Thanks to my friend Judy Jones, herself a talented artist and horse lover, I was able to pop into the Red Mile, a one-mile harness racing track located near the University of Kentucky in Lexington. What an evening!
I have been a horse racing fan for 30 years, but I have never been to live harness racing. Living in Alabama does not allow for many opportunities to what any kind of racing that isn’t driven by a car so I take my chances to see live racing anytime I can! I happened to be in Lexington this past weekend for the Heartland Book Festival so I took this chance to visit the Red Mile. Even though the card was a short one, those six races were fascinating to watch.
The thunder of hooves is familiar, but the strides that the horses use and the times they log are unfamiliar to this long-time fan of all things horse. I was fascinated by the way the trotters and pacers stayed in stride and wondered how their trainers teach their horses to maintain their trot even while accelerating. Watching their legs move, the drivers behind them working and pushing much like a jockey but from a precarious perch on two wheels behind them, was simply mesmerizing. I am left with the feeling that I must learn more!
Fascinating also was the history of the track I was at. The Red Mile is the second oldest harness racing track in the world! Opened in 1875, the Red Mile hosts the Kentucky Futurity, which is one of the three legs of the Trotting Triple Crown, with the Hambletonian and the Yonkers Trot being the other two. The track now hosts Keeneland’s off-track-betting as well. The upcoming Kentucky Futurity is part of the 2019 Grand Circuit, where the elite of the harness racing scene will descend upon the track for the final races of the year. If you can make it out for these races, I highly recommend it.
Lastly, I discovered that the Red Mile also features this Round Barn, originally used as an exhibition hall and then to house horses and tack before becoming an event venue. If I lived in the Lexington area and were planning a wedding or other big to-do, I would definitely look at this beautiful structure. From the outside, it has a distinctive look, evocative of the era of the track’s origins. From the inside, it looks like a cozy vintage space for any get-together. Definitely take a look around if you’re ever in the area.
Thank you, Judy, for showing me around this wonderful track, another race track ticked off my list!