Thirteen races on the day’s card were highlighted by the grade I Cotillion for three-year old fillies and the grade II Pennsylvania Derby for three-year old males. The races attracted some of the best horses from the two divisions, and therefore, about 16,000 people. I was at the Haskell Invitational in the summer and saw Untapable, the top 3-year old filly and Cotillion favorite, and Bayern, who won the Haskell and would be running in the PA Derby. Most exciting for me though and really the reason I made the trip was to see my favorite racehorse, California Chrome.
The Cotillion Stakes
I tried to get good photos of the Cotillion, but unfortunately was not very successful. The field of eight (#9, Stopchargingmaria, was scratched) got off smoothly. Jojo Warrior had the lead in the upper stretch, but Untapable kept bearing down on her. She hadn’t won that way since her victory in the Pocahontas Stakes in 2013 (when she closed in on Stonetastic in the same fashion). The two went eyeball-to-eyeball for a dozen strides or so, but Untapable, urged on by Rosie Napravnik, passed by Jojo Warrior like a champ. Jojo Warrior faded in deep stretch, allowing Sweet Reason (#2) to grasp second money. Untapable, after facing the boys in the Haskell, found the winner’s circle again!
In the paddock stood two statues, painted to the silks of last year’s Cotillion and PA Derby winner. Close Hatches won the Cotillion and Will Take Charge won the PA Derby. Close Hatches was unbeaten so far in the year, while Will Take Charge had been retired due to a minor injury after good performances in big races.
The Pennsylvania Derby
When the race began, Chrome was almost immediately boxed in as Bayern surged to the front. The Offlee Wild colt (pun intended) stayed there through increasingly fast quarters—and ultimately, made the eight horse race a solo act. California Chrome toiled some ten lengths behind Bayern, who set a track record for the mile and an eighth. California Chrome finished sixth.
Despite the disappointing finish, Chrome was welcomed back with a pat on the head from groom Willie Delgado. And of course, the crowd cheered.
When I decided years ago that I wanted to visit Kentucky, it was to see my favorite racehorse, California Chrome. But before I could, he moved to Japan. I hope he comes back someday (or that I go to Japan, of course); he was a special horse that really got me into racing. I’d later learn that Will Take Charge would also be moving to Japan, so I was lucky to see him near the end of our trip.
Anyway, after 12 hours of driving, I was ready—for fried chicken, Thoroughbreds, racing, and stallions. We had arrived in Louisville. For a city that hosts prestigious Thoroughbred races, has a huge convention center, is the hometown of major companies and Muhammad Ali (AKA The Greatest), the city was rugged outside of a 2 block radius, and not many people were walking around. Nevertheless, we made the most of it.
At Churchill Downs, we went through the Kentucky Derby Museum, which had some cool facts and items. When the race day began, I speedwalked from paddock to rail and back again for 7 races.
We drove 1 1/2 hours to Lexington (named after the racehorse, whose statue is at Thoroughbred Park), which was more quaint but still had some towering buildings and parking garages. The area in and around Lexington has a plethora of horse farms and 2 universities—yet it felt like being in the movie Inception. Despite what looked like attempts at revitalization (perhaps derailed by the pandemic), there wasn’t much to see or do. The main street had a fair number of people; outside of it, there was practically no one. Once, as someone breezed through a red light, a woman at the crosswalk threw her hands up and expressed her anger: “Fine, just go through the red light, there’s no law here!” Meanwhile, a multinational center advertised Lexington as the city to be. As in Louisville, we tried to make the most of it.
The highlight of our trip was Old Friends, which has retired some horses I know and watched on TV, so it really felt like visiting old friends. Among many star-studded residents, the one I was most looking forward to seeing was Game On Dude, which luckily we did AND I got to pet him (though he was more interested in eating carrots and cribbing). Dude was surprisingly unimpressive—small in stature, plain brown, a tapering snout—but a top-class racehorse with multiple stakes wins and $6.5 million in earnings.
Claiborne Farm is one of the most historic stud farms because some of the greatest stallions in US history have stood here. They raise horses on another part of the farm, and race their own in yellow silks. We didn’t realize until later that they are apparently very unique in allowing people to pet the stallions and take pictures with them right there.
The Kentucky Horse Park is a huge place with lots to see. There was even a show jumping event while we were there, so we snuck over to watch. Similar to Old Friends, the Park has been the retirement home of some champion racehorses.
At Keeneland, preparation for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships was underway. We toured the facilities and watched horses during morning workouts. Opening Day was packed, so we hugged the rail to hold our position.
Three ChimneysFarm is another stud farm and was a late addition to our itinerary, where we had extra time.
I saw Will Take Charge in the 2013 Preakness Stakes. He finished 7th. By year’s end, he would be champion 3 year old male. Against top competition (including stablemate Palace Malice and old friend Game On Dude) in 11 races that year, he proved himself a tough racehorse. His 2nd—by a late-surging nose—in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is still one of my favorite races, for when the big chestnut started his stretch drive, you were in for a good race. As our large tour group approached, “Willy” turned to face us, ears flicking to and fro as he stood calmly, looking with kind eyes. His flashy markings made him easy to spot both live and on TV. His large, tall frame carried a musculature that exuded strength. Truly a hunk. He is also the friendliest stallion you could ever hope to meet.
At Stonestreet Farm, which focuses on broodmares and their babies—how life begins for a Thoroughbred racehorse—we saw Mannerly’s weanling, known as the nicest one around the barn and a camera-hog. A future superstar?
After that, we started on our 10 hour drive back home, with lots of horse memories and without having had one single piece of Kentucky fried chicken.
Oven 375º with rack in middle Butter and parchment line bottom and sides of 10” springform 1 1/2 packets graham crackers crushed Stir in 4 tablespoons of melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar Press mixture gently into bottom of pan Bake 8 minutes Let cool Reduce oven to 350º Beat 6 egg yolks and add one can of sweetened condensed milk Save whites for pavlova Mix in thoroughly 3/4 cup Florribean Key Lime Juice Pour mixture over crust and tap to release bubbles Bake 15 minutes Place plastic wrap on surface and refrigerate Or cool 15 minutes and cover pan with foil.
Core green cabbage and put in large stockpot of
boiling water. Peel off leaves with tongs when loose and pliable. Put on
plate to wait. Empty water when finished and use same stockpot for
Make sauce. 1 large onion finely diced and half stick of butter, salt, pepper, saute until onion translucent. Add 1 16oz. can of tomato sauce/pureé/crushed. Add two heaping tablespoons of brown sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer. You can also add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and/or a teaspoon of smoked paprika.
Make filling. 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, 1 cup or so of already cooked rice, 2 or 3 garlic cloves pressed, salt, pepper, egg, worcestershire sauce. Mix. Put 1/3 cup in each leaf, roll like a burrito, place seam side down in sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.
Olive oil Salt 1/2 yellow onion medium-fine dice dice 8 cloves garlic through press Chili powder Tomato paste, the whole can 4 cups chicken broth 4 cups water Oregano 2 25oz cans Juanita’s Hominy 1 rotisseri chicken, meat pulled apart into bite size pieces
Avocado Radishes Cilantro sprigs Blue corn chips 1 Lime
Heat olive oil, add salt, add onion, cook until turning translucent,
add garlic, wait a minute or two, add chili powder, stir around for a minute, add tomato paste, stir around for a couple minutes, add chicken broth, add water, add hominy, add chicken. Bring to a boil and simmer for awhile.
Top with cilantro sprigs, thinly sliced radishes, avocado slices, squeeze over some lime, then crushed blue chips.
For the broth:
1 large carrot roughly broken
2 celery stalks roughly broken
2 bay leaves
1 yellow onion quartered with skin on
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs of parsley
Put all ingredients in large stockpot add enough water to cover or just about cover the turkey. Bring to a boil then simmer for two hours or so skimming off any foamy stuff around the edge. Take out the big pieces and then strain into another pot or bowl big enough to hold the broth.
For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion medium dice
3 carrots sliced thinish
3 celery stalks sliced thinish
3 cups turkey meat pulled apart
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (or half tsp each of sage, thyme, marjoram rosemary, pepper— I leave out the nutmeg due to allergies)
1 teaspoon salt—taste to adjust after a little while
3/4 cup Madeira wine
1/2 pound wild rice or mixed wild rice like Lundberg wild blend
All the broth plus water if needed
In a stockpot/soup pot add one tablespoon olive oil, teaspoon of salt and add onion, celery and carrot and cook on medium-high until softened. Add poultry season stir for a minute so it can bloom. Add 3/4 cup Madiera wine and turn heat to high and reduce about half. Add broth, turkey, rice and water if needed (I add water if needed to bring level up to about 4/5 of stockpot) bring to a boil, simmer for a few hours. Spoon off any foamy stuff around edge.
I make 3 per person. Here I’m making 12. Sometimes the ingredients get a little tilted by the the end. I usually run out of avocado first.
2 cups boiling water in a 9×9 casserole dish or something close to that. Break up a quarter of a 14oz package of rice stick noodles and soak for about ten minutes then drain in colander. Cut up a bit with scissors.
36 shrimp. 3 for each roll. I buy frozen medium size wild-caught white shrimp and flash them for 3 minutes in lightly salted boiling water. Then drain in colander and remove tails.
On a big cutting board: 1carrot julienned (I have a hand-held Japanese julienne tool thing) 1cucumber cut lengthwise and seeded. Julienne half. Thinly slice other half and put in bowl with some rice vinegar.
About 2 cups of cabbage finely sliced (Napa, Savoy, green, or whatever) 1 avocado cut in halves and sliced thin Cilantro leaves and tender stalk
24 or so basil leaves
12 25cm extra-thin spring roll wrappers.
With enough space on cutting board to roll and a 9×9 casserole dish with hot water next to it, rotate wrapper through hot water, place on cutting board and begin to load about a third of the way down the wrapper: basil leaves and shrimp next to each other and then everything else on top. Tuck in sides and roll.
Six medium or four largebeets. Cut stems and greens from beets and save.
Place in pot and cover with water and bring to a boil. Continue on a slow boil until knife pierces beet easily. Half hour or so for small/medium and sometimes an hour for big ones. When done, reserve 1 cup of beet water. Set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, combine beet water, a small yellow onion finely diced, one cup white wine vinegar, quarter cup sugar, four cloves, teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for around five minutes.
Meanwhile, trim ends off beets, pull skin off, slice or dice beets however you want. Combine beets and sauce in covered container and refridgerate overnight. Pull out a few hours before eating to let them warm up a bit.