It can be anywhere - sitting on a deck with friends at a cottage, at the ballpark or other sporting event, hiking through a wooded trail. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be a physical place; watching the "catch"scene in Field of Dreams brings me immediately into my backyard as a ten year old with my dad.
When I walked into Keeneland for the first time I felt that way about a racetrack. It was just so welcoming. It's a place with beauty and ambiance. A place where jockey's, trainers and owners are treated well, but fans and bettors are treated just as well. A place where if you want to bet big cash with Maloney upstairs you can, but if you want to dress up in a suit and tie and bet $2 to show, well, you can do that too. A place where you might see a Derby winner run, or you can own a claimer, with a shot to get to the winners circle, in front of fans, friends and family. A place where you can hope to get a decent table with your cohorts to handicap the races and shoot the breeze.
Each year my Thursday evening before Keeneland's meet begins has me working at the real job. That allows me to play the next day's card, from start to finish, without interruption. It rarely works out that way, but that's my plan. Tonight will be no different.
Today Keeneland was again named the number one track for betting value in North America by HANA. That has nothing to do with what I wrote above, of course. HANA's Bill Weaver, who designed the ratings, wanted them based on hard numbers regarding takeout, bettability, field size and all those metrics we worry about as bettors; not about how we feel about something. But it does give me hope that the sport we're all married to in some form can attempt to succeed on all fronts, to all types of participants and customers. When that's achieved, it helps the sport, and everyone's light shines a little brighter. I don't think anyone does it quite as well as Keeneland does.
Enjoy opening day everyone.