Keeneland retains a singular position among U.S. racetracks, one that never fails to evoke a sense of timelessness and serenity due to its elegant landscaping and classic architecture after a hiatus between visits. Particularly at this time of year, with the brilliant colors of the trees beginning to stand out in crimson hues and cold lasting after sunrise, there is an awareness of the fleeting nature of the warm days and long hours of daylight, making the October meet there a good opportunity to linger in those lovely moments, a season as brief and vivid as the meet itself.

This year especially gave an added poignancy to being on the grounds on the eve of the meet beginning, when access has been restricted. This is an ode to the track, much as the morning’s visit was a chance to bask in the beauty it retains. Much has changed in the world this year, but even while innovations are introduced, the fundamental nature of Keeneland’s grounds remain a touchstone. It will stay with me during the times ahead when the racing continues without the general public. It will also be a beacon of hope that, as racing has been able to continue even after the first meet had to be delayed, there will be a time to gather under the sycamore, in the shadow of the trees in the paddock, and along the rail as the call to the post echoes throughout once more. And while I never take Keeneland for granted, it will be even sweeter after starting an attendance streak anew that began with the fall 2005 meet and ended with the fall 2019 meet.

With a pause between watching horses train and waiting for the gift shop to open, to experience the advertised “A Taste of the Races,” with a sale and free gift, I wandered the sales pavilion. A bit of nostalgia for the usual Keeneland experiences took hold, just as it had at the paddock seeing the numbers on the trees in preparation for the following day’s racing.

I found a room near the entrance of the sales pavilion I had never come across before. In the darkness I tried to read the inscriptions on the horse photos on the wall. It did somehow seem fitting to reflect in the quiet and even the dim light on what these horses had meant to people or still did, when the scenes that had seen them run to acclaim were cordoned off. They were all classic winners or Breeders’ Cup winners, and I noted the empty spaces for future photos, and foresaw the day when Authentic’s photo was placed on the wall, and the place swarmed again with people and lights and the grandstand across the street buzzed with the vitality of attendees cheering horses home. We will get there someday!

The following photos represent a toast to Keeneland, and all who make it what is and who have endeavored this year to keep the racing going and make it as inclusive as possible for those watching from home…