You never know who you’re going to run into at the Keeneland September yearling sale in Central Kentucky. It might be a Hall-of-Fame trainer, an Eclipse Award-winning owner, or even a country singer who owns horses. Sometimes it’s a well-known person who has nothing at all to do with the Thoroughbred business.
Jim Craig, the goalie for the United States’ 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team at the Winter Olympics, stopped by the auction Sept. 11 as the guest of Ward Headley, who is the president of Direct Sportslink in Lexington.
“It’s something I’ve never done, and it’s something I’ll never forget,” he said of his visit to Keeneland. “It’s been really, really fun for me.
“The whole process,” he continued, “is quite amazing to look at and see how sophisticated it really is -- from checking their (the horses’) injuries to see what is going on, to the superstitions that people have, and the studying (of the horses). I’m excited because I picked one horse I liked, No. 946 (a Stormy Atlantic filly). I’ll be able to wait and see if she ever gets in (a race), and go on my computer to check this horse out. I like that number, and I liked how the horse looked. Now, I have a little bit more insight into what is going on.”
Craig, who lives in the Boston area, was in Lexington to give a motivational speech.
“I own a company called Gold Medal Strategies,” he said. “I go around the country speaking to and motivating kids, a lot, but mostly corporate America.”
Even though Craig said his sister owned horses, he has had little exposure to the Thoroughbred industry. But what he has seen, he likes.
“It’s a pretty good life they (the horses) have,” he said. “They’ve got nice fields and beautiful stables. It’s awesome. I just enjoy watching them. I think the jockeys are incredible athletes as well as the horses. As an athlete, I can really admire both of them. I spend a lot of money on boats, so maybe someday I’ll come back and do this. You can fall in love with these animals pretty quickly. I wish my daughter had been here because she loves horses.”
Craig said he would like to return to Keeneland for a racing meeting.
“This place is a legacy,” he said. “I would think they would get more racing events here. You look at these pictures that are around (the sale pavilion) – all these old pictures that are dated – they don’t even look like pictures; they look like those people are still here. They’ve done a great job with Keeneland in the way it was and still keeping it new, which I think is good.”