After racing ended yesterday, the heavens opened up and there was a truly spectacular storm. Fortunately, the weather passed and today has been precipitation-free; thank goodness, because my number-one horse crush, Wise Dan, was scheduled to run on the grass in the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes this afternoon. He was last year’s Horse of the Year, and regular followers of my blog will know that I’m more than a little obsessed with him.
One may even call me a stalker when it comes to Dan the Man.
So, naturally, when my friends Alicia Wincze Hughes of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Claire Novak of the Blood-Horse asked if I wanted to go see him in his barn this morning, I jumped at the chance. While we weren’t able to go up and say hi to him since it was game day, I was able to snap a photo of the handsome chestnut gelding as he relaxed in his stall.
I bid him adieu and best wishes [and eternal love] and headed to the Keeneland press box to get some work done. Well, that was my intention, but when I arrived I had another treat in store for me: my friend Joe DePaolo had made his famous eggplant Parmesan, and I was granted the first slice. Here I am with Joe and my precious eggplant parm.
This is as I’m having my first bite. It was phenomenal. Joe is a serious talent.
I liked it so much that I hugged it. Food is the best.
Big thanks to the lovely and talented Claire Novak for taking these pictures!
Then Claire had her moment of glory: she discovered the Wise Dan posters – this led immediately to her double-fisting them. I love horse-racing people!
After the press box follies ended, the gates of Keeneland opened and I headed out to see what fans were up to. The tailgating area of the track was bumping – it’s so great to see people having so much fun at the track!
Another thing I spotted was this drive-though betting window for those who don’t have time to go into the track itself but have a hot tip on a horse – how fun is that? Only at Keeneland!
Fans also came out in full force today, and looked very stylish despite the chilly weather. Here are some of the looks that caught my eye today.
Another great thing about Keeneland is that you can see equine superstars everywhere. Here’s Blue Grass Stakes contender Rydilluc enjoying a good stretch in the paddock in preparation for tomorrow’s race.
Handsome guy, no? I very much look forward to seeing him run tomorrow.
I also caught Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens winning a race. He’s been riding phenomenally since he came out of retirement in January, and it was awesome to see him back in the Keeneland winner’s circle. It was even more awesome that he earned me about $40 today. Thanks, Gary!
And then! And then, it was time for the Makers 46 Mile. These photos, provided by Keeneland and Coady Photography, show how the trophies are dipped in the iconic red wax before they are presented.
Pretty cool, right?
So now it was race time! My guy Wise Dan was looking good, but I had butterflies in my stomach as he paraded in the paddock. He hadn’t raced since November, and as his trainer Charlie LoPresti said, “I fear the layoff the most.” Regardless, Dan was looking amazing and was as cool as a cucumber despite the hubbub surrounding him.
His handlers were giving him lots of pats and reassurance as Dan was saddled; it’s clear that he’s a horse who is dearly loved by those close to him as well as fans worldwide.
Wise Dan’s owners (who also bred him) are Mr. and Mrs. Fink, and they watched attentively as their horse prepared to run. These two are so fantastic – they held hands the entire time.
And then it was time for the race! The field of five left the gate cleanly, and the crowd was roaring as the horses swept by the Grandstand for the first time.
The race came down to Wise Dan and Data Link, who won this race last year. Data Link was game, but Wise Dan wouldn’t be denied and he won by a length. Me, being the super-professional photographer that I am, was screaming my head off. I was made fun of by a few of the other photogs, but it was all in good fun. It was a thrilling performance, and I regret nothing.
Look how proud Dan is of himself in the winner’s circle! This is a horse who truly enjoys victory, and I can’t wait to see what he achieves in 2013.
So I would say that I had a pretty amazing day, and tomorrow’s shaping up to be pretty incredible, too. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll leave you with a few more photos of Keeneland to tide you over to Saturday’s Diary.