By a quirk of fate last week while I visited a friend for my spring break, we ended up with tickets to the private club at opening day of Keeneland's spring season. We were where we never expected to be: in the hats and high cotton.
What those tickets gave us were opportunities for space, for exploring the historic building, and most importantly, for being right up close to the horses as they sped past.
Whether I had bet on the race or not, my heart sped up and chest tightened each time the horses neared the finish line. The ground trembled and the crowd roared.
Despite the wealth that surrounded us in the club at Keeneland, throughout the rest of the campus, all sorts of people were enjoying the day. In fact, hundreds of college kids lined up to put their hats in the ring for scholarships funded by Keeneland. It's the nation's first nonprofit track, with all proceeds going back into the facility, equine research, and into charitable contributions to the community.
During the Great Depression, the community built this facility on the site of Jack Keene's horse farm. Hal Price Headley, one of the founders, said about the opening of Keeneland:
We want a place where those who love horses can come and picnic with us and thrill to the sport of the Bluegrass. We are not running a race plant to hear the click and click of the mutuel machines. We want them to come out here to enjoy God's sunshine, fresh air and to watch horses race. ("Our Founding." Keeneland Racing and Sales. Keeneland Association, Inc. 2012. Web. 8 April 2013.)