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Attendees gather trackside at Keeneland. / Image courtesy of Catherine Viox // Published: 4.12.19

Five Things You Must Do at the Spring Meet at Keeneland

Horse racing has been a longstanding tradition in Kentucky. A sport dripping with history, fashion, and pageantry attracts many people, and the crowd that gathers every spring and fall at Keeneland to celebrate is no different.

“Keeneland has been a tradition since 1936 and was started by a group of horsemen to perpetuate the finest traditions of the sport,” said Christa Marrillia, Chief Marketing Officer for Keeneland. “For the past +80 years, we have given back to the industry. Everything made is invested back into the community and the industry.”

Between the young and old, there is just something about strolling along in your best outfit, perhaps a bow tie or a large, bold fascinator with ribbons and lace, with a mint julep in your hand...and, if you’re lucky, you may be strolling with a little more money than what you came with. All of this is just an hour and a half from Cincinnati.

There are very few experiences nowadays where you can see people from all walks of life, dressed to the nines, enjoying a day at the races, but Keeneland takes that experience very seriously.

“Our fans love the tradition and the pageantry of a day at the races. It’s an immersive experience surrounded by beauty, first-class hospitality and of course spectacular racing. Spring and fall meets create a picturesque setting that has stood still in time,” said Marrillia. “The founders wanted this model race track that celebrates the finest traditions of the sport and we take that seriously. We are mindful of tradition and keep the focus to be on the racing and the amazing experience. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by the smiling faces our amazing guest services employees in their iconic green jackets. We take pride in employing the most wonderful people and we strive to make sure you have a spectacular day.”

According to Marrillia, the biannual meets attract around 250,000 attendees, and besides the races, there are several special events to explore as well.

Need something family-friendly? Marrillia has the perfect event for you. “Check out Sunrise trackside. This event is every Saturday morning during the race meet. While horses are working out, you can enjoy breakfast trackside, free activities for the kids, listen to the expert commentary, see what’s happening on the race track, and even catch an educational paddock demonstration,” said Marrillia. “There is nothing like having a cup of coffee and watching the beautiful horses during their morning workouts.”

Maybe you’d like a tour? Keeneland offers new tours this year that you can book online. These tours explore race day operations, the barns, and the jockey’s quarters. There is also an “Owner’s Experience” tour that walks you through the experience of being an owner of one of the horses in the race. “You walk through the paddock, get close to the jockeys, and you can even watch the race from the Winners Circle.” Both of these tours can be booked through their website.

With so many things to experience at Keeneland, where do you start? Marrillia says there are five things a Keeneland-goer must do:

  1. Download the app before you come. It’s free and it has so many tools to make your day a little easier, from learning about special events to how to wager. Betting can be intimidating, so the tools on the app simplify that process. An included betting calculator helps you figure out what to say and what it costs at the window. It also gives you a glimpse into what the experts are picking.

  2. Eat some food! Try the two most popular items; the bread pudding, a blend of Maker’s Mark bourbon, cinnamon and vanilla create a rich, aromatic sauce on this classic dessert, and the Burgoo, a hearty stew of beef, potatoes, and vegetables. It’s all a part of the experienceand quite delicious.

  3. Talk to “Betologist”. These helpful bet-savvy staff members where an iconic uniform with a bow tie and retro fedora. They’re knowledgeable and can help you with everything from basic bets to advanced wagers.

  4. Check out the hill tailgating area. On Fridays and Saturdays there is live music and food trucks in the tailgating area. It’s a great way to start the race. There are also shuttles back and forth to the entrance.

  5. Get close to the horses and jockeys on rail or in the paddock. You have the opportunity to get close to the athletes and the action. Immerse yourself!

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Don’t miss Keeneland’s Spring Meet, from now until April 26. For more information on events, ticket prices and more, click here.