Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bluegrass Tours and the Formal Banquet

Saturday promised to be a busy day,

starting bright and early with the Candidates’ Breakfast.

This breakfast was held so that the 33rd Candidates and their spouses

could learn more about what they could expect at the Supreme Council

that will be in Philadelphia later this summer.

A plate of fresh fruit sat at each table

along with a chilled carafe of orange juice.

A plate of assorted pastries soon arrived and servers poured coffee.

At our table it was agreed that it would have been more convenient

for the guests if carafes of coffee had been provided for each table

so that we didn’t have to keep flagging down the wait staff for refills.

Our breakfast proper then arrived: plates of scrambled eggs,

bacon and fried potatoes with peppers and onions.

All in all, it was a nice repast for the early morning hours.

After breakfast we learned when and where we ladies

should be on the lookout for the “Penguin March”

and to be sure we had our cameras ready for that memorable event.

I am sure that the sight of dozens of men in white tie and tails

walking down the streets of Philadelphia will be something else.

No time to waste as the ladies who had

signed up for the tour had to get on the tour bus.

Action shot?

Bluegrass tours took us to our first stop of the day – Old Friends Farm.

This retirement facility for pensioned Thoroughbreds

was started by Michael Blowen.

He strongly feels that after all that they have

accomplished in their careers,

these magnificent creatures deserve better endings

than the slaughterhouse or the glue factory.

Be sure to click on the link for the farm and read the

biographies for the horses.

Especially poignant was the sad tale of Ferdinand,

the winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby,

who ended up in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002.

So outraged were many in the racing world that The Ferdinand Fee,

a small voluntary per-race charge,

has been put in place to help Thoroughbred Charities.

The hope is that no race horse ever again meets with such an ignoble end.

Equally sad was the story of Exceller,

who was regarded to be one of the best race horses

to never win a year-end championship.

Despite a storied career,

he ended up in a Swedish slaughterhouse in 1997.

We were privileged to meet Mr. Blowen briefly,

and his passion for saving these magnificent horses is quite evident.

After all, we were reminded,

people never go to the races

to see a bunch of short men run around the track.

It has always been about the horses.

Our guide for the farm tour was a gentleman by the name of Martin.

He warned us that many of the horses were rather high-spirited

and should be viewed rather than touched.

Thoroughbreds are not to be confused with purebreds

as Thoroughbreds are a distinct breed of horse.

Thoroughbred horses came about when English mares

were crossbred with Arabian stallions in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

A typical Thoroughbred stands about sixteen hands tall.

These horses are known for their speed, agility and spirit.

Most Thoroughbreds come from Kentucky and

Kentucky has more Thoroughbred farms

than anywhere else in the world.

Presently, ninety horses are housed

at the Georgetown, Kentucky farm.

Old Friends also has other farms in New York

and a total of 102 horses are currently in residence at all their farms.

Some of these horses were rescued

before they could be sent to the slaughterhouse

or the glue factory and some were saved

from being sent to the fighting venues in Korea.

Others were lucky enough to have compassionate owners

who wished for a gentle retirement for these old race horses.

Marquetry did not have proper dental care and has no front teeth.

The caring staff at the farm make up a special mix for him to eat.

One kind owner spent one million dollars

to fix the broken hind leg of a horse (not pictured)

that had only just begun its racing career,

just so it could spend the rest of its life at the farm.

We also learned that the horses wear the cloth over their faces

to help keep the flies out of their eyes.

Leave Seattle was sired by Seattle Slew,

but it was clear from the beginning

that this horse would never be a winner.

He was much shorter than the other horses

and had a noticeable sag in the back.

Indeed, the horse never won a dime in his career.

The jockeys used to joke that they deserved

overtime pay when they rode him

because it took so long to cross the finish line.

While at the farm we also got to meet a movie star.

Popcorn Deelites was one of eight horses who

played the part of Seabiscuit in the movie of the same name.

Popcorn Deelites was the horse shown

breaking from the gate in the movie.

We learned that two stallions cannot be placed

in the same paddock as they will fight.

If you see two horses in a paddock,

you can bet that they are geldings

and if you see more than two in the same paddock,

they are all females.

The question of why the horse farms

have the double fences was also answered for us.

It seems that the stallions

are not willing to jump a double fence,

so other stallions, geldings and the mares

and cars are thus safe from their advances.

This lovely fountain is on loan to the farm.

There is also a cemetery for some of the horses

who have died while at the farm, or on route to the farm.

While on the way to our next stop, the Equus Run Vineyards,

our lovely tour guide informed us that

the number one cash crop in Kentucky is the Horse industry,

bringing in over one billion dollars a year.

We also learned that the first commercial vineyards

in the country were in Kentucky back in 1798.

Currently, there are over 50 vineyards in Kentucky.

An interesting side note:

when Prohibition went into effect,

all the grapevines in Kentucky were torn out

and tobacco was planted instead.

Several years ago, when the tobacco subsidies ended,

people in Kentucky began planting grapevines again.

Equus Run Vineyard sits next to South Elkhorn Creek.

Equus Run Vineyards, started in 1998,

is a boutique winery,

bottling only about 10,000 cases of wine per year.

The owner has no plans to expand upon that number.

As a comparison, Oliver Winery, which is near us,

currently bottles 270,000 cases a year.

Our group heads up to the front of the property.

The amphitheater.

I like the weather vane on top of this shed.

Our tour vineyard tour guides, Colleen and Eric.

After walking among the grapevines,

our tour split up into two groups.

While one group went into the processing barn

and learned a bit about the wine-making process,

the other group tasted some of the vineyard’s wines

before switching.

Grapes on the vine.

Both the processing barn and the tasting barn

were originally tobacco barns.

I like old barns.

Have you noticed?

Our lunches were provided by Wallace Station,

the same quaint place that my husband and I

stopped at for lunch last year.

After eating our lunches

some of us decided to purchase some wine.

I picked up two bottles of their White Riesling.

Then it was off to the races, er race track.

Our final stop was Keeneland Race Course.

Keeneland is the largest

Thoroughbred auction center in the world.

Though Keeneland only hosts racing on its Polytrack™

two months out of the year,

simulcast racing is televised at the track throughout the year.


This artificial track surface doesn't get wet

and is softer and safer for both horse and rider.

In case you can’t tell,

by this time we were all hot and tired

and ready to head back to the hotel.

What’s that?

The Queen of England sat in this room and watched a race once?

That’s nice.

The Sheik of Dubai comes here regularly

to watch the races and buy and sell horses?


Let’s just head back to the hotel, please.

Many thanks to our bus driver, Danny,
and our lovely tour guide, Kim.


a warm shower does wonders

and that’s a good thing

because we were all expected to don our finest gowns

and head down to the ballroom in the evening.

This dinner is so formal that we have an agenda .

Oh, and did I mention that as a 33rd Candidate and spouse,

we had to parade into the ballroom?

Hey, we do things right around here.

We were served the first course:

a tossed garden salad.

Then the entrees arrived:

Sliced roast tenderloin and seared salmon

with fresh seasonal vegetables, Dauphinoise potatoes

and assorted rolls with butter.

Thankfully, no chicken stock arrived with my dinner this night.

Finally we have our dessert

of New York Style Cheesecake with raspberry sause.

Dinner was decent for a banquet,

but it was certainly nothing to write home about.

Then came the obligatory awards, the presentations and remarks.

Finally, everyone headed off to the Hospitality Rooms

for fellowship,

or in my case,

off to my hotel room for rest.

1 comment:

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Very interesting. I'm glad someone cares for these horses.