It’s Keeneland season in the Bluegrass

Maddi Dyment

On Friday, the gates opened to one of Lexington’s most cherished traditions: Keeneland racing season.

The sun shined bright on this old Kentucky home, making for a hot and breezy day at the racetrack. Sizable crowds of all ages swarmed into the facility, fitted mostly in dresses and slacks, to await the first race. Some visited the trackside concession stands to help themselves to cigars, while others busied themselves with signature cocktails and beverages. The crowd happily gathered trackside, mingling with friends and strangers alike.

Trackside wasn’t the only area booming today. Up on “The Hill,” the affectionately named tailgate section outside Keeneland’s gates, UK students and others gathered together to tailgate, listen to music and play cornhole.

For some students, horse racing is part of their lifestyle. For UK sophomore Ryan Petrunyak, Keeneland feels like a second home.

“I grew up with horse racing,” Petrunyak said. “I would place 10 cent bets when I was 3-years-old and my dad would hold them for me.”

For others, Keeneland is a part of Lexington culture they’re immersing themselves in.

“This is my second time here, and I’m looking to improve my betting odds,” UK student Cody Burke said.

“I figure that the more I win, the more I’ll like it,” he said with a laugh.

As it drew closer to the first race of 10 at 1 p.m., the lines at the betting stations stretched longer and the crowd grew in size.

The day began with a two-year-old race, and the seven horses were paraded from the paddock viewing area to the track. The first trumpet sounded, kicking off the day. The crowd rose to its feet to view the horses loading the gate.

As the bell rang and the horses broke from the gate, the crowd cheered on their favorites, marking the beginning of the racing day and of the 2017-2018 Keeneland racing season.

For anyone interested in visiting Keeneland, racing season is open until Oct. 28 from Wednesday until Sunday. It will then reopen in April of next year.