This is a long post, and please feel free to skip—but it might be of interest to some.
DH is a hiker and during our 33-year marriage I have faithfully hiked with him through 45 National Parks, another 76 other National Park Service venues, and 58 National Forests. Nearly died of heat stoke twice (Grand Canyon and Canyon of the Ancients).
To my amazement (he is not horsey) he suggested a short vacay to Kentucky, visiting horsey places. So last week, off we went.
First day we visited Claiborne: Great tour of stallion barn and adjacent areas; Guide was one of the stallion managers; Run Happy looked tough/no touch, but I got to feed peppermints to Mastery and War Front (pictured). The cemetery is a Hall of Fame of TB racing in the 20th century—from Gallant Fox to Secretariat.
On to Gainesway: More formal, two stallions were led out to be seen, not touched (Tapit and Raging Bull). Tapit looks old (he is getting up there) so I am not going to put his picture up. He deserves better. (He did cover 97 mares this season.) . Saw Afleet Alex (pensioned, living the good life).
Next day, Winstar: We took the extended two-hour tour, first hour in the stallion barn. Got to pet Consitution; saw Tiznow (pensioned but kept in his old stall), Paynter, et.al. The second hour we were driven all over the farm, seeing mares and colts. Lovely.
Last visit, Coolmore America/Ashford Stud: How lucky were we? Pharaoh and Justify are not shuttling this year, so they were shown. Very formal, we were kept behind low barricades, but oh wow oh wow oh wow. Two triple crown winners!
Pharaoh looks wonderful. It was impossible to get good conformation shots because he and Justify were not brought out of the barn (too hot) and were mostly silhouetted against an open door.
Justify also looked great, although maybe not his feet. They are barefoot for breeding season and just got shoes—his toes looked chipped up and he had pronounced dishes in front. Well, he doesn’t need them to race anymore, and I am sure the Coolmore people know what they are doing.
They also brought out Maximum Security—what a neat package he is!
Uncle Mo is much bigger than I thought—we were told over 17 hands.
Third day, we went to Old Friends.
First, we looked for Where’s My White’s memorial—it was not there. I asked, without mentioning details. They are way behind because of Covid—couldn’t get workers or raw materials. A couple of horses who passed are awaiting their memorials too, just have stakes for now.
We were given big bags of carrots and taken around. Fed Sarava, Birdstone, Patch, Stormy Liberal, Little Mike, among others. Of course, the star of the show is Silver Charm. He needs his carrots shredded (few teeth) but had no trouble eating them. We were told he does not like his face touched but we could pet his shoulder. There were zero horse people on the tour, everyone hung back, so I took my chance. I not only petted his shoulder, I gave his withers a good scratch. He loved it.
There were very few people on the tours—Claiborne and Gainesway maybe about 10; Winstar exactly 4 (!), DH and I and another couple. Coolmore and Old Friends had the most—maybe 20? And very few horse people—mostly just tourists visiting Kentucky. The other couple at Winstar professed to knowing nothing about horses. Probably more during Derby Week and during the sales?
Then we went to the Kentucky Horse Park. It was OK, but mostly for the general public, which is of course fine. There are various short shows all day long.
We went to the Hall of Champions—horses that are supposed to exemplify excellence for their breed. The TBs are Funny Cide and Point Given. There are two shows/day, and the horses are led out and walked around a small ring for 5 minutes or so, with an announcer extolling their careers and with a video running. I think Point Given and Funny Cide alternate–at least for us Point Given was brought out and Funny Cide was napping in his stall. This was the only time I was not entirely happy with what I saw. The horses are in nice stalls, obviously well cared for, turned out regularly (we asked), and have easy gigs. But there was a sideshow atmosphere. It seemed undignified. I think FC and PG somehow deserve better. (I am comparing to Tiznow’s and Silver Charm’s lives.). Just my humble opinion of course, and completely irrational.
And then we went to Bowling Green and scored our 46th National Park (Mammoth Cave).
Back to Louisville. Visited the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs. Lots of memorabilia and videos. I always wondered about the “plate” that Pharaoh raced in most of his career. Here are his shoes:
I owe DH big for this trip, and if he plans the Denali expedition, I can’t say no.