‘A world class racetrack.’ Spectators pack the grandstand for Keeneland’s opening day


Abbey Cutrer

An exercise rider rides a horse on the main track during morning training on the opening day of the Spring Meet on April 7, 2023, at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

Bryce Towle, Reporter

Racing fans gathered for opening day of Keeneland, a local horse racetrack on Friday, April 7. 

The event brings in spectators of all ages, some attending since their younger years.

Local attendee Thomas Kindler said he has been coming to Keeneland since around 1971 and describes Keeneland as “a world class racetrack” that is “rich in history and tradition.”

 “I lived here for many years before I ever came to Keeneland, and once I did I was hooked,” Kindler said. “Then I had a friend teach me how to read the racing forms, and then I was really in trouble.”

The Keeneland racetrack offers sports betting, playing a heavy role in some spectators’ experience, like attendee Rick Bailey.

“It’s a great place to be. You can throw away money somewhere else but hey, you can come here and make money,” Bailey said.

Bailey also considers himself to be what some might call a “big better,” attending every day and betting high on jockeys and the odds of the race.

Attendee Michael Stone gave a breakdown on the Lafayette Stakes before post. 

“You have Corona Bold, his beyer speed figures are tremendous. He had a 93 beyer speed figure at Oakland Park, and came in six in the southwest. He’s going to be one of the contenders as well. And finally you’re gonna have the California shipper Hijazi by Bob Baffert. He had probably the best beyer speed figures,” Stone said. 

Other attendees were willing to share their knowledge and love for the sport, looking beyond just the races at Keeneland.

“Tapit Trice, the big gray horse for Todd Pletcher … he’s one of the top Kentucky Derby prospects as we sit here in the final weeks of derby preps,” owner of RacingDudes.com Jared Welch said.

The next day Tapit Trice and jockey Lius Saez proved Welch right as the pair went on to win the Bluegrass Stakes. They ran the 1 ⅛ mile track in 1:50.00, after overtaking Verifying near the finish, according to BloodHorse.com.

Outside the lens of horse racing and betting, some, like attendee Armando Rivera, come to the races for a much deeper reason.

Rivera is a part of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF), a “public charity that provides financial assistance to 60 former jockeys” after experiencing on-track injuries, according to the PDJF website

“I broke my back racing horses in 1979, and it’s something I wanted to give back to horse racing,” Rivera said.

He is also an ambassador for the yearly “Jockeys and Jeans” fundraising event that invites all famed jockeys to come together and raise money for permanently disabled jockeys.

Rivera donated two PDJF caps to the winning jockeys of races three and four. He also donated two boots, signed by many famous jockeys in the PDJF and the Sam Thompson Memorial Foundation. 

“I’ve been paralyzed, for I don’t know how long, I forgot already, but it’s about 40 something years,” Riviera said. “I like to share awareness on staying in condition, because without your health, you aint got nothing.”

The Keeneland season will come to an end on Saturday, April 29, shortly followed by the start of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6, in Louisville.