Last Friday, a couple friends and I made our seasonal trek down I-75 a few miles to Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. Located on a large farm, just next door to historic Calumet Farms, as far as I’m concerned, Keeneland is horse racing heaven. For about three weeks in April and October, fans can see some of the best horse racing in the country.
As you can discover from the photos below, Keeneland is a beautiful race track and a pleasant venue to watch horse racing. Besides having the best racing in the country during their season, they make it easy to have an enjoyable day at the races. The horses get saddled in a paddock area just outside the grandstand, among beautiful old oak trees. You can almost touch these majestic animals as they leave the walking ring on their way to the race track.
Prior to this fall meet, Keeneland renovated their track:
- installing an all-weather racing surface called Polytrack
- changed the configuration of their track, making wider turns
- added Trakus, a technology for tracking and viewing the horses.
Both Polytrack and Trakus are revolutionary changes for horse racing. Polytrack is a softer and much safer racing surface, enabling a fast race track in even the most inclement weather. The same Polytrack surface was used last winter at Turfway Park offering few, if any, cancellations of racing due to a frozen track.
The Polytrack surface at Keeneland has, however, changed the way players handicap a race there. Used to that Keeneland was notorious for their speed bias, meaning that horses on the lead (the speed) often would win, as those with a late run at the end simply could not catch up. This fall however, was a frustrating one, as we saw many longshots hit the wire first, racing from off the pace, swinging wide into the stretch, and making a strong dash for the wire. Many of us avoided speed horses, preferring those with some experience on a similar surface. Additionally, many avoid horses who primarily race on grass when they change to the dirt surface. This was not my experience this fall at Keeneland.
Trakus is an interesting technology. Tiny radio devices are placed in the saddle cloth of each race horse, signalling sensors positioned all around the race track. This enables the exact position and path of each race horse to be tracked as they run the race course. Each racer’s exact times, distance traveled, and path could be recorded as well as displayed on the video monitors at the track. Although the horses were displayed as colored dots on a computer screen, it was easy to identify “your horse” even when crowded into a pack on the far turn.
Keeneland is, by far, the best place I’ve ever been to enjoy horse racing. It’s a short drive from Cincinnati and offers magnificent scenery and great racing. Unfortunately the racing season is over tomorrow, October 27. Hopefully, spring will roll around here soon, and I’ll be back at Keeneland again in April.