With temperatures in the mid-80s, organizers of the 45th High Hope Steeplechase said more than 12,000 people turned out at the Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday for a day filled with racing, food and crafts.
"I love it; I love the steeplechase racing," said spectator Lissy Heffner, who, as an exercise rider at Keene land Race Course, spends a lot of time around horses.
"In spite of the heat, we're having a great time," said Heffner, who had gathered with Keeneland co-workers — other exercise riders, hot walkers and horse trainers — around two chicken-laden grills.
The steeplechase, which raises money for charities such as Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, the Secretariat Center, Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, went smoothly through the first four events — three purse races and a jockey school race.
Then, in the first-ever Sportswoman's Challenge, presented by Susan G. Komen for the Cure Lexington, two riders in the all-female jockey race fell from their horses.
Victoria Oliver, a top horse trainer in Kentucky, fell from her Thoroughbred, Rex, who is a racetrack pony. Oliver was taken to a hospital but apparently did not suffer any serious injuries, High Hope volunteer Scooter Hughes said.
Rex was taken to a veterinary clinic; his condition was not known early Sunday evening. Rex did manage to walk into the horse van waiting to take him to the clinic, Hughes said.
The identity of the other rider who fell was not immediately available, but she apparently was not hurt.
For Liz Harris, Sunday marked the 20th consecutive High Hope Steeplechase she's attended.
Harris, a Midway resident who is in the Thoroughbred consulting business, was living in New York, where she worked in the real estate brokerage business, when she attended her first High Hope.
When she went back to New York afterward, friends asked her what it was like, she said.
"I said, 'We stood around in the rain and drank, and once in a while a horse went by,'" she said with a laugh.
"This is just a great tradition here. It's more relaxed than Keeneland," said Harris, who was accompanied by her children Julia and Spencer.
Children and dogs were more plentiful at High Hope than horses. In addition to the horse races, there were stick-horse races for children and adults, terrier trials, and the parade of The Woodford Hounds.
The souvenir of the day seemed to be brightly colored string horse puppets. Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship provided entertainment, a first for High Hope.
In the event's annual food contest, Neil Honaker and friends won their sixth title in the past eight years.
This year, Honaker's theme was "Havana Daydreamin'," and the food and drink selections included cumin-spiced pork, Cuban barbecue chicken and pineapple sage daiquiries.
"It's kind of our big shindig for the year," Honaker said.