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FAST CARS, FAST HORSES AND BOURBON
 
(2015 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: ALEX ABERSPAECHER



“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”–William Shakespeare, Richard III

No Canadian can stand at the sidelines at Churchill Downs or Keeneland racetrack in Kentucky without remembering Northern Dancer, Canada’s top horse of all time and one of the most influential sires in the world. After 50 years, it is estimated that almost 75 per cent of the world’s thoroughbreds have Northern Dancer in their pedigree.

There is a curious rumour that owning a horse in Kentucky elevates one into some sort of privileged class, but apparently there is more to it; your horse needs to win first to give you that status. Many years ago when Daniel Boone, the famous American explorer and frontiersman, roamed the wilds of Kentucky wearing his legendary coonskin cap, horses were a necessity; they were also much cheaper.

Horse Country

Instead of a feeling of privilege, I was overcome by the expanse of Lane’s End Farm near Lexington. Just the driveway is as long as most farms and instead of old rusty metal fences, this one is bordered by black four-board wooden fences that line immense fields of the most scrumptious bluegrass as far as I could see.

Chance Timm, the director of Stallion Seasons at Lane’s End Farm, is not your typical farmer either. Apparently there are no farmers on Kentucky’s horse farms, only directors, breeders and horse owners who visit here occasionally. Chance grew up out west where his father was a rodeo rider when he was younger. “Different horses and a lot cheaper,” he tells us as we walk along the black fence on the 930-hectare spread.

There are a handful of thoroughbred race horses on the farm with about three stallions and the rest are mares. When I finally spot one far off in the back corner and ask my wife to take a picture, Chance tells us that it is not possible unless we have permission from the owner, although he would be glad to mail us one. “After all, ” he explains, “that horse could be worth between 10 and 15 million dollars.” 

Touring one of the thoroughbred horse farms will soon be possible through the local tourism office. For now, a visit to the general area is still highly recommended and, while Kentucky’s scenery is diverse, ranging from farmlands to dense forests, visiting the horse country with miles of white fences and the rolling green hills is an experience of tranquility and beauty. Combined with a visit to Churchill Downs or Keeneland, it will become truly memorable.

The Bourbon Trail

Lexington and its surrounding counties, indeed all of Kentucky, show little effect of the recent recession, which impacted so many other areas of the USA. A renewing of urban areas with convention centres, breweries, restaurants and playgrounds is unequalled in most towns and cities and one would be hard-pressed to find a major town that does not have at least one bridge, museum or major entertainment complex under construction.

Although the breeding of the finest race horses may be an attraction that is unequalled anywhere, it is the bourbon that fills the coffers. With a population of 4.4 million inhabitants, Kentucky has presently 5.4 million barrels of bourbon aging in the warehouses of the many distilleries. All of the bourbon houses are open to the public and offer not only guided tours through the distillery but also challenge the best of palates with a tutored tasting.

To explore the rich tradition, a drive along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail takes visitors to nine major distilleries nestled among the most beautiful scenery the Bluegrass Parkway has to offer. From Northern Kentucky to Louisville (Looavull to the locals) on the west, along the heart of the state, right through to Lexington, the drive takes you along the winding roads past magnificent horse farms, picturesque historic villages and countless creeks and rivers.                  

Classic Collections

Just outside the city of Bowling Green at the Corvette Museum, we park our two-year-old Ford Escape between a silver Porsche and a red Corvette. With the roof down, the car running and the radio blasting bluegrass music, the owner shows up with a sheepish grin on his face and explains he had just taken delivery of his new Vette but forgot the champagne glasses. He pulls away and a yellow Lotus slides into his spot.

Even if you are not a Corvette fan, the museum is incredible. From the first ever built in 1953, every Corvette is represented including the only remaining 1983 model. Cars driven by the famous—and infamous—and the ones used in movies and the TV series Route 66 can be admired. Even the remains of those that fell 12 metres into the sinkhole that opened up in late 2014 inside the museum are on display. When we walk out to our car, Judy smiles and hints, “I could be a Vette fan!”

Travel Planner

Air Canada (aircanada.com) and WestJet (westjet.com) fly to airports in Lexington and Cincinnati (actually shared with Ohio, located in Covington, Northern Kentucky) while United Airlines (united.ca) offers service from Toronto to Lexington.

Driving time is approximately 10 hours from Toronto. For more information, visit:

Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: visitbgky.com

Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism: KentuckyTourism.com

Churchill Downs: churchilldowns.com

Keeneland: keeneland.com

Kentucky Bourbon Trail: kybourbontrail.com

Lane’s End: lanesend.com

The National Corvette Museum: corvettemuseum.org

 
 
 
 
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