In the world of thoroughbred racing and breeding, one word is synonymous with being the best: Keeneland. Founded in 1936 and now operated by the Keeneland Association, this lush equestrian mecca includes a beautiful racecourse, state of the art Thoroughbred horse racing facility and sales complex.
Nestled in Lexington, in the heart of the Bluegrass state, Keeneland has been consistently ranked among the top tracks, and was even designated as a National Historic Landmark. With its exquisitely manicured grounds, Keeneland was always intended to be a place where magic is born. The vision for the facility came to life with a committee of individuals who wanted to create a race track that would serve as a way to support the community as well as carry on Kentucky’s esteemed Thoroughbred tradition.
The site, owned by highly respected Thoroughbred trainer Jack Keene, originally included private tracks, as well as a roadway and a significant amount of land to allow for future growth and expansion. The land had been in Keene’s family since before the inaugural year of Kentucky’s statehood in 1792.
More than 8,000 fans attended the festivities of Keeneland’s opening day. In April 2016, Keeneland experienced record-setting attendance numbers, with more than 260,000 visitors for the sixteen-day season. While the facilities may have been upgraded and expanded over the past eight decades to accommodate such incredible crowds, there are some things about Keeneland that remain the same.
As a leader in the industry, the organization is known for setting standards in racing safety, as well as holding fast to a mission that adheres to its founders’ integrity and vision for the future of the sport.
Twice a year, in April and October, the top trainers, jockeys and Thoroughbred owners gather to compete at Keeneland for not only the glory that a Keeneland victory brings, but also some of the nation’s richest purse money. In 2015, gross track purses exceeded $20 million (according to Keeneland’s own data). This represents only a portion of the economic impact that horses have in Kentucky, which is approximately $3 billion (according to research from the University of Kentucky).
The Fall Meet features nine graded stakes, many of which will launch the success of horses to the Breeders’ Cup. Keeneland has always attracted a diverse group of spectators and equestrian enthusiasts. One such noteworthy guest at Keeneland was Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to America in 1984.
Throughout its celebrated history, Keeneland has brokered the sales of more champions and stakes winners than any other Thoroughbred auction house. This includes 19 Kentucky Derby winners, 21 Preakness winners, and 18 Belmont winners.
Planning your own Keeneland adventure? There are certain things not to be missed. A meal at the Keeneland Club is definitely one of these, although this private organization does require membership. For individuals seeking a certain VIP experience, Keeneland offers exclusive suites that overlook the track. Once you arrive in your private suite, you’ll enjoy dining from a custom menu and service from a private staff.
Another option for your luxury Keeneland getaway is Keene Place, a new venue in one of Keeneland’s oldest buildings. An elegant historic home, Keene Place offers pristine interiors and a patio with breathtaking views, plus your own private entrance to Keeneland.
Whether you opt for a fall excursion to Keeneland in October, when the Bluegrass state is clothed in the special beauty of autumn, or you decide to visit Keeneland in April during the earth’s glorious spring rebirth, a trip to Keeneland is certain to be something you won’t forget.