Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gold Tray

Keeneland Race Track, which opened in Kentucky in 1936, holds two prestigious race meets each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Billing itself as “racing as it was meant to be,” Keeneland preserves the “tradition, ambiance and vision established by its founders – to showcase all that is noble, fine and enjoyable about Thoroughbred racing.” Keeneland has always attracted the top horses in the sport, including such standouts as Whirlaway (who won the Triple Crown in 1941), Alysheba (a Hall-of-Famer who raced in the 1980s) and Northern Dancer, a 1960s racehorse who became one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history.

Keeneland’s graded stakes races are special events. Not only do the winners earn cash, the owner of each winning horse also takes home a gold julep cup. When an owner wins eight cups, he or she gets the Keeneland Tray, a solid gold serving tray.

This spring, the 4-year-old colt Aikenite romped to victory in the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland, earning his owner, Dogwood Stable, the winner’s share of the $175,000 purse, as well as Dogwood’s eighth Keeneland Stakes victory and that coveted gold tray.  To celebrate, Dogwood is throwing a Gold Tray Party at the Aiken Racing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hopeland Gardens. The party is on Friday, November 11 from 5 to 7 and everyone is welcome. There will be light snacks and refreshments and Dogwood’s president, Cot Campbell, is expected to say a few words.

“There is no official program,” says Mary Jane Howell, who is the public relations director at Dogwood. “We’re basically saying a big thank you to Aiken.”

Aikenite is currently being pointed toward the Breeder’s Cup at Churchill Downs November 4-5. In his most recent outing, the Grade III Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on October 7, he ran a thrilling, come-from-behind race, finishing second by a short nose to Mrs. S.K. Johnston’s New Zealand-bred Hoofit. There is no word yet on which Breeder’s Cup race Aikenite will enter.

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