Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

06 October 2008

Keeneland Trip Report

Things did not work out with powercap flight 23 as my bankroll would only allow the G5 to fly from LGA-TEB, well short of our intended mission. So I ended up on a commercial flight from LGA-LEX. There is only one flight a day and to my surprise much of the Belmont Jockey colony was on board too. First there was Eibar Coa, then John Velasquez and Alan Garcia showed up too. Even trainer Tom Albertrani made the trip from LGA-LEX.

LEX Airport Terminal With Horse Wallpaper

My first impression of Lexington was very green and horsey. The last 20 minutes of the flight were exclusively over horse farms, nothing but rolling pastures and paddocks. I have flown to hundreds of airports and have never seen anything like Lexington. It is a beautiful landscape. At the LEX terminal immediately everything is about horse racing. The unused terminal monitors have horse races photos as screen savers and horse racing ads are displayed throughout the terminal. The airport is modern, clean and everyone I spoke to were as friendly as could be. It was a total departure from New York where the airport is old, dirty and the poor workers have been worked over one too many times by the nasty and snobby New York flyers.

Keeneland Clubhouse Entrance

The track was just a 2 minute drive from the airport and the taxi cost $7 + tip. Keeneland has vast grounds and the track is deep inside those very green grounds. Pulling up to the grandstand I was impressed that every square inch of the exterior of the building was stone masonry. It looks like whoever constructed this joint could have afforded to fly the G5 all the way from LGA-LEX. Once inside the employees were ultra-friendly, were dressed in clean uniforms and the grounds were immaculate. Stone masonry paths, freshly painted railings and a smart, well dressed crowd.

Keeneland View From Seat/Toteboard

A great seat on the 16th pole/finish line was available for only $3 and was right in front of the impressive tote board. The tote board featured a huge megatron that was clear and with sharp resolution, a huge improvement over the burnt out pixels/fuzzy resolution of the NYRA megatron at BEL/AQU/SAR. The trakus information of the toteboard was helpful for those that did not have a set of binoculars handy. The grandstand reminded me of the Saratoga grandstand in size, scope and view. The only beef with the Keeneland grandstand was that the view of the field was obstructed when the horses reached the top of the stretch and the west facing grandstand has sun glare issues.

Keeneland Paddock

The crowd was huge for a Friday at the races. This was a different crowd that I am used to in New York. Most everyone dressed up to some extent. People still have respect for a day at the races. There was a huge amount of college aged kids and parents with their kids. People are polite and did not shout profanity at the jockeys in the paddock and when the horses returned from the races. The crowd was a good cross section of the general population unlike New York where the crowd for the races is mostly hardcore regulars from specific demographic groups . There were even non-Jamaican blacks at the races, something that is rare in New York. The conclusion here is that racing is part of the culture for all people in Lexington and not just a degenerate sub-culture like it is in New York City and most of the country. There seems to be a winning formula at Keeneland, but that winning formula starts with winning ingredients and I can not say enough good things about the people of Kentucky. They were a polite group, people with a passion for the game, with this crowd any racetrack could work well.

Forever Together Before The First Lady

Friday's card at Keeneland was good with a mix of maidens, allowance races and two grade I's. The first race was marred by an incident where Woodway jumped the rail and was vanned off. Then one of my flightmates from LGA John Valezquez went down in a horrible spill in race 7. Those two ugly incidents aside the racing was exciting and competitive. While I have been a polytrack skeptic the races began to make some sense after two days of intense handicapping. The sprint races seemed to be fair as both speed horses and closers won, while the two turn route races seemed to be won exclusively by late running closers. As someone who has completely avoided Keeneland since the polytrack installation, I may began to start investing some bankroll into the parimutuel pools there. There seems to be a potential profit in waiting as many handicappers struggle with the change to synthetic surfaces.

Keeneland Paddock

The conclusion reached after this visit is that Keeneland is the mecca of American racing. This is clearly the best track in the country. The owners of the place have a clear vision of what a racetrack should be and have actualized that vision wonderfully. It is beautiful, immaculate and has a large and passionate group of fans. Prior to Friday I would have bestowed the mecca of American racing title on Saratoga. One visit to Keeneland showed beyond a doubt that Keeneland does everything that Saratoga can do, but does it better. Both facilities have charm. Keeneland's pastoral setting in horse country gives it an edge over the Spa. Keeneland's modern, clean facility also gives it an advantage over the rough edges of Saratoga. The large and passionate crowd of Keeneland is hard to match, it turns a day at the races into a day to remember. People there are just so nice. I was glad I took the opportunity to visit Keeneland, it is a must visit place for all race fans, they do racing right.

Lexington Airport With Horse Sculptures Near Runway


KPMats10 said...

At least you had a better day that JV did. Good writeup. Might look to take the family down next year.

Hagley Library said...

Great stuff. Thanks for the report...I'm sold. Looking forward to a trip there at some point in the future.

SaratogaSpa said...

I have always heard Keeneland is beautiful and it is on my list of places to visit but I do take objection with your comment:

"The conclusion here is that racing is part of the culture for all people in Lexington and not just a degenerate sub-culture like it is in New York City and most of the country."

I have met some of the nicest people in the world at the 3 NYRA tracks and had great experiences at Monmouth Park also.

Many of our finest bloggers from the TBA-our New York trackgoers.

To stereotype New York City area track goers is just plain wrong.

G. C. said...


Aqueduct/Belmont are just about my two favorites places and I have had a ball there since I was first introduced to Aqueduct in 1988. These two places are one of the last vestiges of old working class New York. However the crowd at the two downstate tracks is nothing like KEE/SAR. There are big differences.

The AQU/BEL grandstand crowd is a hardcore gambling crowd of old men and gambling men with a few tough broads sprinkled in. If you go there as often as I do you realize it is the same faces day after day, week after week, year after year. You are more likely to find a logger than a blogger among their ranks. Sure there are exceptions to every rule but the crowd down there is different than the pleasure tracks. Are they bad people? No way, among them are some of my very best friends and I would much rather be holed up with a group of degenerates than just about any other group.

here is my favorite AQU trip report


George said...

I enjoyed your entry. It made me pine for days past. I have lived in both Lexington and Saratoga and have spent a lot of time at both tracks. And though Saratoga holds a sentimental place in my heart, Keeneland does almost everything better. It is an absolutely first class facility with first class employees and services. When you are there you know you are at ground zero for horse racing. You sense the history of the entire industry not just the track. And you experience a day at the races that comes with a sense of reverence for the sport that other tracks lack. Having said all that the thing that puts Keeneland so far ahead of other tracks I have visited is that you always feel welcome,wanted and appreciated. That's regardless of whether it's at the morning workouts, afternoon races or are just there for the simalcasting. If you've never attended a sale the September sale is a must. The energy and scope is awe inspiring.

Anonymous said...

What type of cigars did you smoke while in Lexington?

G. C. said...

I had today's smoke of course.

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