Annually in October, racing returns to Kentucky’s storied Keeneland track that is now celebrating its 85th year. On this day of October 15th in 1936–a Friday–Keeneland launched its inaugural race meeting lasting nine days and premiered its tote board, the first of its kind utilized in the state of Kentucky.
The first race on Opening Day in 1936 was a 6-furlong allowance for 2-year-old fillies. Future Hall-of-Famer Woody Stephens who was in his very first year as a trainer had the sixth-place finisher in the race, a filly named Wise Dart. An estimated 8,000 fans attended Opening Day and wagered just under $75,000 on the seven-race card, while total fall meet attendance topped 25,000 and handle totaled $534,497. The track did not break even that first year, reporting in its financials a net loss of $3.47, but turned a profit of nearly $8,300 in 1937.
Tradition at Keeneland also extends to the favorite concessions. The Turf Catering Company of Chicago began operating all concessions at the track during the first racing season in 1936, a partnership that lasted nearly 80 years and through three generations of the company’s Wolken family until 2015.
Larry Wolken, the second generation of Turf Catering, told the Daily Racing Form that during the 1960s he ordered Keeneland’s Chef Joe Marlow to improve the recipe for the infamous burgoo, which wasn’t then at the level known today: “Make it good or drop it.” The rest, as they say, is history–who could ever imagine no Kentucky burgoo at Keeneland?
And what about the iconic bread pudding? The recipe has been tweaked throughout the years and Keeneland shares its recipe that specifically includes Sister Shubert rolls to provide the right texture and Maker’s Mark bourbon for the sauce. Turf Catering began serving Maker’s Mark in the track bars in 1958 and it ultimately became a integral part of the bread pudding official recipe, listed below. Enjoy!
KEENELAND BREAD PUDDING
8 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
8 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 cups Sister Shubert rolls, cut into 1 in. cubes
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon cinnamon
In large bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar, add eggs, vanilla and mix well. Mix in diced bread and soak for several hours.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees, spray a 13 x 9 x 2 in. baking pan.
Pour bread mixture into prepared pan, garnish top with raisins and cinnamon, make sure to press in the raisins.
Bake until firm in center, around 1.5 hours.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon Sauce
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup Maker’s Mark bourbon
Allow butter to soften to room temperature. Place in mixing bowl and add the powdered sugar, whip until well blended, slowly trickle the bourbon in.
Spread the thick sauce over the warm bread pudding.
You can also watch Keeneland’s former Executive Chef Ed Boutilier prepare the bread pudding here.