for horses and made money by trading them. He also liked good driving horses and owned 11 race horses during his lifetime. A little of that love of racing must have filtered into my mom's blood and then into mine. She's always liked watching horse racing. On Saturday afternoons in the spring, I remember gathering around the TV in the family room to watch the three races of the Triple Crown. That's still a favorite spring Saturday afternoon viewing choice.  

We had been to Keeneland once before in the dead of winter. Brent was working at Morehead (KY) State University's athletic department at the time, but we only had time to visit in the fall and winter. By chance, an employee there saw us looking around the grounds in January 2013 and gave us an impromptu tour. But Randy wanted to go back to Kentucky to see horse racing. The timing of this Kentucky trip was centered around the race schedule there. Keeneland hosts spring races in April and has a fall session through the month of October.

Even though Randy ordered the tickets shortly after sales opened, we were only able to get general admission. 

We weren't sure how much room there would be, so we arrived as the gates opened. We chose one of the scattered benches provided in general admission and took turns exploring. People in the know brought their own lawn chairs for seating, too.

I had taken a photo of the jockeys when we were there in January 2013. (For that blog post, click HERE.) I repeated that photo in 2023.  

I could have bought a hat there.

But I had brought my Walmart hat, which sufficed.

It may not have been as fancy, but it was more in my price range, and it still kept my face from getting sunburned.

There were certainly plenty of betting windows.

And, of course, there were plenty of concession stands. (The admission price of $7 each ended up being the least expensive part of the day.)

Grooms brought some of the horses into a central courtyard. 

Without their numbers and racing colors, I have no idea what their names were. Some seemed more spirited than others. The one below needed two grooms to keep him in line.

We didn't hear the bugle for the first race, but we did for the other nine races. We definitely had beginner's luck. The first horse we chose - PH Factor - was the winner! 

We were pretty excited! For the second race, we chose Rush Center, because of the town of the same name in Kansas. And he won in a photo finish ... or so we thought. 

Because he bumped another horse as they were turning for home, he got downgraded to second place.

Just like at a football game at K-State when the action is on the other end of the field, I ended up watching the big screen. Plus, lots of people that had been crowding around a bar or the betting windows, crowded around the rails during the races.  

There were statistics about prior races in the program. There were "Betologists" at kiosks to give people their two cents' worth of advice ... for a price greater than two cents, of course. But my strategy continued to be choosing the name I liked the best. That strategy paid off again in Race 7, when we chose Magical Lute. There was "magic" for Randy and "music" for me. He was the victor! In the photo below, he was cooling down after his win on the way to the winner's circle.

I thought this photo was cool - Magical Lute and jockey going by the big screen while their photo was flashed there!

 And below, he's in the winner's circle.

Here, he's being led away from the winner's circle for his victory meal, I suppose.

 In Race 8, we also chose the winner, Viareggio.

After watching the weather report, we also had "bet" that it was going to rain. It did. But we brought our K-State ponchos, which usually get pulled from the car trunk at wet football games. As is usual when we wear our purple as we travel, it generates conversation. Most of it was good. Several Cincinnati fans are anxious to be part of the new Big 12. However, one man's comment cannot be repeated on a family blog. I think he was still a little bitter about the University of Kentucky men basketball team's loss to K-State in the Big Dance.

We sat there in the rain to avoid losing our bench and to keep it dry. Plus, when you're in a drought at home, you just enjoy the rain - no matter the setting. Just like at football games, we lasted until the very end. There were a lot fewer people crowding the rails during the rain.

We actually came out ahead with our novice betting, even when you count the $4 bottles of water and the pricey hot dog Randy ate.

Keeneland was our favorite activity of the trip. 


Our favorite Lexington eatery was OBC - Old Bourbon County restaurant. Our server told us we were sitting at Coach John Calipari's table. At first, we thought maybe he just told us that because it was kind of tucked into a corner. But it actually had a metal nameplate on it. We texted Tye, who took over our farm ground. He's a big KU fan. Kentucky and KU aren't the best buddies on the basketball court, so we K-Staters had to give him a hard time. 

Randy had shrimp and grits. I had chicken in country biscuits. Both were delicious. 

Shrimp and Grits - OBC photo

I should have taken pictures. I took these off their website.

Chicken in Biscuits - OBC photo

More from Lexington is coming in the next blog.