Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Grazing in horse country: Lexington lets the Games and the feast begin - Full Article

September 8 2010

By PHIL VETTEL - Chicago Tribune

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Forget Louisville, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. This state's real hooved hot spot is Lexington, which immodestly bills itself as the "Horse Capital of the World."

I don't doubt it. Some friends who moved to Lexington live in a subdivision whose streets - all of them - are named for champion thoroughbreds. One of the town's main roads is Man O' War Boulevard, and they're not talking about jellyfish. Venture beyond the compact downtown, and the outlying areas seem to consist of horse farms and developments that used to be horse farms. (As in: "That shopping center used to be the Peterson Farm.")

In late September Lexington hosts the World Equestrian Games, a quadrennial 16-day event that will decide world championships in such events as driving, endurance, vaulting, dressage (that's the sport in which full-grown horses have to hop around like preteens in their first pair of high heels), reining and so on. Yes, there are world champions in these things.

The Games are a huge deal, the four-legged equivalent of the Olympics, and will draw horse fans from every corner of the globe. Perfectly ordinary hotel rooms have gone stratospheric for those dates (Sept. 25 through Oct. 1), and the whole town will go bonkers. Which, from what little I've experienced of the inordinately polite Lexingtonians, will probably be the most genteel, restrained sort of bonkers you will ever see. Think raised eyebrows; think traffic jams, with no honking...

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