By Ed Arditti
(LEXINGTON, KY) – What do I know about horses?
The only ones that I have ever been on were the ponies that go round and round in a circle as a carnival ride when I was a child. I have only been at a racetrack a few times in my life and my theory was not to bet on the horse but rather on the jockey. I figured that they knew more about horses than I ever would and if they made their money by getting a percentage of the earnings if they won the race then the best jockey would pick the best horse. Ergo, I would generally win more often.
All I knew about Kentucky and horses was the Kentucky Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown that takes place in Louisville, Kentucky. How the heck was I supposed to know that Lexington, Kentucky was the “Horse Capital of the World.”
That was the beauty of the Great Circle Tour that my family and I planned. We learned all kinds of information about many different towns and cities that most people just drive through on their way to Florida or to the Carolina beaches and golf courses. The purpose of our trip, and of the many articles that we have written about it, is to try to get people to either plan a weekend holiday away from home or to choose one of the spots on the way down or back from the ultimate destination.
In other words, slow down a bit and start your holiday early or ease back into your normal life by visiting one of these locations and enjoying the experiences that they offer.
Lexington was our last stop before we headed on home to Windsor. As became the norm on our trip we merely scratched the surface of all that there was to see there.
We learned a lot on our trip about what could help Windsor prosper. That was the biggest surprise of all. I never expected that we would do that nor was it my expectation that this would become a significant part of what we did when we were away. Let me just provide you with a comment that I received from their Director of Media Services to show you what I mean.
Here is what a few people with vision can do. It is not necessary for the City Government to provide tons of money to do this and to compete with the private sector but rather it just needs to provide encouragement for individuals to do so:
“Yes, you were able to just scratch the surface of what Lexington has to offer….specifically, you would love the story of a revitalized Jefferson Street in downtown Lexington.
For many, many years Jefferson Street was a sleepy area of town with a couple of small business and not much else. Since 2009 there have been six new restaurants open along Jefferson and West Sixth Brewing (one of Lexington’s first craft breweries) made their new home in a 90,000 square foot old Wonder Bread Factory on the north end of the street at the corner of Jefferson and Sixth.
They knew they wouldn’t need all 90,000 square feet of space but they loved the building and really wanted to make a difference in a struggling neighborhood. They bought the entire building and set about filling the space with like-minded tenants. The building is known as The Bread Box. http://www.breadboxlex.com/
The owners of West Sixth were interested in not only creating great beer but also giving back to the community and making a positive impact on their surrounding neighborhood. Since opening about two years ago, crime in that area of town has gone down 75% and the area has become a lively destination for the community.
West Sixth hosts running clubs, yoga classes, bicycling nights, and many more community oriented events. They are a great group of guys that have truly changed the area for the better.
Although there have been tough times, Lexington was spared the worst of the economic turndown and fared much better than many communities. What I love so much about the Jefferson Street Corridor is how it sprang up from several individuals wanting to make a positive impact!”
Here is the interesting part of all this that I saw on their website. Take a look at the background and see what these entrepreneurs have been able to accomplish:
“Coming from various backgrounds in internet marketing, sales, and operations management, the team has the know-how and energy to help create a truly unique development in the Lexington community.”
We have seen some of this enthusiasm in Windsor already. This is what our City Government needs to promote and assist, not white elephant boondoggles.
It was a longer drive than Google maps suggested and so after having a quick bite to eat and checking in at our hotel, off we went to the Kentucky Horse Park. They describe themselves as an “Equine Theme Park.”
If you love horses, then this is the place to visit! On the premises are the International Museum of the Horse and the American Saddlebred Museum. You can even explore the Park on horseback!
We took a tour run by Shaun Washington of the Unique Horse Farm Tours. You can pick up the tour right at the Horse Park.
At the Horse Park, there are 2 famous statues there, one of Man o’ War and the other of Secretariat:
We had expected by the way to see a couple of shows at the Horse Park the next morning which we were told were quite good ones: Hall of Champion Show and the Horses of the World Show. Regretfully, Mother Nature intervened again. The weather forecast for the area and that part of Ohio that we were to pass through had severe thunderstorm warnings and a tornado possibility for later on in the day so we thought that we had better not take a chance and decided to go home as soon as possible. All that it meant was that we would have to go back to Lexington again!
Shaun is true character. Runyonesque to say the least. He made the tour so make sure you see him and tell him you are from Windsor.
I think that he knows everything there is to know about racing and the people involved since he drives them around and arranges their poker nights. He was supposed to spend a winter in Bermuda working for one of the rich stable owners until his wife said NO! When I first met him, and he learned I was from Canada, he talked about Northern Dancer, a Kentucky Derby winner, and Windfield Farms owned by EP Taylor.
We were driven around to a number of horse farms to take a look at them. It was not just a “drive-by” tour but rather we were taken to the horse barns themselves and allowed to pat the horses if we chose to do so. I assume because that it is his relationship with the owners that gave him such access. The barns were relatively spotless and looked better than many homes.
I was a bit chicken to do any patting after seeing this sign
Of course, the stories were fascinating and hilarious. How true some of them were…. well, maybe they were a bit exaggerated. We learned as an example about the Toyota executive who would not take his advice and sat front and centre at a horse auction and who almost wound up buying a racehorse because he didn’t know enough to sit still when the auctioneer was looking at him.
We heard about the stable owners and their magnificent farms but who only visit there perhaps 30 days a year. Truly, it is the Sport of Kings but I’m not so sure that it is the Sport of Commoners when that kind of money is at stake.
He talked to us about the Sheiks who spend a hundred million dollars for a racehorse that is put out to stud at $500,000 a time with no guarantee of success. It is quite an operation too with their breeding techniques. It is not unusual we were told for a sire to be with dams 3 times a day and seven-days-a-week. And when the weather gets too cold in the northern climate, the sire is moved down south to keep on ….errr, working.
Here may be something that you did not know. Horses in the north are born as close to January 1 as possible while those in the South are born as close to August 1 as possible.
We met one of the grooms, a very nice lady, who had purchased a horse to try and sell it. She needed to sell it for at least $20,000 to make a bit of money on it. Do you see what I mean about costs. As Shaun put it, you need a small fortune to raise horses. It usually comes after a good part of a large fortune is spent on them!
Horse owners are a superstitious lot as well. Here’s the horse barn of one of them with all of his good luck symbols on the roof.
We were told, and again it was something that I did not know, that there are a number of bourbon distilleries around the area that offers tours of their facilities. Shaun told us which ones were the best ones to go to. When one of the other people on our tour had a question that he couldn’t answer about bourbon, he just got on his cell phone and called his friend who’s one of the experts on bourbon in the area to get the answer. It’s something to take a look at next time around.
I was too polite to ask whether the bourbon industry and losing money on racing go together.
Our hotel in Lexington was the Gratz Park Inn. It is described as a small boutique in the Historic section of Lexington that was built around 100 years ago. I didn’t realize it until I started writing this article that it is one of the 10 best “bed and ghost” hotels in the United States! None of the apparitions joined us for breakfast.
Here are a few shots of the interior just so that you can get a feel for the place.
Again, I will let my daughter describe it in more detail in her article. Interestingly though, and it is the first time it is happened to me in all of my travels, their bed mattress was the Tempur-Pedic brand. I was quite surprised by that until I did a search and found out that the Company’s headquarters were in Lexington!
I heard some negatives about the mattress so I was interested in trying it out. I found it extremely comfortable and it allowed me to have a good night’s sleep.
One problem though that we did have was that the first room that was offered to us had some cleanliness problems. When we expressed our concern to the Desk Clerk, he apologized profusely and immediately moved us to a new room.
As I’m sure you can imagine, by this time, after all the traveling that we had done and the long trip back that we faced the next day, the idea of traveling very far for dinner did not at all seem attractive to us. Fortunately, it was suggested to us that there was an excellent French restaurant nearby that was merely steps away from the hotel. We chose therefore to go to the Le Deauville French Bistro to eat.
It is the kind of place that one would experience in Paris, I am sure. To be honest, and this is consistent with some of the reviews that I read before going there, the treatment we received was rather brusque. Parisian style I guess. The owner only warmed up a little bit when he found out that we were from Canada and he told us that he just hired a new chef from Montréal.
Regulars there received much better treatment. They must have a good number of them since the place was pretty full.
The service, well, I was disappointed that we were not told what the specials were because they sounded very appetizing when I heard the server telling some other guests what they were.
Again, Melissa will provide a description of what we ate. However, for someone who loves bread as much as I do, their small, individual hot bread loaf with butter on the side was about as good as anything I’ve ever tasted in any restaurant. We enjoyed their special 3-course Prix Fix Menu which gave us a lot of food for about $25 each. I thought it was a bargain.
We went out for a walk after we ate and saw a number of other restaurants on the street that had sidewalk patios. Le Deauville did also but we chose to remain inside. As we walked through the Historic section of the Downtown, we listened for a few minutes to a concert that was taking place. It seemed as if the number of people brought their own chairs to sit and listen and were munching on goodies and ice cream that they bought nearby as they listened to the group.
The architecture of the area was a combination of the restored past and skyscrapers
That was it for us. Time to head back to the hotel, pack all of the nonessentials and get a good night’s rest for the drive back home and the end of the Great Circle Tour.