It’s a crisp, fall afternoon. You’re dressed to the nines and sipping a Maker’s Mark cocktail, standing just feet away from the greatest Thoroughbreds in the entire world. Welcome to Keeneland.
You could say the very pulse of Lexington, KY comes from the beat of galloping horses around Keeneland Race Course. It’s only fitting that it resides in what is debated—neigh, the official—horse capital of the world.
If you’ve never been to Keeneland before, you're in for a treat. People who have been there will agree that not even an incredible photo of the magical estate compares to seeing it in person. From taking in the scenic, perfectly-kept landscape covering 1,200 acres of pristine farmland, to watching the sea of pastel-garbed visitors gathering in the Paddock to view the horses before they race... calling the place picturesque doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
“It’s a place to show off,” says Amy Owens, Communications Associate at the track. When asked why she thinks people enjoy visiting this track so much, she replied frankly, “Well, it’s just drop-dead gorgeous. It’s just the highest quality of everything.” From the amazing food, drinks, and overall atmosphere, high-quality is a good way to sum it up.
Keeneland was founded in 1936, and has thrived as a model race track ever since. It's also the world’s leading Thoroughbred auction house, where more champion horses are sold compared to any other organization. The park holds four horse sales yearly where buyers from at least 50 countries and six continents participate in buying and selling only the best horses in the industry.
Aside from massive horse sales, Keeneland hosts live horse racing twice a year. The Spring Meet is held in April and the Fall Meet is held in October. During each seasonal meet, the park hosts over 200,000 visitors who come out to cheer for the horses they bet on in person. Combined season attendance adds up to nearly half a million people who visit for just a total of 32 days out of the year. That’s a lot of hoof traffic if you ask me.
Before visiting, check out the website for dress codes depending on which area you want to visit. You can get away with denim and casual-wear with general admission. (Though, why would you want to?) No matter where you want to enjoy the race, it's always better to overdress if you want to impress . Then you’ll be all set to tailgate out in the parking fields, bet on your favorite horse (based on how clever the horse’s name is), watch the race from the Grandstand, or simply take in the elegant, historic charm of Keeneland.
What some people may find surprising is that it's open to the public every day of the year, not just during the meets. Guests are welcome to jog around the grounds, watch the horses graze, or just relax in the serene environment that the property unceasingly provides. People can also hold events like weddings, parties, and fundraisers there, as well.
And when it comes to fundraisers, Keeneland has always had a philanthropic mission to support its Central Kentucky community and other various causes. Events like Military Day at the Races, Make-a-Wish Day, and College Scholarship Day are just a few events that they put on to support these organizations. I donate money to Keeneland annually, as well, when the horses I bet on don’t win. I like to think of it as my contribution to keeping the grounds so beautiful.
Keeneland always has been, and continues to be, a special place that truly exemplifies the significance of keeping a Kentucky tradition alive. If you want to be a part of the tradition, plan a day-trip down to Lexington and experience all the beauty for yourself.
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Keeneland is located at 4201 Versailles Road, Lexington, KY (40510)