Students win big at Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day

Bernie Sams, the stallion manager at Claiborne Farm (left) and Cordell Anderson, Keeneland Ringman and RunHappy groom and check presenter (right) award Mary Kate Montroy with a $10,000 scholarship on College Scholarship Day at Keeneland on Friday, October 20, 2017 in Lexington , Kentucky. Photo By Genna Melendez | Staff

Rick Childress

She paraded by Keeneland’s historic paddock, thundered down the stretch and arrived in the Winner’s Circle almost breathless after her historic win.

But she was no million-dollar thoroughbred. She was Mary Kate Montroy, a sophomore psychology major, who had just won a $10,000 scholarship at Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day on Friday.

“We just kind of came for fun. I didn’t think I would win anything,” Montroy said shortly before receiving an enormous plastic check. “I kind of jokingly said to my mom, ‘Yea, I’m going to Keeneland to get a scholarship.’ But then that actually happened.”

Just after the interview, Montroy, with tears in her eyes, called her mom to say that she had indeed won the day’s biggest prize.

Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day allowed college students free admission and a chance at winning one of ten $1,000 scholarships or one $10,000 scholarship. Winners were notified by phone and were presented with their scholarships at Keeneland’s North Terrace, except for Montroy who received her check in the Winner’s Circle.

Nick Kulaga, a junior computational math major, won a $1,000 scholarship—enough to cover the rest of next year’s tuition. During one of the previous scholarship days, Kulaga won a $300 gift card. He said he was a lucky man.

“I should go test it out on the horses right now,” Kulaga said. “Could walk away with more than $1,000. That’d be cool.”

Students who registered early for scholarship day had a chance to win free box seats. Meagan Pickett, a first-year law student, enjoyed the “best seats in the house” along with six of her friends.

“I’m a huge fan of horse racing and I always have been,” Pickett said. “I haven’t always had the chance to attend horse races because I’m from Western Kentucky. We don’t necessarily have the track. So, this is an amazing prize and a great way to end the week.”

Meredith Downer, Keeneland’s employee and patron experience administrator said students were also allowed a free t-shirt or hat and access to a small buffet courtesy of Keeneland’s sponsors.

“It’s just really exciting for us to call students, get them really excited and just kind of celebrate them as they go through the years of earning a higher education,” Downer said.

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association in conjunction with Keeneland, awarded the $1,000 scholarships.

David Schneck a member of KTA said they have awarded over $300,000 in scholarships at Keeneland. He said the scholarships serve to engage students with the thoroughbred industry at an early age and several scholarship winners have become lifetime fans or have gone to work in the industry.

The owners of the horse, Run Happy, decided to give away the $10,000 scholarship. Downer said the owners awarded the scholarship because they value higher education and want to see students succeed.

Keeneland’s College Scholarship day happens once every Spring and Fall meet, Downer said. So, students who missed the October event can head back in April to have a chance at a scholarship and a fun day at the races.