Trotting Around Breeders’ Cup

Morning feeding time for the Thoroughbreds backside in the barns at Churchill Downs.

By Janice Carter Levitch

A large international crowd gathered at Churchill Downs for Breeders’ Cup this weekend, and let me tell you, it was a privilege to sit in on the action. Whether you had the chance to visit the backside of the track or sit on Millionaires Row to watch the feature races, Breeders’ Cup was a magical experience. My Valentinos felt tighter and tighter as I trotted through parts of the massive complex of Churchill Downs in search of charismatic goings-on and interesting characters (mostly people with big hats).

Monday jumpstarted the week as I grabbed my best barn boots and knocked the dust off to go explore the backside. Eerily quiet in the pre-dawn, there is a peacefulness walking around the barns, watching the horses as each entourage bathes these beautiful creatures. One endearing sight was watching Elliott Walden, CEO of Winstar Farm, snap photos of his family as they watched the early morning training sessions.

Wednesday rolled around and it was time to visit Janna Flowers (my new bestie) at Clique Boutique. The skin care specialist began the daunting task of creating the effect that I get enough sleep and never drink wine (best of luck to her). Two hours and several vials of moisturizing serum later, I had glowing, revitalized skin. “My recommended treatments before a special occasion would be a facial a week prior to an event or dermaplaning a couple of days prior,” Janna commented. “I love seeing clients walk out the door with a boost of confidence from the services we provide.”

L to R: Steve Bass, Terri Bass, Steve Humphrey, Janice, Shiao Woo and John Shaw Woo.

Back at the track, I jumped in and out of the media center, where credentialed media from all over the world gathered to broadcast their podcasts – from Parisian journalists to the Los Angeles Turf Club director.

Saturday arrived in grand style as the rain finally stopped, which allowed the sun to shine in all her glory. The ladies’ fashions ranged from gorgeous fascinators to vintage fedoras (mine was Yves Saint Laurent) and hemlines had their own temperature (appropriate to the knee). Meanwhile, the gentlemen wore classic suits and looked dashing while sipping on their favorite bourbon. Overall, Breeders’ Cup had an air of sophistication.

The Jockey Club Suites were calling my name, so I ventured up to the fourth floor. My longtime friend Merry-Kay Poe was busy entertaining in one of the suites and was perfectly dressed for the day in an elegant Alexander McQueen suit topped off with a pillbox style chapeau designed by Sylvia Fletcher for Lock Couture, a British hatter company.

L to R: Jerry and Joni Sichting, Mike and Sandy Steele and Merry-Kay and Steve Poe in the Jockey Club Suites.

The suite was hopping, from Jennifer Lawrence’s parents to a Bengals football player (a VBP – very big person), the group was diverse and a blast to chat with. After enjoying the pit stop, I knew it was time to scurry on to the next adventure and pray to the lords of energy, better known as Red Bull, that I could make it to the Bacchanal held at the Speed Art Museum later in the evening. I made it and what a fantastical evening it was.

The week was finally over, and I knew my job was to fit all this into a condensed version (kind of like a bouillon cube) for this column. I set my alarm for an early morning call, but when the sound went off at 2 a.m., it was a different tone than I remembered, and it was coming from under the nightstand on the other side of the bed. Then, it made a fluttering noise. I grabbed my flashlight, startling the noisemaker, which then flew – yes flew –up in the air. Eek, a bat was in my bedroom.

There must’ve been something in my closet the bat liked because that’s where it landed. It’s still there. It was a rather funny (and unnerving) ending for such an amazing week. The bat must have gotten in when I opened the window on Saturday morning to greet the long-awaited sunshine. While a little shook up, I feel pretty lucky. Who else has a bat in her closet that doesn’t have Louisville Slugger engraved on it? I think I’ll name the creature Accelerate. VT