Keeneland Is More Than Just Sales & Racing: A Look Through the Lens of Holly M. Smith

Undoubtedly, Keeneland is known internationally as the home of some of the best horse sales in the entire world. The September Yearling Sale. The November Breeding Stock Sale. The January Horses of All Ages Sale. And, the reinstitution of the April 2YO & Horses of Racing Age Sale — which will be held this Tuesday.

And, there’s no question that Keeneland is recognized as one of the world’s and one of the sport’s greatest racing venues. It has some of the highest purses in the world. It has some of the greatest Stakes events in the sport. It attracts some of the best horses standing on God’s green earth. And, along with them, come some of the best owners, trainers, and riders. All soak in the joy that is Keeneland.

But, to be honest, Keeneland is more than just horse racing and horse sales.

It is more than just a starting gate and a finish line.

It is more than the ring of Kurt Becker’s voice over the audio system. It is more than just cashing a ticket at the pari-mutuel window. It is more than the cheers crescendo.

It is more than the rhythm of Ryan Mahan’s auctioneer voice chanting up a yearling past $1 million, $2 million, do I hear $3 million.

It is more than the buzz through the barns as hordes of potential buyers look, hope and expect to find the next Justify or American Pharoah.

It is so much more.

On Saturday, when 34,775 came through the turnstiles for the annual Blue Grass Stakes Day racing card and another 5,000 or so tailgated on “the hill” overlooking the track, our own Holly M. Smith captured some of the moments; some of the smiles; some of the glamour; some of the things that makes Keeneland a very special place.

Take a look:

It is this — all this — and racing and sales that makes Keeneland…well….Keeneland.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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