Saturday, March 30, 2019

Bourbon War places a close fourth in the Florida Derby, gets 10 Kentucky Derby points for a total of 31

Jockey Luis Saez rose from the saddle after Maximum Security beat Bodexpress in Saturday's Florida Derby.
Bourbon War, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, is shown finishing a close fourth. (Photo by Derbe Glass via Paulick Report) 
Midway-connected Bourbon War placed fourth in today's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, giving him 10 more points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby but earning no guarantee that his total of 31 will put him among the 20 starters on May 4.

The 1⅛-mile race was won in 1:48.96 by undefeated but not-as-well-regarded Maximum Security, who went off at 9-2, led wire to wire under Luis Saez and earned 100 Derby points, guaranteeing a Kentucky Derby spot for a horse that won first race, a $16,000 claimer, on Dec. 20.

Bodexpress, an 0-for-4 maiden colt who went off at 70-1, was second, and earned 40 points, almost assuring him of a Kentucky Derby slot. Code of Honor, bred and owned by Will Farish, ran third and added 20 points to the 54 he already had -- enough to be in the Derby, having edged out Bourbon War in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream.

Bourbon War is owned by Bourbon Lane Stable of Midway and Lake Star Stable. The owners were interviewed on TVG shortly before the race, and said 100 of their friends and family went to Hallandale Beach for the race.

The horse's 31 points place him 15th in the Derby point standings. He has the least non-restricted stakes earnings, $90,200, of the top 21 horses. Haikal, owned by Dubai-based Shadwell Stable, which has a large farm near Midway, ranks eighth with 50 points and has earnings of $247,500.

Today, Bourbon War was the occasional betting favorite at 9-5 or 2-1; he had the latter odds at post time and was second choice to Hidden Scroll. He broke from the fourth hole and was near the back of the 11-horse field until about half a mile to go, when jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. went outside to find running room and put on an effort to get into the money.

Maximum Security returned $11.60, $7.40 and $5.40. Bodexpress paid $47.40 and $16.60 and Code of Honor paid $4.20 to show.

Legislatve Update: Session ends with passage of public-employee pension bill Rep. Graviss opposed

This column is a combination of one submitted last week and one submitted tonight.
By Joe Graviss
State representative for Woodford and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties
When the General Assembly returned to the Capitol on Thursday to complete this year’s legislative session, one unresolved issue towered over the rest.  Regrettably, the solution now set to become law is not the one we need, and the very way it was approved – late at night, before the bill could even be read – was a near-repeat of last year’s controversial and ultimately unconstitutional public-pension bill.
That 2018 legislation, as you may recall, was mainly about retirement benefits for teachers, while this year’s deals with an extreme jump in retirement payments for our regional public universities and quasi-government agencies like health departments and rape-crisis centers.  If nothing is done, these payments would set them back more than $100 million annually, causing steep cuts in services and likely forcing some to close.
The legislature gave these universities and agencies a 12-month reprieve last year, and in the House, at least, there was broad, bipartisan support to extend that freeze for another 12 months.  That would give the legislature’s new public-pension working group time to come up a permanent solution that could then be addressed as part of the next two-year budget.
The Senate, however, did not want to go that route, leaving us in search of another way, which is what passed in the session’s final hours on Thursday.  Governor Bevin now has 10 days to decide whether to veto or sign it into law.
Many may wonder why these retirement payments were scheduled to go up so much so fast.  A significant reason can be traced back to the summer of 2017, when Governor Bevin’s new appointees on the Kentucky Retirement Systems board immediately dropped annual investment growth assumptions to the most conservative rates in the nation.
These investments make up a substantial part of each retirement check, so that single vote meant that the long-term liabilities went up by billions of dollars overnight.  That, on top of the board’s additional changes in payroll growth and inflation rate, meant every agency contributing to these systems saw their annual payments go up significantly, too.  The state is able to absorb these costs, but many of our quasi-government agencies are not.
What the legislature passed on Thursday grants that second-year freeze everyone wants, but at a too-steep cost that puts more pressure on state finances, harms the most underfunded public retirement system in the country and makes it possible for hundreds if not thousands of public employees/retirees to lose benefits they’ve earned and are counting on.
It is a complicated matter, but this bill takes the affected universities and agencies out of the state retirement system – unless they decide by the end of December to opt back in.  If they choose to remain, they will have to find a way to pay a 70 percent increase in their annual retirement payments.
If they stay out, however, they will have to pay off their portion of the retirement system’s liabilities, but at a rate low enough that it would take decades, maybe a half-century or more, to get there.  Imagine buying a house with a 30-year mortgage and finding out that, at the end, you owe more than you did when you bought it.  That’s what this bill does.
For the universities and agencies leaving the state retirement system, new employees and those hired since the start of 2014 will be placed in a defined-contribution retirement plan like a 401(k).  Career employees hired before then would have the option of staying enrolled in the state retirement system, but if their school or agency defaults on just one monthly payment, they will immediately and permanently be placed in the 401(k)-like retirement plan with the others.  Those already retired from these agencies would also see their benefits stopped as well, until the matter is resolved and monthly payments resume.
It is important to emphasize that this bill only affects those paying into what is called the Kentucky Employee Retirement System.  This bill has no impact on teachers, local government employees and those who work in hazardous-duty jobs like police officers and firefighters.  Employees at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville have different retirement plans and are unaffected, as well.
Other bills
Although this bill was the most controversial issue the House and Senate considered on Thursday, some other worthwhile bills did pass that day.  One will have businesses make reasonable accommodations for its pregnant employees, while the other will make our elementary and secondary schools tobacco-free unless they decide to opt out.  Most schools have already adopted this policy, but this will ensure it applies more uniformly.
Most bills that clear the House and Senate fall into five broad categories: education; health and well-being; criminal justice; economic development; and tweaks to the way government is run.
            The most prominent, and bipartisan, educational bill this year is focused on improving school safety.  Senate Bill 1 is the product of months of work last year by a task force formed as a response to the Marshall County High School shooting in early 2018.
            In short, this legislation streamlines school safety at both the state and district level and sets the stage to hire more school resource officers and guidance counselors within our schools  Legislative leaders have said they will increase funding for this work when the next two-year budget is adopted in 2020.
Another new educational law that drew significant support this year broadens the use of KEES, which high school students earn with good grades to help pay for their postsecondary education.  In this case, they’ll soon be able to use their lottery-funded scholarships for qualified workforce training.
Two other high-profile educational bills set to become law drew strong opposition from teachers and many like me who support our educators.  One will give the Jefferson County superintendent much more authority over who will be principal in that district, while the other changes the tribunal process used to handle appeals of a teacher who has been fired.  There is worry this new system will be unfair to teachers who feel they have been wrongly dismissed.
Quite a few bills to pass the legislature this year deal with criminal-justice matters, with two building on already-established laws.  The first of those expands the Class D felonies that can be expunged – which will help many more citizens who have long paid their debt to society – and it lowers the fee for this process from $500 to $250 and allows it to be paid in installments.
The second expands the use of DUI interlock devices, a type of breathalyzer that keeps a vehicle from starting if the driver is intoxicated.  Starting in July 2020, this law will apply to every first-time DUI offender, and he or she will have to use it for four months.
While these two laws modify existing statutes, another effectively does away with one that has been on the books since 1996.  In this case, Kentuckians 21 and older will no longer need a permit or the training it requires to carry a concealed weapon.  This will not apply to those who are otherwise not allowed to have a firearm, and other restrictions about where concealed weapons can be taken remain unchanged.  This law takes effect later this summer.
In other criminal-justice actions, the General Assembly cracked down on telemarketers who try to trick unsuspecting callers by using local numbers, and we also toughened the penalties for those guilty of strangulation.  Those who threaten places like churches and other public venues will face more serious punishment, as well.
There are some new laws that I opposed.  One, for example, will almost certainly undermine our growing solar industry by making it tougher for new residential customers to get full credit for the excess electricity they return to the grid.  A viable compromise originally passed the House, but that was unfortunately removed in the session’s final hours.
Another new law takes away much of the Secretary of State’s election responsibilities by removing that office’s vote on the state Board of Elections, meaning this board is now governed entirely by gubernatorial appointees.  The Secretary of State is our chief elections officer, so this change removes some key constitutional checks and balances. 
Several new laws will help veterans and those still serving our country.  It will soon be easier for those in the service to maintain in-state college tuition costs and stop select utilities without penalty if they are based out-of-state.  They and their spouses will also have an easier time getting interviewed when applying for state-government jobs.
Overall, this was a consequential legislative session, and I want thank everyone who let me know their thoughts and concerns.  It made a difference.  Looking ahead, I encourage you to keep reaching out if there is an issue you think needs to be addressed. 
If you would like to know more about legislation or the legislative process, please visit the General Assembly’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov
            Thanks for all you do, and holler anytime.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Bourbon War's Midway connections hope Saturday's Florida Derby will earn him a spot in the Kentucky Derby

Bourbon War during his final pre-Florida Derby breeze at
Gulfstream Park March 22 (Photo by Dana Wimpfheimer)
By Abbey Huffman
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway-connected Bourbon War is looking to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby with a strong finish in Saturday evening’s Florida Derby.

Bourbon War earned 20 official “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points last time out, when he rallied late to finish second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Owned by Bourbon Lane Stable of Midway and Lake Star Stable, Bourbon War is No. 11 in Kentucky Derby points, which determine the 20 horses that can enter the May 4 classic at Churchill Downs. The Florida Derby points are 100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.

The Florida Derby is 1⅛ mile, the same distance as Bourbon War’s previous two races.  The son of Tapit has proven that he can handle the distance and likes the Gulfstream Park surface, with a win and a close second. 

Bourbon War recorded his final breeze in preparation for the Florida Derby on March 22.  He worked a half mile in 49.88 seconds and was ranked 19th out of the 30 who worked the distance that day. 

Trainer Mark Hennig said he was very pleased with the work and likes how the horse has been training since the Fountain of Youth.

The Florida Derby would be the last race before the 1¼-mile Kentucky Derby for Bourbon War. He will break from post position 4 of 11 under his regular rider, Irad Ortiz Jr. He is third choice, with morning-line odds of 7-2.

The Florida Derby field includes Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor, FOY fourth-place finisher Hidden Scroll (the favorite at 3-1), Holy Bull Stakes winner Harvey Wallbanger, and undefeated Maximum Security.

The Florida Derby is race 14 at Gulfstream Park and post time is approximately 6:36 p.m. The NBC Sports Network will cover the race from 6 to 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

I-64 lane to be closed near rest areas Friday Monday

Closure of a westbound lane on Interstate 64 west of Midway, originally set for yesterday and today, Friday, has been rescheduled for Mondaytomorrow from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., the state Transportation Cabinet has announced in an updated news release.

The cabinet said the closure is needed for a sewer-line replacement for the Woodford County rest areas, located between milepoints 60.2 and 60.7, as part of a renovation project for both facilities, which is scheduled for completion in about five weeks. The rest areas are closed to regular motorists until then, but semi-tractor-trailer drivers may continue to use them; temporary accommodations are in place for semi drivers.

The right, or slow, lane will be closed between milepoints 60 and 58. "All work is subject to change depending on weather, emergencies and other factors beyond the control of the Department of Highways," the cabinet said in a press release.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

EDA lines up 3 property sales, hires help to clean up Midway Station, seeks more highway-business zoning

A mapping projection showed the new, 4-acre lot to be created.
Midway Station, once a failure as an industrial park, appears to be turning into a success after all.

Directors of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the tract north of Interstate 64, approved three tentative sales of property at their meeting Friday and took steps to make the property more attractive to prospects.

"We've only had ownership of this property for six weeks, and we've got three options," departing director William Downey remarked. The EDA has always owned the property, but until Feb. 7 the unsold parcels were optioned to Lexington developer Dennis Anderson in return for his payment of interest on the property's mortgages, giving him effective control of it.

Anderson had hoped to make a commercial and residential development of Midway Station, but the renewed interest of industries in the property and nearby tracts turned it back into an industrial park, and he terminated his option.

"Since he's left, the phone has been ringing off the hook with folks who want to come to Midway Station," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told a homeowners' meeting in Northridge Estates tonight.

At Friday's EDA meeting, directors authorized Chair John Soper to grant options to:
  • Dan Price, $208,000 for 3.33 acres for use as a marine sales and service facility facing the interstate, with 10 initial jobs and 15 by the second year, pending rezoning. Soper said Planning and Zoning Administrator Pattie Wilson "was as instrumental" in the sale as anyone. "She presents the way we can do business in Woodford County that is really user-friendly."
  • Barnhill Chimney Co. of Lexington, which plans to pay $162,300 for 2.49 acres for a facility to manufacture chimney caps. Soper said only four other companies in the nation make the caps, and Barnhill plans to have seven to 10 employees at opening, 10 to 15 in a year and could have 30 in five years. Soper said EDA had another prospect for the lot but "We gotta go with someone who's willing to do a contract, especially with the possibility of jobs."
  • Imperial Asphalt of Frankfort, $130,000 for 4 acres in a lot to be created at the sharp turn at the east end of McKinney Avenue, in an area not originally platted for development. Soper said the company has excavation equipment that it can use to reshape the area. Because the property does not have a price that has to be met in order to get a mortgage release for banks to which EDA is indebted, "This four acres would go into operating cash," Soper said, "which really gives us some breathing room." He said Imperial Asphalt owner Seth Christian will use the property for equipment storage, will have seven employees there, and will not manufacture asphalt at the location. "He said he'd been watching this development since he was in high school and wants to be part of it," Soper said.
None of the deals required any price negotiation, Soper said, but one buyer hesitated, saying the property looked "blighted" because of high grass, weeds, trash and broken concrete.

Soper said that once Vandegrift explained the history of Midway Station, the buyer agreed to take an option. (EDA is using the option route to make the sales dependent on zoning and other land-use approvals, and tests to show that the tracts are feasible for the planned developments.)

Soper said the "deferred maintenance" at the property needs action so it will "look like it's seriously somebody trying to sell property and standing behind what they sell." He said HMB Engineers, which designed the development, had lined up Buchanan Contracting of Mount Sterling to do the work.

"Ordinarily, I would like to bid this stuff, but quite honestly, I don't think we have the time," Soper said. "Time is of the essence." He said the City of Midway had agreed to to the initial mowing, and would be reimbursed. "I really appreciate what Midway's doing for us," he said. Buchanan's original quote included $3,500 for initial mowing and trimming and $2,500 for monthly mowing; those were deducted from the deal, leaving a price of $11,970.

Director Paul Schreffler asked if crews from the Woodford County Jail could do some of the work, and Soper said he would look into that. Then the directors approved a motion for Buchanan Contracting to do the work within 45 days.

The directors also approved a motion to seek zone changes that would eliminate any property zones for professional offices, which had been seen as a buffer between industries and commercial businesses, zoned B-5 for highway business. "The inquiries we're getting are going to be B-5 or light industry," Soper said.

The changes would add more B-5 lots, which could help attract a hotel. Anderson has a lot on the other side of the interstate, in the Green Gables development, that has long been platted for a hotel, but Vandegrift said a year ago that Anderson had priced it too high to sell. Anderson disputed that.

After meeting for almost an hour and a half in the Fiscal Court room of the county courthouse, the directors went into a closed session to discuss property sales. They allowed Maria Bohanan, whom the City of Versailles had appointed to fill Downey's position when he departs, to attend.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

'On the Table' conversations Wed., including dinner at Christian Church, still have room for reservations

The Woodford County Community Fund invites residents of the county to participate in "On the Table 2019," a conversation about the future of our community, on Wednesday, March 27, at three locations, including Midway Christian Church. The theme of this year's conversations is how to foster belonging in the community.

Each meeting Wednesday includes a free meal. Breakfast catered by Sweet Lilu’s will be served during an 8-10 a.m. session at Life Adventure Center, 570 Milner Road, Versailles. The lunch meeting will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Versailles Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall and will be catered by Spark Community CafĂ©.

The dinner meeting, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Christian Church Fellowship Hall, will be catered by Holly Hill Events. The meetings are open to anyone who lives, works or studies in Woodford County. Reserve via email to woodfordcf@bgcf.org, noting which conversation you plan to attend, as soon as possible. The original deadline for reservations was Wednesday, a week before the events.

"Please consider coming to one of these events, even if you haven't made a reservation," Helen Rentch of Midway said in an email to friends today. "There is space, and a rewarding experience."

The meetings are supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and presented by the Blue Grass Community Foundation. "On the Table is a great opportunity to connect and ask ourselves how we can impact the future of Woodford County through individual and collective civic action," says the Community Fund, which is the the local arm of the Bluegrass foundation. More information is at bgcf.org/onthetable.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mayor calls special City Council meeting Monday to discuss 'major street project and appropriations request'

The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 25 at City Hall. The notice for the meeting says it was called by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift to discuss a "major street project and appropriations request." It says the council will take no action.

All meetings of the City Council and its committees are open to the public.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Midway officials to hold public forum April 9 before acting on resolution backing refugee resettlement in Ky.

Amnesty International volunteer Lee Birdwhistell spoke to the city council Monday as about 20 people listened.
By Korrie Harris
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council voted Monday evening to table a controversial resolution supporting refugee resettlement in Kentucky and vote on it no later than the June 3 council meeting, following a public forum.

The resolution calls for resettlement to be done without discrimination, and calls on other Kentucky communities to “join them in supporting a stronger national effort to settle refugees around the world in need of a home.”

The council followed the lead of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, who issued a statement before the meeting in response to social-media comments debating the resolution. “It has clearly begun a discussion in our community that has lighted passions on both sides of the issue,” he wrote.

The passions and “vitriol,” as Vandegrift called it during the meeting, are illustrated by postings on Midway Musings, a closed Facebook group that has almost 700 members. After Karen Martin posted a notice asking the members to attend the council meeting to support the resolution, Angeletta Fields wrote, “I do not want refugees to move into Midway not into Kentucky!” and James Starks wrote, “This is a disgusting idea.”

The resolution does not propose moving refugees to Midway, but some said the council should stick to local business. Cindy Karrick wrote, “Our little town is not the place to address national political issues.” Johnny Wilson, who recently served out an unexpired term on the council, wrote, “Dumb!!! Fix what you were elected to fix. This [is] pure political. Where is the money coming from to house and feed them.”

The resolution drew support from some members of the Facebook group, and Sarah J. Wilson wrote, "I hope that our council will listen to both sides of the issue and vote in a way that will be truly representative of the feelings of their constituents, and not just what they want. Let's show the rest of the state that we have elected officials who care about those who elected them. Citizens, if you feel strongly about this or any issue, speak with your representatives!"

Council Member Logan Nance
At the meeting, Council Member Logan Nance introduced the resolution and a representative from Amnesty International, a global human-rights organization that has been asking local governments to pass such resolutions for more than two years.

Nance said, “As I got older, my service to my country [and] through my church took me to places like Venezuela and Afghanistan, where I was able to see the refugee crisis up close and very personal,” and when he returned, he knew he wanted to help refugees: “I was able to meet refugee families that attend church in this community, shop in this community, and it was able to hit it home for me that we could be doing more to help these people.”

Lee Birdwhistell, who identified herself as a volunteer for Amnesty International, told the council that he resolution would be “non-binding” and wouldn’t “place the burden of resettlement” on Midway, Birdwhistell said. This would be the first Amnesty International refugee welcome resolution in Kentucky, but she said Kentucky is a leading state for refugee resettlement.

Asked after the meeting why she picked Midway, she said, “I just had a connection to Logan Nance and I brought it up to him.”

Nance told the other council members that he was willing to delay action on the resolution so the public could understand what exactly was happening.

Council Member Bruce Southworth said, “I would just feel more comfortable if we had more time to get more input before we voted.”

Council Member Sara Hicks agreed. “I think having a public forum would be very appropriate and a good experience for the community,” she said.

Council Member Stacy Thurman agreed but said, “I think it’s important to go ahead if we’re going to do a public forum to make a date, to find a venue and set it up and not just let this go and let it slide under the door.”

Council Member John Holloway he didn’t see the controversy in the resolution. “All the resolution is really saying is we are happy to comply with the law.”

Vandegrift said a public forum, with face-to-face communication, would be more productive than social-media posts. “I think the more we speak to each other, the more we’ll come together as a community,” he said. ”We might come out being stronger than we were before.”

The mayor then suggested that a council member make a motion to table the resolution “because it is a significant enough resolution.”

Hicks asked Vandegrift if he wanted to delay it “to a specific date,” and he didn’t think it would be best. “I think it’s still a new enough idea, still a fresh enough issue, that I don’t think we know exactly how much time this needs and how much time we want to spend on it,” he said. “We got other stuff we gotta focus on, too.”

Holloway indicated that he favored a specific date: “We should be sure and come back to this and not let this slide.”

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher quipped, “I’m pretty sure it’s not just gonna disappear.” 

About 20 Midway residents on both sides of the issue were in the audience. The mayor said it would be best to postpone citizen comments to the council until the public forum, so a moderator from the Kentucky League of Cities could aid civil discourse.

The vote for tabling the resolution passed unanimously.

“We will schedule as soon as possible a public forum most likely to take place in the next few weeks,” Vandegrift said. UPDATE, March 20: The forum will be held at 6:30 Tuesday, April 9 at Northside Elementary School.

Birdwhistell said after the meeting, “I feel like it went well. I do think it’s good for the community to have a chance to talk about it, discuss it. There was a little more opposition than we were anticipating, but I feel like deciding to set up a public forum to give the community more time to come to terms with it is a good way to go.”

In other business, the council:

• Reappointed Gina Morris and Council Member Sara Hicks to the parks board. Hicks abstained from the otherwise unanimous vote. They will both serve four-year terms.

• Declared two vehicles and a list of other equipment and personal property to be surplus so it can be sold for the surplus and authorizing sale.

• Heard Don Vizi, executive director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, present his annual report and request $1,000 to help with its ventures. The mayor said the monthly meetings that Vizi set up with the mayor and other community figures to keep up with one another have helped the city-chamber relationship. “I’ve really enjoyed that. It’s been very beneficial,” Vandegrift said. “I think we’re gonna see some fruit coming up soon.” 

(Vizi also announced a job fair on March 26 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Woodford County Agricultural Center. “We have 11 employers coming,” he said.)

• Heard the mayor addressed the problem with vultures roosting around the city. “We’re working with state agencies and USDA,” he said. Vandegrift said the city doesn’t want to kill the birds, but to “push them off into other parts of the county where they won’t bother anybody and the excrement won’t become a health hazard.”

• Voted to appropriate $812.40 as its share of replacing an emergency siren in the Versailles industrial park that has not been activating properly. “It’s 25 years old and it’s also the most maintenance prone siren out of all 12 sirens spread about the county,” said Drew Chandler of Woodford County Emergency Management.

• Didn’t approve a request made by Midway University to place a no-parking sign on West Stephens Street just past the president’s driveway.

Asked how often cars park there, Rob Sarrantonio, director of security and operations at Midway, said “It depends on the time of year” but “It’s been more now lately than it has in the past.”

Gallagher asked if it’s normally during the president’s events or during events at the house across the street, where some students live.

Sarrantonio said “It’s not during the president’s events,” and said people are told to park away from the area of concern.

However, Council Member John Holloway, who lives near the president’s house, said the only time he sees cars parked in the area is when events are going on at the president’s house .

Council Member Sara Hicks noted that there is a no-parking sign on Winter Street because it’s a “blind place” and police ticket violators there because it’s a “safety issue,” but she doesn’t regard Stephens Street as a “safety issue.”

When the mayor asked if there was a motion to approve the sign, no council member made one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Margaret Lyle, Midway's international folk music star, dies at 64; memorial services Saturday in Versailles

Margaret Lyle
Memorial services will be held Saturday, March 23 for internationally known folk-music performer Margaret Lyle, who died March 11 at her home in Midway at the age of 64.

Known by many as “The Celtic Lark,” Lyle was a talented musician and historian who attended Centre College and the University of Kentucky.

"Margaret was a most talented and entertaining neighbor," former Midway City Council member Dan Roller wrote in Midway Musings. "Her 'Music on the Porch' sessions were enjoyed by friends, neighbors, tourists and anyone else passing by her house near the Midway Presbyterian Church. . . . Often one of Margaret's musical friends from far and wide as Texas would show up and join in the fun. Her time here contributed to the patchwork of life that is the Midway we all love.'

Lyle was born in Versailles April 17, 1954, to Margaret Carmichael Woolums and Dan Dudley Gravitt. She often performed as Margaret Gravitt. "She was a devoted friend, sister and aunt who will be missed by many," her obituary said. She was preceded in death by her parents and a rainbow bridge of animals, and will be lovingly remembered by her sisters, Anna, Dana, Deanna and Darla; and numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews. 

Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lady Oscar, 197 S. Main St., Versailles. Friends are asked to "bring your singing voices and musical instruments." Blackburn & Ward Funeral Home of Versailles is in charge of arrangements. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Woodford Humane Society, PO Box 44, Versailles KY 40383.

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.