For Derby Day experience, thousands choose the convenience of Keeneland

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMay 4, 2013 

Karen Underwood of Lexington went to Keeneland for Kentucky Derby Day activities Saturday and saw that she had not followed a time-honored tradition.

"I didn't have anything on my head, and it's Derby Day!" Underwood said.

Not a problem: Keeneland employee Pat Marr was selling accessories at the Derby Bash party at the Lexington racetrack's Entertainment Center. She offered the perfect solution — a colorful fascinator head piece.

Marr said that by 11:30 a.m., she had made four or five hat sales; customers were her best advertisers to those arriving later: "They come in and they see people wearing them."

In all, 18,687 people opted to enjoy the simulcast Kentucky Derby races at Keeneland, spokeswoman Amy Gregory said. The crowd included Adrienne Curry, a new Lexington resident sitting in the Club House, who was at a horse track for the first time ever, and Brian Whitfield of Versailles, who set up a picnic under a canopy in the parking lot for the 10th year.

Curry, who recently moved from Chicago, said she was placing her first-ever bet on a horse, but she had already determined that "there's no method to this."

"I bet on Goldencents, Pitino's horse. I like Rick Pitino," Curry said. Also, she said, she wanted to show support for Goldencents jockey Kevin Krigger.

People meandered between outdoor picnics, betting windows, and indoor screens simulcasting the Derby Day races.

In the paddock area, Jill and Danny Faulconer of Lexington hosted about 40 people at an annual picnic. Pink roses adorned their table, which was laden with fried chicken and pulled pork in chafing dishes. With children and schedules to consider, Jill Faulconer said, "going to Churchill isn't feasible for a lot of us."

In a parking area reserved for people who were hosting gatherings in recreational vehicles, someone had crafted a sign that said "Slow Adults at Play."

Randy Coffman of Richmond said staying in the RV area made for a leisurely day, letting him avoid the traffic around Churchill Downs.

"I can sit here and relax and let all the dust settle and leave when I want to," Coffman said.

At the track's drive-through windows before noon, Gary Mitchell was sitting in his truck waiting to place bets for the dozen people who were gathered at his home in Frankfort to "eat, have a good time and watch the races."

"We do this every year," Mitchell said of his Derby Day-morning trek to Keeneland with his friends' bets.

To get a prime spot for his parking lot picnic, Whitfield said he arrived at Keeneland at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

"Why go all the way to Louisville to see the race?" he said. "I can be home in five minutes."

Valarie Honeycutt-Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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