There’s a snow storm raging in Roanoke, VA. It is as warm in Bloomington, IN as it is in Hilton Head; only it’s not pouring rain in Bloomington. Despite the April calendar date, March lilies are in bloom and tulips have yet to appear. In Daytona Beach, it’s cloudy and rainy and undoubtedly hoards of high school seniors are drowning their tanless sorrows in beer bongs.
But in Central Kentucky, a spring tradition will begin tomorrow that cannot be stopped by wind, rain, sleet or hail. Keeneland, the most beautiful and historic thoroughbred race course in the nation, opens tomorrow. Weather prognosticators (aka The Wise Men from the East) are predicting a beautiful spring day. But even if there is snow, Keeneland will open. The sleek long muscles of the thoroughbreds will twitch at the trumpeter’s call to the post. The high-brows will swagger into the club house in Spring’s newest fashions. The fraternity and sorority kids will stumble into the gates of the grandstand alongside the working men and women, the everyday sportsman, the bookies and the occasional owner or trainer not willing to put on a tie for the day. The green-coated Keeneland employees will polish their smiles. The tote board will light and the bell will sound. The horses will break from the post, thundering past the screaming crowd, betting tickets clutched tightly in their fists for luck. And down the stretch they will come.
And officially, weather or no, in Central Kentucky, Spring will have arrived.
There are some wonderful books about thoroughbreds and racing. My two favorites are Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand and Wild Ride, by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach. People are familiar with Seabiscuit because of the movie. Wild Ride is about the legendary Calumet farm, and the gorgeous, glorious and tragic story of Alydar, the horse who finished second to Affirmed in all three of the Triple Crown races, but outshone him by the million in the breeding shed.
A song list for Keeneland’s opening day:
Fugue for TInhorns (I Got the Horse Right Here), from Guys and Dolls
Run for the Roses, Dan Fogelberg
Up on Cripple Creek, The Band
Bottle of Smoke, The Pogues
Beer for My Horses, Tobey Keith & Willie Nelson
If I Had a Horse, Lyle Lovett
And a couple for sentimental reasons that are sort of about horses and sort of about love. But maybe that’s all the same thing anyway.
Wild Horses, The Rolling Stones
A Horse in the Country, The Cowboy Junkies
The perfect menu for Keeneland opening day:
Steamed asparagus, country ham on beaten biscuits, corn pudding and strawberries.
Serve with your choice of champagne or bourbon and branch water.
Here’s the Shakertown Corn Pudding Recipe:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups frozen corn
1 3/4 cup milk
Blend butter, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl.
Add eggs and beat with rotary mixer on low. Add corn, chopping it a little to release the milky juice.
Pour into a flat, 10 x 6″ casserole and bake at 325 for 45 minutes, stirring once, halfway through the baking.
When done, the pudding will be golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle will come out cleanly.
(Another menu with recipes for Mint Juleps and Derby Pie: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/the-first-saturday-in-may/)
Happy Reading! (Or Racing)