09/09/2005 12:00AM

Keeneland adds creature comforts to sales pavilion


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Keeneland opens the first session of its September yearling sale on Monday, the yearlings aren't the only things attendees will notice. The auction is the first that Keeneland will conduct in its newly remodeled sale pavilion.

Since the April 2-year-old sale, the pavilion has gained an entirely new look, right down to plush new seats in the bidding arena. Using more than 400 tons of central Kentucky limestone and more than five tons of granite, Keeneland added more than 17,000 square feet to the pavilion's original footprint and combined the two main bar and dining areas.

If buyers like the extra room, they will be equally pleased to discover features such as an expanded television-viewing room, where they can call up race replays and watch the auction's progress on 11 37-inch screens. There are also two wagering terminals, so gambling sales-goers will no longer have to leave the auction and hike up the hill to the grandstand to place a bet. The pavilion also will offer wireless technology; digital television channels showing the auction as well as informational scrolls including such vital news as sale scratches and messages; a new sound system; a renovated business center with six semi-private cubicles featuring Internet access; and a new veterinary information repository.

The repository, formerly located in a group of modular units in the parking lot, has changed dramatically. The new repository is centrally located within the sale pavilion and has 31 backlit screens for viewing X-rays.

Leg-weary inspection teams will be glad to know that Keeneland has expanded the restaurant and bar areas, providing more seating, and will offer a full breakfast buffet every morning while the sale is on.

The September sale runs daily through Sept. 26, except on Friday, Sept. 16, which will be dark. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Minimal damage to one Louisiana farm

With phone and power lines still down throughout the Gulf Coast area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, it's hard to come by information on the status of Thoroughbred operations. But the power came on late this week for at least one farm, and its operators say they feel fortunate that the damage in their area wasn't worse.

Hil Cat Farm is a training, breeding, and boarding operation in Franklinton, La., about 80 miles north of New Orleans. The property and neighboring farms mainly suffered wind damage, according to Catherine Lanaux, daughter of farm owner Hilda Lanaux.

"We have a few trees down, but other than that we're okay," she said, adding that they knew of no human or equine losses in the neighborhood. "There's damage everywhere around us, and we were without power for about a week. We will be cutting down trees for a while. It's mainly all wind damage around here, and a ton of people don't have power."

Lanaux said that most of the horse owners she knows in the area had gotten water service restored, easing the task of maintaining their animals.

Meanwhile, various organizations in the Thoroughbred industry have contributed to relief funds for the hurricane's victims. The Jockey Club Foundation announced Friday that it has contributed a total of $100,000 to relief funds established by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Churchill Downs Foundation.

The Jockey Club Foundation contributed $75,000 to the HBPA's fund for Thoroughbred industry participants and $25,000 to Churchill's, which will assist employees of Churchill's Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans.

The Kentucky Equine Education Project also announced it would make a $10,000 contribution to the United States Equestrian Federation's relief fund to aid horse owners affected by the storm.

Turf champion Mac Diarmida dead at 30

Mac Diarmida, 1978 champion turf horse, was euthanized on Sept. 9 because of the infirmities of old age. The Minnesota Mac horse was 30.

Mac Diarmida stood his entire career at the Hartigan family's Cashel Stud in Ocala, Fla., and was pensioned there in the early 1990's. In only two seasons at the track, he established himself as the champion of his division with eight stakes wins at 3. He retired at the end of 1978 having won 12 of 16 races and $503,184 in purses.

As a sire, Mac Diarmida got the stakes winners Furzy and Sir Mac, as well as the stakes-placed runners Max Banker, Timely Mac, and Aged in Oak.