The increasing threat from the novel coronavirus didn’t keep a group of Michigan friends away from the 14th edition of Breakfast at the Gallops.

They came to the Aiken Training Track on Friday morning to see a 2-year-old colt they own that is trained by Cary Frommer.

“We’re not afraid of a virus,” said Karen Kienbaum. “No virus is going to stop us, so here we are.”

Kienbaum and her pals call themselves the Mitten Mates because Michigan is shaped like a glove with two sections – one for the fingers and the other for the thumb.

“I fell in love with a foal at Valley View Farm in Versailles, Kentucky,” Kienbaum said. “I would go see him every few months with my husband, and he just struck a note with us. I realized I couldn’t afford to buy a thoroughbred – my first one – all by myself, so I found some friends in Michigan and we put together a little consortium.”

Kienbaum said five of the 10 Mitten Mates and her sister were at Breakfast at the Gallops.

Before Friday, Mitten Mate Francine Pegues had only seen photos of the colt, whose sire (father) is 2008 Aiken-trained Horse of the Year Midshipman.

“That’s him there on the inside,” said Pegues as the colt walked beside another horse on the Training Track. “He’s beautiful.”

Breakfast at the Gallops is a fundraiser for the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.

On the menu were biscuits and croissants that ticket holders could stuff with ham, sausage, bacon and or cheese.

While they dined, horses galloped and breezed over the Training Track on the eve of the 78th Aiken Trials, which will kick off the 51st Aiken Triple Crown.

Other Triple Crown events are the Aiken Spring Steeplechase on March 21 and Pacers & Polo on March 28.

Breakfast at the Gallops’ guest speaker was Charlsie Cantey, whose name was added last year to the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in New York.

A female broadcasting pioneer in the Sport of Kings, Cantey worked for ESPN, ABC Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and the USA Network.

“Aiken is such a special town,” said Cantey, who spoke to the crowd from the Cot Campbell Clocker’s Stand. “It gives me chills to stand here and look at this track and think of who has trained here and who brought the horses here.”

Cantey mentioned champion thoroughbreds such as Kelso and Shuvee along with trainers Woody Stephens, Mack Miller, Jim Maloney and Mike Freeman. She also talked about her career in television and her mentor, Frank Wright.

Approximately 160 people attended Breakfast at the Gallops. That estimated figure was up a little bit from last year, said Samantha Radford, recreation manager for the City of Aiken’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

The Training Track’s chairman, Chad Ingram, and president, Bill Gutfarb, joined Breakfast at the Gallops spectators on the clocker’s stand.

“We’re glad to be able to do something to support them (Aiken’s Hall of Fame and Museum) and their efforts,” Ingram said, “This also brings out people to see the horses in a setting that is less crowded and more intimate (than on the day of the Aiken Trials). And hopefully, it gets them excited about the Trials.”

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.