Profiteer (4), under Jose Ortiz, passes Tweet Kitten (8), under Joel Rosario, and Bondurant (3), under Julien Leparoux, in the stretch April 25, 2018, at Keeneland, the historic horse race track in Lexington, Ky. Profiteer briefly took the lead but was passed at the line by Dot Matrix and finished second.
In a normal world, horses would be running today with more than 25,000 people watching at Keeneland during the first weekend of the historic Lexington, Ky., track’s annual three-week spring racing meet. The Blue Grass Stakes, a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby with a $1 million purse ($600,000 for the winner), would have packed more than 35,000 people into Keeneland yesterday.
In a normal world, the Kentucky Derby would be just weeks away. It would be a time for celebration in Kentucky, a time for partying.
But the world hasn’t been normal for weeks because of the global coronavirus pandemic. People are self-isolating or, if in public, avoiding groups of more than 10, practicing “social distancing” and, in many cases, using homemade masks to cover their nose and mouth. Businesses and schools are closed, as are many gyms, parks and recreational facilities. The economy is tanking. And sporting events that could provide a television escape for those stuck inside are all canceled.
Each day, with each new restriction, the world is shrinking toward the confines of the four walls of the house and whatever Law & Order rerun is on TV.
In mid-March, Keeneland announced that it was canceling the spring meet, following guidance issued by the Center for Disease Control designed to halt the spread of the virus. The last time the Lexington track did not hold a racing meet was during World War II. From 1943-1945, Keeneland was asked not to operate because of shortages of rubber.
And the Kentucky Derby, a fixture on the first Saturday in May when the eyes of the world are on Louisville’s Churchill Downs and the state of Kentucky, has been postponed until September.
Keeneland has hosted races since it opened in 1936, except for the hiatus during World War II. It’s one of the nation’s most “traditional” race tracks, retaining the same look and feel through the years while still adopting new technologies (even though it was the last race track in North America to broadcast race calls over a public-address system, adopting that practice in 1997). Keeneland was used for most of the racing scenes in the 2003 movie Seabiscuit because its appearance has changed little in decades.
It’s a beautiful place to spend a spring afternoon.
Keeneland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 2009, Keeneland was ranked as the number one track in America by the Horseplayers Association of North America.
I captured this photo during the 2018 spring meet at Keeneland. I’m usually standing along the rail to get photos of horses in the stretch when the race is on the dirt, but this race (the sixth race of the day) was on the turf track inside the dirt track. I find it difficult to get usable shots from the rail during turf races. It’s not the extra distance from the rail to the horses — probably about 60 feet. I can overcome that by using a longer lens. The problem is the inner rail on the dirt track and the outer rail on the turf track. When shooting from my usual position, these rails block the view of the horses’ legs.
I like to photograph turf races at Keeneland from the grandstand, which is a good distance away but the elevated angle provides an interesting perspective as the horses charge down the home stretch.
In a normal world I’d be packing my camera gear in two weeks and driving to Lexington for a nice spring day at the races.
I miss normal.
In mid-March, Keeneland announced that it was canceling the spring meet, following guidance issued by the Center for Disease Control designed to halt the spread of the virus. The last time the Lexington track did not hold a racing meet was during World War II.