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Beer, Bourbon, Barns and Cigars… and Lots of Money at Bluegrass Country’s Racetracks

Beer, bourbon, barns and cigars – that’s what horse racing seems to be about these days. And money. Lots of it.

You’d think it’s the “roaring 20s” all over again if you went by what the racetrack crowds looked. smelled and acted like in this country.  Or at least at major tracks in Kentucky that Elizabeth and I visited during our whirlwind tour of Bluegrass Country.

Maybe that’s the way it has always been.  I don’t know. I’ve only heard and read about the 1920s.  But I do remember that Saratoga (New York), another famous racetrack, smelled and looked the same when I was last there in August 2007.

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Here’s what I wrote about it back then:

“By the end of the afternoon, after a lot of people watching, I had concluded that the horses are the least of what’s on most visitors’ minds.  Most came to drink, eat, smoke and gamble – in that order of priority.   And by drink, I don’t mean soft drinks.  Hard liquor, not just beer, is flowing liberally all over the grounds. Half of “fans” don’t even come near the track.  They watch the races on countless TV monitors that are strewn all over the park where they picnic.”

 Unplanned Visit to Keeneland on Race Day

Prior to the day before our visit to Keeneland racetrack, I had not even heard the name. It was my daughter who suggested we pay it a visit during our drive through northern Kentucky.

When we got there, we were in for a surprise. Hordes of people and thousands of cars were everywhere. At first, Elizabeth thought it might be a rock concert. Because there were so many young people among the crowd walking toward the gates. But many were too well dressed for that.

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When we reached the gates, we realized it was the race day in Kentucky. We paid the $5 entrance fees each and then watched and smelled tens of thousands of people drink the $6.50 per cup beer, smoke cigars and gamble on horses.

We also made two two-dollar bets. Just for fun, to take part in Kentucky’s favorite pastime.  One of my bets came through a winner.  Lucky guess. But it helped offset our costs on an unexpected race day.

Here are now a couple of short video clips from Keeneland…

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And now, here are the rest of the still shots from Keeneland…


IMG_4208 IMG_4200 IMG_4202 IMG_4201  Keeneland 2 Keeneland 1 IMG_4210 IMG_4215



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