Kentucky Downs, Franklin, KY, Sept. 6 & 8, 2018

It's been a few years since I went to Kentucky Downs, so when Roxy decided that was going to be his "small track" visit track for 2018, and had assembled a notable band of favorites, I jumped on the bandwagon and made plans to get the old McChump Party together again for a road trip, just like the old days. Chicago to Nashville by auto, for three days of racing at Kentucky Downs, and a visit with old friends from the big parking lot party days, Jeff D. and Deb L.

It turns out Kentucky Downs has changed a bit since I first started visiting back in ot '99. Quite a bit spiffier, at least up at the racing end. (I did not visit the historical racing machine end, but was informed it was a tobacco smoke nightmare.) But it's still the home of great fun.

The weatherworn little wooden white announcer's booth etc. from where Luke used to call them home has been remodeled, has a nice aluminum roof, and has been painted up in the pleasant green and greenish-yellow color scheme of the entire park. The big gravel apron with the rickety aluminum bleachers has been replaced by a paved apron, with a snooty pavilion in the same color scheme as the racing building occupying the site of the former rickety aluminum bleachers, and it seems like there's a lot more grass down front of the apron down to the rail. In that snooty pavilion. for a low, low $50 you can get a seat at a more or less reserved table and chow down on the "complimentary" BBQ buffet cooking up in back. Plus you got your own no host bartender at a bar with a very sad selections of beers, a couple overworked mutuel tellers dedicated to the pavilion, and cover from the passing rain shower. Like I said, kinda snooty, and attracting a higher class of clientele from how I remember the old Kentucky Downs and its laid back local crowd. People wearing jackets and ties, and fancy dresses, and so on. Plus "groups" of the type you might see (and hear, all day long) in the "exclusive" areas of Arlington. Sheesh.

Kentucky Downs 2018
The Kentucky Downs officials stand in 2018

But hey ... WE got to be Snooty For A Day too! With a little badge and everything! Roxy had purchased one of those tables in the snooty pavilion, a table that was sold for 12, with room for maybe 10. 10 slim people. The crampedness of it made for a day of up and down, alternating standing and sitting and wanderin' around, sharing the table space and sittin' opportunities with your table mates. Not just us but all the tables. People up and down and congregating in the walkways all day long. That made things kind of busy.

But that was okay, as Roxy's notable band of favorites beyond just us regular schlubs included old friend Maury Wolff, Pat Cummings with quite an industry resume' and now of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, Dick Downey of The Downey Profile and his wife, and some other of Roxy's Kentucky friends and signficant others including a former co-owner of Sarava who talked horses all day. Great people, and all quite interesting, making all the popping up and down like Whack-A-Mole to make room at the table when it was our turn to sit or stand merely an opportunity to talk with someone new. The included offerings of The Snooty Pavilion were what I would call "okay". Buffet: burgers and dogs and beans and chips and like that. Bar: very limited selection of anything other than lite domestic beer, come on now, if you're going to have a Snooty Pavilion get yourself some decent beer at the bar. Lots of fun, and glad to meet everyone.

kentucky Downs 2018
Maury, Pat, Roxy, Jeff, and local schlub. Photo courtesy of Alise

But the racing action was out front of The Snooty Pavilion and its confines, ao we spent much of the day out of The Pavilion anyhow. Wagering wise, I'm not sure how the group did, as I really didn't hear anyone whooping about scores, and to tell you the truth there was so much socializing going on that handicapping was tough. I wasn't such a hotshot myself, except for early on the card when I was out by the paddock looking at horses, when who to my wondering eye should appear, leading a horse named He's No Saint around the path, but old friend of the McChump Tour owner/trainer Alex Hartmann, from the old Turf Paradise (and Prescott, and Sunland, and several other tracks) days.

Alex's brother Chris was listed as trainer today, and my personal opinion was that Chris Hartmann didn't usually show up to run a horse if it didn't have a shot. Though, from the pp's, I wasn't real sure about the horse, as it looked kind of outclassed by these. Still it was a starter allowance, and anything can happen in those things. So when the horses went out on the track and Alex came out of the paddock and up on the apron, I wandered over and said hello, and chatted a bit, and asked him what he thought of his horse's chances. As always with him, no commitment or strong opinion, other than "He can run a little". Well, what the hey, it was still early in the card and I still had bankroll, he didn't specifically say to keep my money in my pocket, so why not take a shot on Alex's horse?

Kaboom, $24.40 winner, Alex let me get in the win photo, and for at least several minutes thereafter I was the king of the table in the snooty pavilion. At least until it became obvious I was not going to repeat. But it was enough to put me over the top for the entire day. I shoulda bought Alex a beer but I was a dummy and didn't think of it, so I owe you next time I see you, man.

It wasn't the big stakes day, that was Saturday, so I don't remember much about any of the other races except the purses were just eye-popping, like MSW running for $130,000. Can't blame guys for coming from near and far to take a shot at those pots. Then the Day ended all too soon and everyone headed out for wherever, but big thanks to Roxy for bringing us all together and plunking down the dough for the table in the pavilion.

As it turned out the the weekend was only two days of racing, as opposed to the planned three. Jeff and I came out again Saturday and proceeded to mostly stink the joint out (but enjoyed good beers from the trunk in the parking lot, just like the old days), and then Sunday got rained out in the torrential rainstorm that finally unleashed on the greater Nashville area after having sputtered and threatened for the preceding three days. But by then we had been having so much "fun" sampling the fantastic microbrews of Nashville that it was really, to me, kind of a welcome day off.

Not much story beyond that but this picture gallery with comments added to some of the various pictures. Thanks again Roxy! And Deb and Jeff!