The Keeneland Library in Lexington, Ky.
As the Keeneland spring meet closed, my mind turned to all the memories from my visit.
The biggest highlight of the meet was undoubtedly the domination of the Dans – 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan won the Maker’s 46 Mile and his older half-brother Successful Dan took the Ben Ali Stakes. Then came Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Java’s War, who gave everyone in the Keeneland stands a case of Derby fever. The crowd was awestruck by Emollient’s romping wire-to-wire victory in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes and Royal Ascot-bound War Dancer’s strong win lit up a dreary Thursday during the first week of racing. The clouds went away the following day and the high-quality racing continued as Augustin Stable’s Remember Then showed striking potential in her second career start.
All these Keeneland spring meet memories are further enhanced by the colorful, seasonal backdrop. The lovely Kentucky springtime compliments every race on the card: newly greened grass is dotted with flowering trees, and brilliant yellow forsythia border the backstretch rail. Racing at Keeneland seems to be orchestrated masterfully by the hand of Mother Nature.
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
My visits to Lexington must always include “My Top Five.”
Initially exploring Keeneland in the fall of 2009, I found myself passing through the door of the Keeneland Library. I knew I was in a special place when I was proudly greeted by a sculpture of the legendary Northern Dancer. When speaking about visits to the beautiful racetrack, I always mention the library as being one of “My Top Five” places to visit while in Kentucky!
THE NORTHERN DANCER SCULPTURE GREETS VISITORS TO THE LIBRARY
Placed squarely between the Keene House and Barn, the library stands as a living, breathing monument dedicated to the past, present and future of Thoroughbred horse racing. The 10,000-square foot building constructed of limestone fittingly houses the history of the Thoroughbred. Author of the award-winning biography, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand said of the library, “The beauty of the Keeneland Library is that in its magnificent archives, all of racing’s greats are immortal, living forever in the supreme moments of their youth. Racing is a sport of many treasures. None are greater than this one.”
INSIDE THE BEAUTIFUL KEENELAND LIBRARY SHOWCASING THE DECADES OF LEATHER-BOUND PHOTO ALBUMS OF KEENELAND’S RICH HISTORY.
Following Keeneland Association director W. Arnold Hanger’s gift of 2,300 books in 1939, the Keeneland Library opened its doors in the fall of 1940 just five years after the first races at the course. It originally was located on the second floor of the Clubhouse which is now the southern grandstand’s entrance.
THE LIBRARY OFFERS AREAS TO SIT AND STUDY AMONG THE BOOKS AND STUNNING ART.
Contributions from figures such as Keeneland’s first president, Hal Price Headley, Robert Livingston Gerry, Sr., Marylou Whitney, and Pirerre Lorillard forced the library to expand. In 2001, it moved to its current location at the top of a rolling hill. It currently houses 10,000 volumes of books, 1,500 videocassettes, 250,000 photos and photographic negatives that includes the entire C.C. Cook photo negatives collection amounting to 20,000 glass and film negatives taken by one of the U.S.’s first professional Thoroughbred photographers. After the Thoroughbred Times closed its doors last year, the publication's vast archives were purchased by the Keeneland Library. Sorting and storing these new acquisitions has been the library’s newest undertaking.
THE MORNING TELEGRAPHS IN THE KEENELAND LIBRARY’S ‘VAULT’
The most significant of the racing artifacts housed inside is the Daily Racing Form collection of American Racing Manuals, Morning Telegraphs, and Daily Racing Forms that date back to 1896. They were donated in 2000 and were delivered by way of two 18-wheeler tractor-trainers. If each page was to be stacked one atop another, their collective height would be that of a 46 story building.
LOOKING OVER A DAILY RACING FORM FROM THE EARLY 1900S WITH KEENELAND LIBRARIAN, BECKY RYDER.
In 2007, the Keeneland Association and the University of Kentucky Library teamed up to preserve the massive DRF collection by digitizing the pages. As a result, researchers will have the ability to find articles from decades ago online.
A MORNING TELEGRAPH FROM WAR ADMIRAL’S TRIPLE CROWN SEASON IS WAITING TO BE PREPARED FOR DIGITIZATION.
Each visit to the library leaves me perpetually awestricken of a great love of mine - horse racing’s past. I admire the incredible art and memorabilia that adorn the walls, tables and shelves. Paintings of Thoroughbreds look out on the research areas and bronze sculptures by Isidore Jules Bonheur stand proudly upon tables. In a glass-covered case, a collection of horseshoes gifted by Dr. Fed W. Rankin in 1954 can be admired by visitors. Alongside the shoes of greats such as Native Dancer, Seabiscuit, and War Admiral, the shoe from Man O’ War’s final race and a shoe from Citation’s Kentucky Derby are on display. Sketches by the celebrated horseracing cartoonist, Pierre Bellocq (better known as PEB), collect down below in the library’s “vault.” The Keeneland Library is an altogether beautiful experience; to enter its doors is to enter the rich history of racing.
For further information, visit: http://www.keeneland.com/discover/about-library
Follow the Keeneland Library on twitter: https://twitter.com/KeenelandLib
THE PEB COLLECTION AT THE KEENELAND LIBRARY
ONE OF THE MANY LEATHER-BOUND PHOTO ALBUMS CHRONICLING DECADES OF KEENELAND HISTORY
THE MORNING TELEGRAPH FROM ONE OF WAR ADMIRAL’S KENTUCKY DERBY PREPS. QUALITY PHOTOS OF HORSES RACING IN THE 1930S ARE DIFFICULT TO FIND DUE TO THE LACK OF TECHNOLOGY IN CAMERAS. CAPTURING WAR ADMIRAL SO CLEARLY IN A FULL GALLOP MAKES THIS PARTICULAR PICTURE QUITE SPECIAL.
THE ORIGINAL KEENE HOUSE WHERE THE TRACK’S CREATOR, JACK KEENE, LIVED.
THE KEENE BARN IS ONE OF THE ORIGINAL BARNS AND IS NOW AN ENTERTAINMENT CENTER FOR EVENTS, SUCH AS WEDDINGS.