LEXINGTON, KY (SEPT. 26, 2016) – Sunday, Sept. 25 marked the final day of the marathon Keeneland September Yearling Sale, during which Keeneland’s 46 barns in the main stable area had to be rotated three times to house the more than 4,000 horses here for the sale over the course of two weeks. On Friday, Sept. 30, the racehorses will be arriving for Keeneland’s Fall Meet, which opens Oct. 7 and runs through Oct. 29.
Five days aren’t much time for a makeover.
Maintaining Keeneland’s high standards for the thousands of people and horses who are here for sales and racing requires a detailed, coordinated plan and a lot of hard work by the track’s maintenance staff.
“Whether people are coming to Keeneland in person or watching Keeneland on television, we take great pride knowing that we are behind the scenes, making this beautiful, historic landmark look its best,” Keeneland Director of Maintenance Walter Wallace said.
The first step in the stable area transformation is thoroughly cleaning the stalls that housed the sale yearlings so fresh bedding can be placed for the new occupants. Once that monumental task is completed, the stable area is divided into sections for:
- Racehorses here through all or part of the Fall Meet who will reside in barns assigned to their trainers.
- Racehorses here only on the day they race. They will take up residence in the Receiving Barn, where Keeneland places fresh straw in the stalls.
- Horses arriving in early November for the initial part of the November Breeding Stock Sale.
During the September Sale, Keeneland’s maintenance crew supplied a water bucket for each stall; those water buckets are removed in the barns that will house the racehorses. (Trainers are responsible for providing water buckets and other equipment.) The barns that will house November Sale horses remain vacant during the race meet, and the water buckets will remain in the stalls.
Regardless of the intended purpose of the barn, all barn aisles and walking areas are leveled or repaired as needed. Canopies that provided shade for September Sale buyers and sellers near many barns are moved to shuttle bus stops for use during the Fall Meet. Benches situated at barns during the sale are returned to the Grandstand for racing fans to use.
Meanwhile, the daily removal of soiled straw (muck) continues. Keeneland uses 35 workers (25 stall cleaners and 10 equipment operators) for the daily project during sales. During the race meet, the team is reduced to 12 because racing stable employees place the muck outside their barns in specially designated areas. The Keeneland crew then uses front-end loaders and trucks to remove the muck and take it to a holding area.