Keeneland, by the Numbers

A day at the races is something like Sesame Street and something like Las Vegas. All those numbers, all that gambling.

Definitely an educational experience.

However, at 4201 Versailles Road, school's almost out for the summer. At post-time for this particular Thursday's edition ACE, Keeneland's spring meet will only have one more day of racing, April 27, the Ben Ali Stakes and the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings.

If you haven't been yet, go.

But if you're like most Lexingtonians, you've probably found your way out to the track at least once this meet.

And you've probably found enchantment there, in one form of diversion or another.

Mine was found in integers.

Keeneland's 907 acres are alive with enough digits to keep Alan Greenspan around for weeks.

I only had a few hours, though. So I stuck to the simple stuff.

Here's the report:

0 Horses that granted me post-race interviews. When asked, they all repeatedly said neigh. How bigheaded of them.

1 Dollars you pay for a Grilled Backside Onion at the Burgers 'N Kentucky Bourbon Bar-B-Q stand outside the far north end of the grandstand near stable 20. A dollar for one stinkin' onion! Actually, it's only a half an onion. So it's a dollar for half a stinkin' onion! Can you believe it? Of course, these (half) onions are about the size of a (half) baseball and are swimming in homemade bourbon barbeque sauce. Still, a dollar apiece is enough to make you cry.

2 (For a historical perspective) H.R.H.'s - Her Royal Highnesses - that have visited the track since the ponies started running in 1936. In 1998, Princess Anne came by, and in 1984, Queen Elizabeth II... who it seems has been perched atop the throne since that opening day in '36.

3 Primary purposes of Keeneland's existence. (1) "Preservation of the finest tradition of the sport of racing"; (2) "conduct of the world's most important Thoroughbred sales"; and (3) "participation as an active 'citizen' in the community and commonwealth." Not officially stated purpose but coming in next is (4) creation of a chivalrous atmosphere that causes people to quickly, painlessly part with their petty cash.

4 As in quartet. Keeneland recruited the International Harvesters (no association with the tractor of same name) to play at the track on weekends. The foursome strums a variety of British Isles, Danish, and Eastern European tunes on an upright bass, banjo, fiddle, and six string. Guitarist Ray Bowman says: "People get a chance to come up close and see and hear the music, and that's the best part about it. They get to hear the music first hand - right straight out of the wood like it's supposed to be... all while making their picks between races."

5 Levels of the Keenleand grandstand. For fan friendliness, each level has a conveniently located ATM... just in case. Every level, that is, except the fourth (corporate boxes, Phoenix, Lafayette, Kentucky, and Lexington Rooms) and fifth (Keeneland Room). But I guess they figure that if you're watching the race from up there, you're probably pretty much good to go on greenbacks.

6 Number of seats, and they're great ones, per box in the outdoor boxes that span the grandstand. 253 boxes in all. $750 per meet to rent. Two meets per year. You do the math.

7 Approximate amount of bills spent to buy a bag of those green onions mentioned above. Remember, those bloomin' things resell for a buck per. And the guy grilling them at Burgers 'N Kentucky Bourbon Bar-B-Q says that he sells a sack (30, or 60 halves) a day, for a "great profit margin." No kidding. What an entrepreneur.

8 Grams of fat in one serving (30 grams) of the Thoroughbred Truffle sold in the Paddock Shop. (Eight grams in the other serving too.) Cheapest thing in the whole store. You only have to pay half an onion.

9 Poles that mark the outer loops of both the 7 1/2 furlong turf course and the 1 1/16 mile dirt track. Red and white poles sit 1/4th a mile apart; green and white poles cut those quarters into eights; and black and white poles divide the eights into sixteenths. All of these fractions are reminiscent of the Nasdaq market before its recent decimalization. Told you Greenspan would like this place.

10 Dollars I lost on race number three the other day, the only race on which I wagered. I went for it all... or nothing. Took a Win, Place, and Show on #4, Lake Highlands, at 35-1 odds. And a place and show on #10, Aztek Sky, at 40-1.

What was I thinking...?

Oh yeah... that I'd write the bet off as a business expense.