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Sunday, March 17, 2019

St. Patrick's Parade and its preliminaries are blessed by sunny weather and a happy crowd full of families

Blake and Melissa Jones were the Irish Court of Honor, and Dan Roller was dressed as St. Patrick.
Story and photos by Akhira Umar
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

“One of the biggest rewards of all is knowing that you helped create memories,” Julie Morgan said of Woodford County’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held Saturday because the actual day was Sunday.

The parade and its preliminaries saw plenty of green and good spirits to make memories. With sunny, 46-degree weather, families young and old with teenage and infant children, along with dogs of all shapes and sizes, spent the day in downtown Midway celebrating the Irish-themed holiday.

Bagpipers added an authentic musical touch.
Morgan, who headed the organizers, said they worried in the morning about the slight chill and the UK basketball game that would overlap with the 4 p.m. parade, but she thought the parade was a “huge success.”

“Not only did we see families at the parade today, but we were blessed to have families in the parade today,” Morgan said, noting that the children of Blake and Melissa Jones, who were the "Irish Court of Honor," rode with them in the parade.

“Someday these children are gonna look back and they’re gonna remember this,” Morgan said. “And hopefully they’ll wanna return the favor and do it for somebody else’s children. That’s what I love about it. … Everybody is just so willing to give and have fun.”

Morgan was almost overcome with emotion when talking about the turnout of the event. “I’m so excited, so happy, and so grateful, I just – I’m just happy.”

Her husband, Steve Morgan, emceed the event in a festive green kilt as vice president of the Midway Business Association. He said the turnout looked the same, if not larger than last year, and the parade had 30 entries compared to last year’s 19.

“I love to see the families,” Morgan said. “I can remember when my family did this, you know, when we had our kids in strollers. And that’s always a good memory.”

Lillie Cox dressed like a leprechaun.
In his opinion, one of the best parts of the parade was Lillie Cox as grand marshal. Cox is a long-time community activist and “she’s just very important to the whole community,” he said.

East Main Street was lined with festive decorations and booths for organization of non-profits, like Friends of Big Spring Park from Versailles, and businesses such as 2 Ladies and a Kettle. Booths informed the crowd while also joining in the festivities by offering treats and green necklaces.

While kids loved snagging necklaces, they also lined up for face painting and balloon creations. The “world’s tallest leprechaun” was quite popular and spent most of his time before the parade twisting green balloons into swords, horses and hats.

Midway didn’t leave adults out of the festivities. If they weren’t spending money on kettle corn or coffee, they were celebrating with other businesses. West Sixth Brewing had a truck for anyone wanting to browse the booths with a beer. A couple of restaurants got creative with green beer and door prizes.

Sarah Ragusa worked The Rooster’s Whistle Coffee Co. mobile truck for the duration of the day-long event and she “wouldn’t change it.” She said the company has been to all of Midway’s day-long events. Though the business she pulled from Saturday’s festivities was slow at first, she said it was “fantastic” around 2 p.m., closer to the parade.

“We just love coming up to Midway,” Ragusa said. “I love this town, I love the people here. Everybody is so nice. I don’t know if it’s just Kentucky in general or the Bluegrass area. I don’t know what it is, but everyone is so friendly, and everyone has positive things to say.”

Of course, the parade was the main attraction of the day. Families lined the sidewalks to see the spectacle that would deliver what was advertised.

Andrew Johnson of Louisville brought an interesting addition to the parade. In his right-hand-drive Jeep, it appeared to parade watchers that he was riding as a passenger while a skeleton was driving on the left. “Andrew’s Jeep Creations” has been used for themes like Shark Week, Resident Evil and The Nightmare Before Christmas, but this was its debut in Midway.
Look closely and you'll see the skeleton appearing to drive the Jeep as Andrew Johnson really does.
Johnson said it didn’t take much to be convinced to participate in the festival, echoing Ragusa about the kind residents. “I think it was great. Great turnout. Great weather,” he said. “It just couldn’t be any better, except for the wind, but it couldn’t be any better.”

Something else that stood out in the parade were dinosaurs. Though they might have seemed out of place, they carried signs promoting eco-friendliness, reflecting the parade’s “Go Green” theme. One of the dinosaur costumes was worn by Jessica Robles, daughter of the Morgans, and the couple’s niece, Cindy Newkirk.

Dinosaurs subtly communicated the "Go Green" theme.
Julie Morgan explained the dinosaurs: “Midway’s a very environmentally conscious community, and we’re always educating and learning and practicing. If everybody’s a good neighbor and they practice some positive and healthy environmental things, then we’re all gonna be better off in the long run and we won’t end up like a fossil like the dinosaurs.”

Also following the eco-friendly theme were electric cars provided by Evolve Kentucky, a non-profit. There was an emission-free Nissan, Honda and even a sleek Tesla.

First-time parade goer Candice Wallace brought her young son, Alexander Barnes, from Lexington after hearing about the event on Facebook.

“We wanted more of a kinda smaller, little more laid-back parade,” Wallace said.

Her favorite part of Saturday’s event was “just watching his delight and his enjoyment of waving to everybody even though he knows absolutely no one and knows nothing about parades.” Although her son enjoyed the parade, he was also excited to see the downtown train tracks. Wallace said because of the tracks, her son loves Midway now.

In addition to the business association, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities were sponsored by Farm Bureau (the main sponsor), Coolmore America, Bluegrass Hospital, McDonald’s, Woodford Reserve and Shadwell Farm.
Alexander Barnes of Lexington, right, accepted a necklace as the bagpipers approached.
Additional photos shared with the Midway Messenger by Mary Massie of Midway:

Friday, March 8, 2019

Legislative report: Bills riling teachers, changing tax code, funding projects are pending with three days left

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties
      It just takes two words to sum up this year’s legislative session through the end of last week: “Stay tuned.” I say that because, with only four working days remaining, the General Assembly has a long list of bills still awaiting a final decision. [Editor's note: one day, March 28, is for considering vetoes.]
      I am no fan of this approach, because it makes it much more difficult for legislators, much less the public, to keep track of and offer meaningful input on laws that would have an impact on Kentucky for years to come. We must re-commit ourselves to finding a better way.
      Until then, my hope is that this scorecard of some of the more prominent bills still in play will help.
      Several generating the most headlines are focused on education, which explains why teachers have been at the Capitol in force in recent days. Most of their opposition is focused on four bills in particular.
      The first, House Bill 525, would significantly alter how the board of trustees is selected for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System (KTRS). Teachers, who do not get Social Security (nor their spouses, upon death), and whose money this belongs to, have long had the authority to nominate seven of the 11 trustees, but that would effectively drop to two under this bill. Most of the remaining nominations would be made by education-oriented organizations, some of which have asked to not be included.
      KTRS is an outstanding retirement system that stands alongside some of the best in the country (around 8.5 percent return over last 10 years), so I see no need to change what is working well—as long as we continue to fund it. This legislation had yet to clear the House by last week, much less the Senate, so its chances of becoming law are increasingly unlikely, hopefully.
      The same can be said of House Bill 205, which also has not been considered yet by the entire House. It would authorize up to $25 million in tax credits annually for those who donate to private elementary and secondary schools to boost scholarships for those who otherwise cannot afford tuition. That credit would likely grow in future years.
      There are significant constitutional concerns about this legislation, and I question whether we can afford it at a time when the current two-year budget does not contain even a single dollar for new textbooks or professional development for teachers. I understand, support and appreciate the goal here, but with severely constrained funds, it’s just not the right time.
      Senate Bill 250 is an educational bill that only applies to Jefferson County Public Schools. It has several provisions, but the one drawing the most scrutiny would give the district’s superintendent much more authority should he or she not agree with the principal hired by a school-based decision-making school council. Opponents argue this bill undermines a practice that has served us well for nearly 30 years, and it could lay the foundation to extend this new power to every superintendent.
      Those three bills are still pending, but the fourth affecting educators – Senate Bill 8 – was sent to the governor on Thursday. I voted against this. This changes who serves on the tribunal system that handles the appeal process when a teacher is fired. I believe this legislation goes too far and, like Senate Bill 250 and House Bill 525, fixes something that isn’t broken.
      At the postsecondary level, House Bill 358 would give our public regional universities a chance to “cash out” of the Kentucky Employee Retirement System and pay off their current liabilities over the next 25 years. Current employees can remain in the state retirement system, but newly hired ones would not have that option. It is worth noting that this has no impact on university employees paying into the state’s hazardous-duty and teacher retirement systems. I voted against this measure because we need to protect the overall retirement system and not lower the assets.
      Although odd-year legislative sessions are not traditionally focused on the budget, two bills being written by legislative leaders deal directly with state spending.
      House Bill 354 would, among other things, fix last year’s tax overhaul so that non-profit organizations would get back many if not all of the exemptions they lost last year. I did not support the 2018 tax changes, but do believe we must help our non-profits, which do so much for our communities. We must be vigilant, however, by keeping a close eye on other tax “sweeteners” that could be added to this bill that only benefit a connected few and not the state as a whole.
      In the end, this and the related House Bill 268 – which opens the budget for other projects – could turn out to be quite consequential. I voted for this mostly to help our non-profits.
      As the House, but not the Senate, passed it, House Bill 268 would authorize a needed round of renovations at our state parks and give our quasi-government agencies and regional public universities another year’s reprieve from having to pay a steep increase in their public-retirement costs which could cripple or shutter many of them who are offering essential services to the most vulnerable Kentuckians based on lots of feedback from stakeholders in our district that I received.
      Two other bills before the General Assembly this year that have cleared a House committee face a more difficult road in becoming law, but their debate has nonetheless helped raise needed awareness.
      On Wednesday, for example, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 136, which seeks to legalize medical marijuana, putting us in line with more than 30 other states that have taken similar or more far-reaching steps.
      On Thursday, both House Speaker David Osborne and House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins advocated for House Bill 522, which would call for automatic recounts in extremely close elections involving candidates running for Congress, constitutional offices like governor and the General Assembly. This would help us avoid situations like we saw early this year in the close race won by state Rep. Jim Glenn of Owensboro. The election contest his opponent requested dominated much of the House’s time during the session’s first days.
      If you would like to know more about these or other bills, please visit the General Assembly’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov. If you would like to add your voice to those supporting or opposing these measures, meanwhile, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or those I serve with.
      My email is joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, and the toll-free message line is 1-800-372-7181. If you have a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305. Thanks for all you do, and holler anytime.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

MBA sets plans for St. Patrick event, Saw Horse Derby; postpones dog watersports event to next year

By Akhira Umar
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

With the day quickly approaching, the Midway Business Association finalized plans Wednesday for the March 16 St. Patrick’s Day in Midway. It also decided to do another sawhorse-decorating contest, but postponed until next year a summer watersports event for dogs.

The St. Patrick’s event will last from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and feature many festivities. The main attraction will be a parade, set for 4 p.m. Promotional materials say it will have “the world’s tallest leprechaun,” county officials, several floats, musicians and dancers, local organizations and more. Steve Morgan, vice president of the business association, said the parade would include a left-handed jeep with a dummy appearing to drive.

Downtown businesses will also be participating in the festivities. Shops will open at 10 a.m. while restaurants open at 11 a.m. Some restaurants, such as Mezzo and the Brown Barrel & Blind Harry’s, will offer green beer.

Melissa and Blake Jones are the parade's Irish Court of Honor.
Lillie Cox is grand marshal. (Photo from event Facebook page)
Morgan said all the restaurants are planning to have door prizes. Unlike last St. Patrick’s Day, winners will not be pulled from punch cards, as was done at the Chocolate Stroll; the card system did not have many participants. Justin Werner, manager of the Goose and Gander restaurant, reported having only two entries for the door prize last year. Other association members reported similar results.

“They’ll have their own way of who wins the door prize,” Morgan said about how business will handle prizes this year. “I don’t know if it’ll be the fiftieth person through the door or what they’re gonna do.”

West Sixth Brewing fans will be pleased to hear that the brewery will have a truck at the event, and that the city has designated it as a civic event, allowing customers to walk the street with West Sixth beer for the day.

Morgan said he expects the turnout to be similar to last year’s. Crowds mainly grew near the time of the parade instead of lasting throughout the day.

“I think last year we were pretty worried early in the day because there wasn’t much going on, but then it turned out we had a pretty good crowd,” Morgan said.

The long-range weather forecast for March 16 is cloudy with a high of 46 degrees. Rain is forecast on the preceding three days.

After some deliberation, the association decided to repeat the Midway Saw Horse Derby, a friendly month-long decorating competition between businesses, though it has not been advertised yet.

Megan McClure of Southern Sunday and Heather Marchiafava of Commotion Consignment Riding Apparel voiced their concern, saying that they were not given proper guidance last year and felt left out. Cortney Neikirk, president of the business association, said it will ensure that businesses get better help with their display horses this year. She said last year’s competition was simply “horribly put together.” She became president in January.

The association decided to postpone until next year Dock Dogs, an event that had been proposed for the summer, probably June 22 and 23. To secure an event date with the Dock Dogs company, the association would have to pay $3,000 up front and another $3,000 two weeks before the event. Members at the meeting agreed that the dates were too close to collect necessary sponsorships and sufficiently advertise.

“Ideally you’d like to have the sponsors to pay the majority, if not all of the $6,000,” said Katie Hicks of Midway Chiropractic. “That way you know what to set the booth fees at because you don’t wanna charge somebody $200 to have a booth just to be able to cover your costs.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Council annexes 138 acres adjoining Midway Station and warehouse tract; rezoning process will resume

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift named Debra Shockley Midway's
Citizen of the Year for her many civic contributions. See below.
By Korrie Harris and Chadwick George
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council voted Monday night to annex the 138-acre tract behind Midway Station, setting up its possible rezoning to industrial use.

The council also heard a proposal for new rules at the Midway Cemetery, saw the Citizen of the Year named, and received an offer for a small piece of land that could become a gateway to the city.

Annexation: City officials wanted to annex the property of Homer Michael Freeny Jr. before it was rezoned, to give the council final say in the rezoning. Otherwise, the Woodford County Fiscal Court would have had the say-so.

The council voted 5-1 to pass the annexation ordinance. Council Member Logan Nance said in an email that he voted no because "I often have members of the community tell me how much they value the agricultural land and natural beauty surrounding Midway, and fear that it will go away."

Logan Nance
Nance said he understands the perspectives of other members but "felt I would not be properly representing the people who elected me if I voted yes, since this annexation assures further industrial development beyond Midway Station."

Now the Planning Commission will hear the rezoning request by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which has an option on the property and owns Midway Station.

The commission was supposed to hear the request in November, but action was delayed at the request of the city so it could annex the property first.

If approved, the rezoning would create an industrial area reaching from Interstate 64 to the Brown-Forman whiskey warehouses along South Elkhorn Creek, the county line. (The concrete warehouses are being built under a conditional-use permit in an agricultural zone on the presumption that whiskey is an agricultural product.)

“It finishes off what’s already laying sandwiched between two users,” Vandegrift said. Referring to the annexation, he said, “I guarantee you if we don’t do this it’s gonna get developed and we’re gonna lose all that revenue.” The land is in Midway's urban services area in the comprehensive plan.

If the land available at Midway Station sells for its estimated value, the EDA could be short of paying Midway the $600,000 it owes on natural-gas and water lines built on the property.

“The only way they’re really gonna be able to pay us back is if they can sell land,” Vandegrift said. “There’s not gonna be enough in Midway Station to pay us back.”
The annexed area is effectively two tracts joined by a small strip. For a larger version of the plat, click on it.
Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher noted that the city would soon resume paying interest on the Midway Station mortgage, now that a private developer has terminated his option on the land. Referring to Freeny and the EDA, she asked, “What kind of competition are they going to give us?”

Soper said that under the option agreement with Freeney, the EDA can’t exercise its option for any tract that is less than 40 acres. He said the largest tract he can put together in Midway Station with the existing lots together is around 25 acres.

“Fortunately, Mr. Freeney is very good to work with,” Soper said. “He understands what Midway’s goals are. He’ll work with us.” Vandegrift suggested that Freeney's lawyer come to the next meeting.

Freeny owns land next to the creek that is not being annexed. Council Member Sara Hicks asked if Freeny could “grant us some small acreage . . . where canoes and kayaks can get on the creek.”

EDA Chair John Soper said Freeny has agreed to grant a separate tract for access to the creek for canoeing and other recreational activities, with access through Midway Station or the tract being annexed. Soper said he and surveyor Tim Thompson are looking at two possible access points.

Cemetery changes: The council received a report from Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the cemetery committee, proposing changes to the ordinances regarding fees and care of plots.

Hicks proposed that 100 years after burial, if the city can’t find family members to continue upkeep, then the city would take care of that grave.

Hicks also said a $200 to $300 refundable fee could be added to the price of grave plots to guarantee that graves will be marked. Hicks said the family would have a year to place a marker and get a refund of the fee. If no marker is put down, the city would use that money to buy a small brass marker.

Council Member John Holloway said it would be simpler to raise the plot price, which at $600 is the same as in Versailles but much less than the $1,700 charged in Georgetown. He said the current fee does not cover the cost of labor for city workers who open and close graves.

Nance asked if there is a friends-of-the-cemetery organization that could take donations to help with the already unmarked graves. Hicks said the Midway Woman’s Club had such a fund, “but when they got into financial trouble, they had to use that fund to keep from shutting down.”

Vandegrift said he would ask Phil Moloney, the city attorney, to put the proposed amendments into ordinance form and send them to the committee.

Citizen of the Year: At the start of the meeting, Vandergrift gave Debra Shockley the Midway Citizen of the Year award for 2018. He read a proclamation noting her longtime civic involvement and recent contributions. “Debra took on many responsibilities in the community in 2018, including serving as president of Midway Renaissance,” he said. “Debra steered the highly successful Midsummer Nights in Midway series, and was the architect for its new street layout, which greatly improved the event."

Vandegrift also noted that Shockley “coordinated volunteers to staff Midway City Hall for each downtown event, to provide public restrooms and a visitors’ welcome center to the many attendees of Midway events.” He concluded, to applause from the audience, “Debra’s positive attitude, civic engagement, and efforts to bring people together is positively infectious to those around her.”

Gateway offered: Vandegrift gave the council a letter from Helen Rentch offering to donate a small tract at the intersection of Leestown Road and Midway Road (US 421 and 62), on the north side of a wet-weather stream, "to make the entrance to the city appealing."

The property has been mentioned as a possible site for a larger welcome sign for visitors, a trailhead for a planned trail from Lexington to Frankfort, and a permanent home for "Old Smoky," the steam engine that RJ Corman Railroad Co. has occasionally brought to Midway. "It is a logical option, since we are a railroad town," Rentch wrote. Vandegrift said the Cemetery and City Property Committee would consider the offer.

High-speed internet: Vandegrift said he met Monday with MetroNet, a company that provides high-speed internet service to homes and businesses via fiber-optic cable and thinks it can serve all or almost all of Midway. "Their lowest speed . . . is Spectrum's highest speed, basically," he said, adding that he will work on a franchise agreement with the company. He said it is in the process of doing such an agreement with Versailles and has signed a contract to serve Woodford County Schools.

March 16 event: The council approved making the St. Patrick’s Parade on March 16 a civic event. This will allow specially licensed vendors and restaurants in town to set up along the street and sell beer, wine and liquor, and allow customers to drink from open containers.

Bonds for Transy: The council approved a resolution to issue $10 million in municipal bonds for Transylvania University’s new recreation center.

Joe Lakofka, a representative of Kentucky Bond Development Corp., said in order for a bank to provide financing, the bonds need to be “bank qualified” and each Kentucky city is allowed to issue $10 million a year in bank-qualified bonds. Lexington nonprofits often use the allocations of smaller cities to get lower interest rates; there is no liability to the cites, Lakofka and Vandegrift said.

Nance asked what the city gets out of the deal. Vandegrift said, “I always looked at is as good will and kind of expanding Midway’s reach a little bit. And you never need to know when you’re going to need to call a favor in.”

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Midway-connected Bourbon War second in Fountain of Youth to Code of Honor, earning 20 Derby points

Bourbon War winning at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18, under Irad Ortiz Jr. (Photo by Lauren King, Gulfstream)
This story has been updated.

By Abbey Huffman
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Once a horse that couldn’t get sold, Bourbon War could give his Midway-based owners their first Kentucky Derby starter.

Bourbon War was 3/4 length behind Code of Honor. (Gulfstream Park photo)
The colt finished a strong second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park, three-quarters of a length behind Code of Honor (also with Woodford County connections) and two lengths ahead of Vekoma. Hidden Scroll, the 6-5 favorite, led much of the way but finished fourth in his first stakes race.

His place in the 1 1/16-mile race earned Bourbon War's owners $75,200 and got the horse 20 Derby qualifying points, for a total of 21, fourth behind War of Will (60), Code of Honor (54, including 50 from this race) and Game Winner (30).

UPDATE, March 9: Following the last round of Derby prep races, Bourbon War is seventh in Derby points. Midway-connected Shadwell Stable's Haikal is third with 50 after winning the Gotham Stakes, Tacitus is fourth with 50 (and slightly less winnings) after winning the Tampa Bay Derby, Game Winner is fifth with 30 and Mind Control is sixth with 30 (and much less winnings). UPDATE, March 17: Bourbon War is now 11th in points and Haikal is fourth, behind Long Range Toddy, which won a division of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawm. Details here.  UPDATE, March 12: Bourbon War moved up from seventh to fifth in the Derby media poll by HorseRacingNation.com, behind Game Winner, Improbable, War of Will and Code of Honor.

Bourbon War has won two of four starts. Although he didn’t hit the wire first Saturday, he galloped out impressively after the mile-and-a-sixteenth wire, suggesting that he might like the mile-and-a quarter Derby.

Bourbon War’s pedigree also suggests that he can succeed at longer distances. His sire, Tapit, competed at classic distances, winning at 1 1/8 mile, the length of his next likely race.

Trainer Mark Hennig was pleased the finish, specifically the last 1/16 mile. “He just lowered his head and he really knew what he wanted,” Hennig said. 

Hennig said Bourbon War came out of the race in “very good shape” and will most likely race next in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30.  This race is 1⅛ mile and offers 100 Derby points to the winner. The April 6 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racecourse is Hennig’s plan B.

The Florida Derby will be Bourbon War’s final prep race for the first Saturday in May.  Even if Bourbon War doesn’t win the Florida Derby, a good finish will secure him a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate, giving his owners their first ever Kentucky Derby starter. 

Bourbon War is owned by Bourbon Lane Stables and Lake Star Stables. Bourbon Lane is a public racing partnership managed by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, LLC, with offices in Midway.

Mike McMahon with another of his horses (Photo provided)
Mike McMahon, from Saratoga Springs, New York, has been involved with the thoroughbred business in almost every way possible. It was a trip to the Bluegrass for a sale that made him realize he wanted to make a career out of his interest in racing and breeding. He started his own business in 2001 when he founded McMahon Bloodstock, LLC.

Nine years later, McMahon started his racehorse ownership group, Bourbon Lane Stables.

In 2011, McMahon’s good friend and business associate, Jamie Hill, joined the business and the firm changed to what is now known as McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, LLC and is based in Midway, at 119 East Main St.

The team also manages Spruce Lane Pinhooks. A pinhooker buys a horse as a weanling or yearling to sell or “flip” it for profit as a yearling or two-year-old.

Spruce Lane’s pinhooks are kept and prepped at Spruce Lane Farm, owned since 2005 by McMahon and his wife. It’s in the big bend in Hedden Road, which runs between Old Frankfort Pike and Big Sink Road.

Bourbon War’s owners first met him as a yearling in the Spruce Lane Pinhook partnership, and still have him -- through misfortunes that turned out to be happy accidents.

Just like every other youngster that goes through Spruce Lane, the goal was to sell him as a yearling. With a top pedigree, by the sire Tapit out of the mare My Conquestadory, a prestigious race winner, on paper there shouldn’t have been any trouble selling him.

A $410,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, Bourbon War was entered to sell in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. But X-rays revealed a bone chip, and the well-bred colt failed to sell.

Plan B was to send him to a two-year-old in training sale in Florida, where he would be timed “breezing” an eighth of a mile, or one furlong.

This time, there were a few interested buyers who had vetted him and seen clean medical results, but when he breezed slowly, nobody came back to scope him, and one interested trainer thought he saw a chip in the ankle on the X-ray. There was controversy between veterinarians on whether it was a chip or just a double exposure. It ended up being double exposure, but before they knew that, and shortly before the horse would have sold, McMahon and Hill scratched him from the sale.

After two sales failures, McMahon’s friends, Greg Burns and Mike Winters of Lake Star Stable, bought half the horse. Bourbon Lane Stable bought out some of the pinhook partners, and some still own part of him.

His name came from both owners. Bourbon Lane includes “Bourbon” in almost all its horses’ names. Lake Star contributed “War,” naming the horse after a Bruce Springsteen album, which is also fitting to Bourbon War’s pedigree, being out of My Conquestadory.

Bourbon War was sent to Winstar Farm’s training facility. In May, he went to trainer Mark Hennig’s barn at Belmont Park in New York to begin serious training.

Bourbon War won his first race and finished fourth in the Remsen Stakes, a Grade 2 -- the second highest of three grades for stakes races. Both outings were at Aqueduct in New York.

He started his three-year-old campaign by winning a $51,000 allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Jan. 18. The race was for non-winners of two races and had an optional claiming price of $75,000.

That win was Bourbon War’s second attempt going around two turns; the first was in the Remsen at 1⅛ mile, where he finished a well-beaten fourth; Hennig said he was much more prepared for two turns going into the allowance race.

Preparing to step back up into stakes company in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, Bourbon War breezed a half mile in 48.68 seconds Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park, where he is stabled.

“We were pleased with it,” Hennig said. “We were just looking to sharpen him up a touch. The track wasn’t real quick that day, but I thought he got over it well -- finished strong and galloped out strong.”

Hennig said it’s comforting, heading into a highly competitive Grade 2 stakes, that his horse already has a win at two turns on the Gulfstream surface. “Any time you’re repeating something, I think, with a young horse like this and not throwing something new at him is more comforting.”

The time of transitioning from a two year old to a three year old is an important coming of age time for racehorses. Their connections hope to see growth in maturity, both mentally and physically. Hennig says he’s noticed more aggressive training from Bourbon War since they headed to Florida for the winter.

The winner of the Fountain of Youth, Code of Honor, also has strong Woodford County connections. He is owned by William S. Farish of Lane's End Farm and is trained by Shug McGaughey.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Graviss opposes bill that sparked teacher protest, and one that would let universities leave pension system

By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford County and parts of Franklin and Fayette counties
     We may be in the final third of the 2019 legislative session, but the arrival of hundreds of teachers at the Capitol last Thursday made it feel like 2018 all over again.
     They came to Frankfort to oppose yet another unfair and unnecessary bill directly affecting the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System. Last year’s rallies were focused on current and future benefits, while this year’s is about the very governance of KTRS itself.
State Rep. Joe Graviss
     In fact, some say the bill making its way through the legislature now could have a bigger impact than the public-pension bill that was unanimously struck down in December by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
     The main reason why this year’s House Bill 525 is wrong for Kentucky is because it is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist. KTRS has served the teaching profession well for nearly 80 years and has more than half of every pension dollar it currently owes for the next 30 years. Its investment returns routinely rank among the best retirement systems in the country. It is not broken, not even close.
     Teachers are opposed to this legislation because it significantly diminishes their role in determining the 11-member KTRS Board of Trustees. Teachers would see their current authority to nominate seven trustees reduced to two, with most of the remaining nominations coming from an array of educational organizations.
     Despite opposition from many, a House committee approved this bill on Thursday. Its final fate is still uncertain, given the relatively few remaining days left in this year’s legislative session, but as we saw with last year’s public-pension bill, proposals like this unfortunately have a way of clearing numerous hurdles quickly. [Editor's note: The bill is scheduled for a vote Monday, March 4.]
     While we wait to see what happens, the House and Senate did come together in a bipartisan way last week to approve what is destined to be one of the most significant new laws this year.
     Senate Bill 1 builds on months of work by a dedicated group of legislators and other stakeholders who were brought together in the wake of the tragic shooting at Marshall County High School in January 2018. Two students lost their lives, and many others were injured. I wish it didn’t take tragedies like this to bring people together.
     Senate Bill 1 takes a two-pronged approach to make schools safer. It standardizes and strengthens security measures at the local and state level and lays the groundwork to hire more school resource officers; and it also seeks to expand both the number of school counselors and the time they spend addressing mental-health needs of their students.
     I wish we lived in a world where laws like this aren’t necessary, but until that day arrives, we must be vigilant in making sure our schools are protected. This bill is an important, but not final, step in that effort. We must now find a way to both fund and build on these goals.
     Although these two bills dominated most of the news last week, they weren’t the only noteworthy ones to make it through the House.
     On Thursday, for example, my colleagues and I unanimously voted for stronger harassment policies governing the Legislative Branch. House Bill 60 sets clearer lines of authority and improves how these cases are both reported and then handled. Annual reports will give us a better idea of our progress moving ahead.
     House Bill 358, meanwhile, would make it possible for our regional public universities to voluntarily leave the Kentucky Employment Retirement System, as long as they pay for their portion of the current liabilities.
     Current employees at these universities could choose to remain in the state retirement system, but new ones would not have that option. This legislation does not affect university employees classified as hazardous duty or who contribute to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.
     Supporters say this approach is needed to give these schools a better handle on these fast-growing payments and to make them more like the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, both of which have their own retirement plans. Opponents say this would likely put a much heavier burden on those remaining in KERS, which is the most underfunded of the state-run retirement plans.
     [Editor's note: Graviss voted against the bill, which passed the House 76-21. He voted for a motion to suspend the rules to allow consideration of a floor amendment by Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, that would have converted the bill to a study of the issue. The motion failed, 37-58.]
     Two other bills to pass the House last week would go a long way toward increasing public safety. House Bill 238 would do that by expanding the number of facilities in which trespassing would be a more serious crime. Those new locations would include TV/radio tower sites, natural gas and petroleum pipelines and state and federal dams. Those who vandalize any of these facilities could be convicted of a Class D felony.
     House Bill 130 builds on that legislation by broadening the places where terroristic threatening would carry a more serious charge. Schools are currently the only ones in this category, but that would be expanded to include places of worship and any other public gathering. Those guilty of threatening these places would face a Class D felony, and if those charged are found to have gathered weapons, that could be raised to a Class C felony.
     So far, only a relatively small number of bills have been sent to the governor, but that is set to change this week and next. As we make our final decisions on what should become law and what should wait another year, I hope you will continue letting me know your views. We are scheduled to wrap up our work by the end of this month.
     If you would like to write, my email is joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, and you can also call to leave a message each weekday. That number is 1-800-372-7181, but if you have a hearing impairment, it’s 1-800-896-0305.
     The legislature’s website also has a lot of information and can be found at www.legislature.ky.gov.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Midway could have a Derby horse: Bourbon War, partly owned by McMahon & Hill, in major prep race Saturday

Bourbon War winning at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18, under Irad Ortiz Jr. (Photo by Lauren King, Gulfstream Park)
This story has been updated with Bourbon War's win. To read the revised version, click here.

By Abbey Huffman
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Once a horse that couldn’t get sold, Bourbon War could give his Midway-based owners their first Kentucky Derby starter.

The colt will try to earn official Kentucky Derby points in the Fountain of Youth Stakes Saturday, March 2, at Gulfstream Park.

Bourbon War has won two out of three starts and has impressed his connections with the talent he has shown. Steve Haskin of The Blood-Horse put him on his Feb. 13 “Derby Dozen” for the way he “weaved his way through the field, going in between, then inside horse and then sliced through an opening between the two leaders and drew off to a very professional victory.” He the Feb. 19 list as an honorable mention.

Bourbon War is partly owned by Bourbon Lane Stables, a public racing partnership managed by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, LLC, with offices in Midway.

Mike McMahon with another of his horses (Photo provided)
Mike McMahon, from Saratoga Springs, New York, has been involved with the thoroughbred business in almost every way possible. It was a trip to the Bluegrass for a sale that made him realize he wanted to make a career out of his interest in racing and breeding. He started his own business in 2001 when he founded McMahon Bloodstock, LLC.

Nine years later, McMahon started his racehorse ownership group, Bourbon Lane Stables.

In 2011, McMahon’s good friend and business associate, Jamie Hill, joined the business and the firm changed to what is now known as McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, LLC and is based in Midway, at 119 East Main St.

The team also manages Spruce Lane Pinhooks. A pinhooker buys a horse as a weanling or yearling to sell or “flip” it for profit as a yearling or two-year-old.

Spruce Lane’s pinhooks are kept and prepped at Spruce Lane Farm, owned since 2005 by McMahon and his wife. It’s in the big bend in Hedden Road, which runs between Old Frankfort Pike and Big Sink Road.

Bourbon War’s owners first met him as a yearling in the Spruce Lane Pinhook partnership, and still have him -- through misfortunes that turned out to be happy accidents.

Just like every other youngster that goes through Spruce Lane, the goal was to sell him as a yearling. With a top pedigree, by the sire Tapit out of the mare My Conquestadory, a prestigious race winner, on paper there shouldn’t have been any trouble selling him.

A $410,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, Bourbon War was entered to sell in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. But X-rays revealed a bone chip, and the well-bred colt failed to sell.

Plan B was to send him to a two-year-old in training sale in Florida, where he would be timed “breezing” an eighth of a mile, or one furlong.

This time, there were a few interested buyers who had vetted him and seen clean medical results, but when he breezed slowly, nobody came back to scope him, and one interested trainer thought he saw a chip in the ankle on the X-ray. There was controversy between veterinarians on whether it was a chip or just a double exposure. It ended up being double exposure, but before they knew that, and shortly before the horse would have sold, McMahon and Hill scratched him from the sale.

After two sales failures, McMahon’s friends, Greg Burns and Mike Winters of Lake Star Stable, bought half the horse. Bourbon Lane Stable bought out some of the pinhook partners, and some still own part of him.

His name came from both owners. Bourbon Lane includes “Bourbon” in almost all its horses’ names. Lake Star contributed “War,” naming the horse after a Bruce Springsteen album, which is also fitting to Bourbon War’s pedigree, being out of My Conquestadory.

Bourbon War was sent to Winstar Farm’s training facility. In May, he went to trainer Mark Hennig’s barn at Belmont Park in New York to begin serious training.

Bourbon War won his first race and finished fourth in the Remsen Stakes, a Grade 2 -- the second highest of three grades for stakes races. Both outings were at Aqueduct in New York.

He started his three-year-old campaign by winning a $51,000 allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Jan. 18. The race was for non-winners of two races and had an optional claiming price of $75,000.

That win was Bourbon War’s second attempt going around two turns; the first was in the Remsen at 1⅛ mile, where he finished a well-beaten fourth; Hennig said he was much more prepared for two turns going into the allowance race.

Preparing to step back up into stakes company in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, Bourbon War breezed a half mile in 48.68 seconds Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park, where he is stabled.

“We were pleased with it,” Hennig said. “We were just looking to sharpen him up a touch. The track wasn’t real quick that day, but I thought he got over it well -- finished strong and galloped out strong.”

Hennig said it’s comforting, heading into a highly competitive Grade 2 stakes, that his horse already has a win at two turns on the Gulfstream surface. “Any time you’re repeating something, I think, with a young horse like this and not throwing something new at him is more comforting.”

The time of transitioning from a two year old to a three year old is an important coming of age time for racehorses. Their connections hope to see growth in maturity, both mentally and physically. Hennig says he’s noticed more aggressive training from Bourbon War since they headed to Florida for the winter.

“I think he’s much more prepared for it at this point, physically and mentally, than he was when we ran him in the Remsen,” Hennig said.

After the Fountain of Youth, Churchill Downs will award 50 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points to the winner, 20 points to the place horse, 10 points to show and 5 points to the fourth placer.

Bourbon War drew post No. 4 out of 11 and has morning line odds of 10-1. Top rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will have the mount. Ortiz has been aboard Bourbon War in his last two starts.

Hennig said Thursday morning that he was “very happy with the post” and would “leave things in Irad’s hands.”

Other notable horses in the race are impressive maiden winner Hidden Stroll as the favorite; Grade 3 Nashua Stakes winner Vekoma; Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner Signalman; and undefeated Global Campaign.

The $400,000 Fountain of Youth is the 13th race Saturday at Gulfstream. Post time is approximately 5:32 p.m. The race will appear on “Fox Sports Saturday at the Races,” which airs from 3 to 6 p.m.