Spectators gathered in tents or cars, and the races went on Sunday when bright sunshine gave way to a downpour at the 44th High Hope Steeplechase. Thousands attended the charitable event at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Jockeys in the final race, all recent graduates of the North American Racing Academy, were told to go slow because the rain had made the track soft, said High Hope executive director Jessica Stith.
Natalie Turner, 20, of Burlington finished first in that race, called the Catch a Riding Star Race.
It might have been just as well for Turner that participants were told not to go fast because earlier in the month she sustained 10 broken ribs, a chipped vertebrae and a punctured lung when a horse flipped her, then fell on her.
Her mother, Nancy Turner, and several family members and friends wore black T-shirts with "Jockey Natalie" written in pink. "She's been a passionate rider since she was about 10 years old," Nancy Turner said.
Natalie Turner has had a dream of being a successful jockey for a long time, she said before riding the final race on Sticky Issue, a horse she's ridden every day while at the academy, which is part of Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
"I've always been riding and I like speed, and I figured I was small enough," she said.
The Catch a Riding Star Race was considered a graduation ceremony of sorts. The other four steeplechase races Sunday were sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association. The four top-tier jump races had a total of $70,000 in purses.
Several riders and horses took tumbles, but apparently no one was seriously injured.
Rider Lucy Horner and her horse fell in the fourth race after the horse apparently caught a hoof on a timber fence. Horner was taken to a hospital by ambulance.
"She's fine. She's going back to England tomorrow," Stith said later.
Sunday's High Hope Steeplechase also included Jack Russell terrier and Lurcher races, as well as a parade of hounds in which fox hunters from the Woodford Hounds, their horses and hounds paraded around the course. There also were stick horse races, and arts and crafts booths.
"It's a terrific event," said Gary Morin of Lexington, who was at the Horse Park with his wife, Teri, and their three daughters, Camryn, Chandler and Carsen. "We just have some Irish friends who invited us out."
Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center, the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation and Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital benefit from the proceeds of the High Hope Steeplechase.
The event was not held last year because the Horse Park was preparing for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.