A Day at the Races with Roger Attfield and Tina Konyot

Monday, April 26, 2010

It was Tina Konyot’s winning week in Lexington, Kentucky where she dominated the Kentucky Cup Dressage CDI*** with a win in the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle. Tina Konyot and her Danish bred stallion Calecto V had the christening win in the outdoor stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park, where in September 25-October 10 the Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games will host eight equestrian disciplines in sixteen days for the largest equestrian sporting event ever held in America. But it was also a winning week for Konyot’s beau, famous thoroughbred trainer Roger Attfield whose successful meet at the beautiful Keenland Racetrack captured three major stake wins during the spring meet. And we were there as their guests on Friday!
Mary Phelps-Hathaway, Roger Attfield and Tina Konyot in the paddock at Keenland
Mary Phelps-Hathaway, Roger Attfield and Tina Konyot in the paddock at Keenland

Fresh off of her big night at the Kentucky Horse Park, Konyot could relax on Friday as she played the perfect hostess for my husband JJ. Hathaway and me. We collected our passes for the fourth floor Lafayette room, where we joined Roger and Tina for a delicious and relaxing lunch before the 8th and 9th race. Attfield who has over seventy five horses in training in Canada, Kentucky and Florida had an entry in the featured stakes race, the Elkhorn in the ninth.

We donned our paddock passes and took the elevator to the paddock where each entry has their own small circle shaded by a tree. The magic and charm of the historic track made an instant impression, as we joined Tina, Roger, the grooms and second trainer, watching the beautiful German bred grey thoroughbred Musketier  walk in a circle. Throughout the day we met so many new people, known in the thoroughbred world, and all congratulating Tina on her special win the night before.

Tina helped us navigate the paddock, staying out of the way of potential flying hooves. There was a lot of activity with photographers, reporters, and the crowds lined along the rail watching the pre race activity. Roger, in a dapper brown suit, tacked the horse with the tiniest saddle I have ever seen in my life!

The horses then moved to a grassy lawn where the jockey’s appeared to meet with their assigned trainers and horses. Relaxed and friendly they sparkled in the silks of the stables they were riding for. Watching how these professional athletes interact with trainers, owners, guests and the media is a lesson in positive PR for the great sport of throughbred racing.

Roger Attfield saddles up Musketier
Roger Attfield saddles up Musketier
The famous and colorful Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel was riding the favorite, Brass Hat. JJ asked him to smile for the camera which he oblidged. As a member of the media, we love personalities like Borel! His passion and emotion made watching his Kentucky Derby victory all the more entertaining. Attfield’s jockey, John Velazquez was lifted into the saddle onto Musketier, and we followed closely (but not too closely) behind as they were led onto the beautiful grass racecourse.

We sat in a box close to the finish line for the mile and a half race. Attfield, cool and relaxed, pulled out his binoculars for the mile and a half race which started on the back stretch of the track.


Musketier was in the middle of the pack and looked like he was fighting the jockey a bit in the first half of the race, tossing his head, as if to say “let me go!”. With the horses on the backstretch and coming into the turn we heard the announcer say, “And here comes Musketier!” We were all leaping and screaming as Musketier pulled ahead to win by three lengths in spite of a rush by Borel and Brass Hat.

There were kisses and congratulations, then a walk to the winner’s circle for photos, and then interviews (for Roger). It was fun being on the other side of the camera for a change (although of course I had my “party purse camera” to capture some moments).

Calvin Borel and Brass Hat
Calvin Borel and Brass Hat

We met Vice President and General Manager of Keenland Nick Nicholson whose brother John Nicholson is the General Manager of the Kentucky Horse Park. I learned the thick lush two inch grass was on the infield: a combination of Fescue and Kentucky Blue Grass, which is just what we plan on planting on our newly created driving arena on our property nearby.

Then we were escorted to a private club room on the ground floor where we watched a rerun of the race, and drank champagne. With the busy week of dressage training and competition done, Tina could celebrate more with Roger today than the afternoon before, when they had another big Keenland win just before Konyot competed in the evening Grand Prix Freestyle.


We had to run to make it to another party hosted by Alltech, the title sponsor for the Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games (another story coming soon!). I have been friends with Tina for over thirty years, and adored her late father, the legendary Alex Konyot. Tina, who had galloped racehorses as a young girl for Attfield, is now on the arm of one of racing’s most respected and genteel gentleman of the sport.

Thank you both (and Musketier) for an exciting afternoon. Let’s do it again soon!