A smattering of visits to horse sites throughout the Bluegrass, with doors open to visits once more


Lane’s End

I booked the Lane’s End shuttle tour, giving access to parts of the farm I had never seen before. There was an opportunity to pay homage to the great horses associated with the farm interred in the cemetery, and it was touching to see broodmares flanked by daughters they had. The tour also visited the breeding shed, stallions in their pastures, several new foals who were held by handlers while their physical attributes were pointed out, and the same was done at another barn with two yearlings. A.P. Indy’s pasture stood empty, as the farm has not yet found it time to have another horse fill the grand stallion’s domain, and so it fittingly remains a silent tribute to the one who once resided there, and all he meant to Lane’s End.

The surprise that was so casually revealed a mere moment before it occurred was getting to see Zenyatta and her new Candy Ride filly! The filly was quite precocious, and interested in getting acquainted with visitors. She has a lot of presence.


Given how strict Keeneland has been with protocols about non-essential people being on the grounds, I was not sure visitors would be allowed even after the recently concluded meet ended, which saw War of Will and other top runners continue to excel, as well as set records. So when I happened to see they were taking tour bookings for morning works,, I figured that was the only sanctioned way to get on the grounds as a visitor and I missed being there. Words cannot describe how incredible it felt to drive in and see the serenity of the lush trees spread down the drive and the beautiful landscaping and iconic sycamore tree inside the track grounds. I had missed it.

I later discovered that the tour is not necessary to gain access, the only requirements for now being a temperature scan, answering health questions, and leaving name and reason of visit at the entry checkpoint. Whether access will be allowed for the October meet remains to be seen, and Keeneland did recently announce only those who have recent negative Covid-19 tests will be allowed on the grounds for the upcoming September sale, but I was so grateful to be back on the premises that I was focused on enjoying it now.

The tour guided pointed out that typically (as I had observed in the past), the jockeys in the jockey garden quickly get their painted-on silks and plaques updated when a stakes race gets a new winner. I did take photos of all the jockeys because they were still reflecting last year’s winner. Even when I visited again on my own about 2 weeks after the meet concluded, they still had not been updated. This is not a knock on Keeneland, rather it is one more way of noting that it is an atypical year and things would normally be prioritized are not as important as they once were. And knowing that some companies have delays with production and also that few spectators are on site even without racing, it truly does not seem as necessary to update those.

It was wonderful to be on those grounds, and see running down the track. That was the closest I had come to seeing racing in person all year, and I savored that too.

Speaking of idyllic tracks, it was recently reported the land Arlington is on may be too valuable for it to be retained as a racecourse. That seems like a travesty. It is easily one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve been to, and I explored all of it I was allowed to, even down to the lowest floor, where I found a delightful collage of horses that ran there hung between two elevators, and there are many such touches throughout the facility that showcase an appreciation for racing and its history, as well as others that add unique elements of elegance. Race dates for 2021 have been applied for, though it is unclear if they actually will be held. America is overrun with shopping malls and residences, and it is a shame that a land’s value, when it is being preserved as a wide open space for the most part as well as an extraordinary nod to history and a showcase for racing, means it must be converted to a greater source of revenue return. Some things should mean more than a chance for a money grab, even in a country where consumerism seems to be king. But if Arlington is to give way to such things, I will savor that I went, even as it will be sad to see it go, and if I can attend once more next year I will.

One more note about Arlington and its place in history, specifically one tied to my favorite racehorse of all time: As the site of Cigar’s sixteenth win in a row, in the Arlington Citation Challenge decades ago, that race call when he won rings in my memory and also showcases how these grand tracks retain echoes of the horses who created memories that linger long past the day they occurred and become part of the lore of the site. What shopping mall or residence can ever claim such a hold on deeply meaningful memories? While it is out of my hands what happens with Arlington and I will not like to see another track go by the wayside if it does, I will always remember one glorious day I spent there and one of the best race calls of Cigar’s career that happened on those grounds: “Sixteen in succession as Cigar assumes the crown of immortality!” I am grateful to have seen both Cigar and Arlington, and it is a jewel of a track for him to have achieved that milestone. And will remain so, in memory if not in physical existence.