Chapter 9: The super-rich, horses and the transformation of a rural landscape in Kentucky
Each May, thousands of people flock to Kentucky to witness what is popularly known as the ‘most exciting two minutes in sports’. Most of those attending the Kentucky Derby enjoy the party atmosphere in the ‘infield’ of the venerable Churchill Downs racecourse in Louisville. A select group enjoys the view of the horses from so-called Millionaires’ Row: two levels of luxury seating with full services. Each year on Millionaires’ Row, celebrities mingle with the rich, sipping mint juleps (Kentucky Bourbon whisky with some sugar syrup and fresh mint leaves over crushed ice) and wearing fashionable sundresses and extravagant hats or beautifully tailored suits. In Britain, the annual race meeting known as Royal Ascot brings with it a similar parade of the well-dressed and the rich, while in Australia, the famous Melbourne Cup is on the social calendar of the well-to-do and fashionable. However, many of the world’s super-rich do not just attend the occasional race. They are involved deeply in breeding, training, and racing thoroughbreds (see McManus, this volume). Indeed, the super-rich and thoroughbred horses have long been intimately connected (Cassidy 2002, 2007; O’Connor 2011). In this chapter, we discuss how the investments and involvements of the super-rich in thoroughbred breeding and racing created a particular regional landscape. The superrich, as Hay and Muller (2012) argue, have extraordinary power to transform places (see also Beaverstock et al. 2004). We focus on how super-rich horse enthusiasts have had a major impact on the rural landscape of central Kentucky.
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