LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 12, 2016) – Former trainer Steve Penrod, who works in Keeneland’s Racing Office during the Spring and Fall Meets, can say what few others can.
“I shook the hand of the queen,” he said while recalling winning the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes in 1984 as the trainer of Cherry Valley Farm’s Sintra. Queen Elizabeth attended the inaugural running of the $100,000 race named in her honor, now a Grade 1, $500,000 race for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf that is presented by Lane’s End. The stakes will be run Saturday.
When Sintra won the QE II, the race was run on dirt because Keeneland did not have a turf course. That would come a year later.
Penrod remembers the security staffs that screened anyone who would be near Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland. His future wife, Lynn, was among those denied access.
“We were not married at the time, and she was not allowed to come in the Saddling Paddock,” he said. “If we had been married, she would have been allowed.”
The queen’s Keeneland visit included watching a mock sale of a Thoroughbred in the Sales Pavilion and meeting members of the jockey colony. Those who would meet the queen were advised of proper procedures.
“We were advised of the protocol beforehand,” Penrod said. “Don’t offer your hand until she offers hers and don’t speak until you are spoken to. That is what I remember – those preparations.”
Prior to the queen’s visit, Keeneland held most post-race winning ceremonies on the track; per the wishes of her security team, Keeneland built the Winner’s Circle for the trophy presentation. That is where Penrod had his moment with royalty.
“She was very cordial and asked me a couple of questions,” he said. “It is kind of vague now about what exactly we said but I do remember she was very cordial.”
Penrod, whose successful training career included handling a division for Claiborne Farm, retired from training in 2011. He also works seasonally in Churchill Downs’ racing office and spends winters in Aiken, S.C.