And...They're Off!

What started off as a simply a stormy Saturday morning turned in to a fun-filled and informative adventure when a group of seven interns and volunteers followed Susanna to Keeneland.  The morning started by meeting at the MMSC, before collecting Communal and setting off to Keeneland for “Breakfast with the Works,” an educational opportunity presented by Keeneland to inform the general public (or any people interested) about the world of Thoroughbreds (both during and after racing). Susanna presented information to the crowd about the MMSC and what it does. To top off the informational aspect of the morning, we sealed the deal by allowing any children in the crowd to come and “meet and greet” with Communal. The educational aspect of the morning came to an end with the end of the line of children; however, the adventures for the interns were just beginning. The rest of the morning (and part of the afternoon) were spent on a quest through Keeneland, exploring areas typically off-limits to the general public. We were taken to the heights of the grandstand, the depths of the Jockey Quarters, and the forests of the Sales Pavilion. For this intern, the best part of the day was seeing the track and the grandstands empty of virtually all people. It was a quiet moment not often experienced by the everyday Keeneland visitor.  (Ashlyn Anderson-Keelin)

What follows is a variety of accounts of the day’s adventure presented from the perspectives of different participants. 

While at Keeneland, Susanna arranged for us to meet Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron. I will remember this encounter for the rest of my life. Chris had a twinkle in his eye as he greeted all of us in the track kitchen, and he graciously took time out of his day to show us the Jockey Quarters. I loved hearing stories about his favorite mounts, from John Henry and Alysheba to Tiznow, and I was blown away by his crystal clear memory of long ago races. It was truly an amazing day for this intern! (Catherine Flowers)
Our morning at Keeneland was incredible. Right after we got to the track, we unloaded Communal and then we were off to the paddock. Once in the paddock I started walking Communal around while Susanna talked to the onlookers. Spending time in the paddock, where only horses and jockeys are allowed, was amazing. After we left the paddock, we walked Communal through the barns back to the trailer. The walk back to the trailer was awesome in itself because I was able to see all the racehorses, grooms and trainers. The whole morning at Keeneland was awesome but best part of it for me was working with Communal in the paddock and walking through the barns and seeing all the horses. (Irene Kaar)

On the way to Keeneland I rode with Mark who is head of Kentucky operations for Brook Ledge Inc., which graciously hauls for free the Secretariat Center horse anywhere we need to go. While trailering Communal, Mark shared his thoughts with me on the horse industry and managing a business in the horse industry. He was very insightful and had many words of wisdom to impart. Once at Keeneland, we went on a tour of several different parts of the campus. My favorite highlights of the tour were seeing the corporate boxes on a tour conducted by Susan Haelan, Director of Guest Services a.k.a. the "Queen of Chairs," the Sales Pavilion, and seeing the view from Winner's Circle. (Alexander Duncan)


The Center brought Communal to Keeneland this morning. I rode Communal around the paddock with the assistance of Mark, our Brook Ledge trailer driver, and Irene, my co-intern. What was really interesting about this experience was that Communal perked up, and almost reminisced on his days at the track. Communal is 9 and has raced 63 times in multiple states. I know that the tracks do not look the same but he knew it was a track and it was where is spent a good part of his life. I thought it was really awesome to be on this horse, his first time back to the track as an retired racehorse, and then meet Chris McCarron.  Chris told us about his vivid memories from his ride to the Breeders Cup. The track has created so many memories for jockeys, horses, and spectators. It was really a great experience to witness how the track has shaped those lives. (Julia V Fabiani)

This was my first day volunteering at the Secretariat Center.  I was so looking forward to the day.  I was only just expecting to spend the day working in the barn and having the opportunity to love on some horses along the way.  Much to my surprise we began the day at Keenland to educate the public about retired horse adoptions.    Additionally we got to see the backside of the track, we meet Chris McCarron who shared some of his career stories, toured the jockey room as well as the finer side of the track.  It was such an awesome day.  This is one those days I will always cherish.