There is something about the outside of a horse
that is good for the inside of a man.
Although being on the National Register of Historic Places is an accomplishment unto itself, picturesque Keeneland is best known for some of the finest thoroughbred racing in the world. For three weeks every April and October, international competitors migrate to Lexington, using the Spring and Fall race meets to prep for the Kentucky Derby and the Breeder’s Cup, respectively. Ranked as a top race track in North America, surprisingly little has changed with Keeneland’s facade since its inception in 1936. The popular movie Seabiscuit was partially filmed at Keeneland for this very reason and a visit to the grounds gives a vintage aesthetic sure to please.
Beyond live and simulcast racing, Keeneland hosts four equine sales every year, with the September Yearling Sale being the largest in the world. The Keeneland sales have produced several Derby and graded stakes winners over the years and have broken as many sales price records. It is not uncommon for these elite horses to sell for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The world’s record price for a broodmare prospect, $9 million, still stands from a Keeneland November sale in 2005.
During the sales and meets, Keeneland can be a crowded place where distractions abound and the natural beauty which makes Keeneland special can be easily overlooked. For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, I suggest visiting this landmark at dawn, when the stables are beginning to come to life and the horses are being brought out of their stalls to begin their day.
For the true horse aficionado, you will want to head over to the track where the trainers and horses are going through their morning workouts. Nothing quite compares to the thrill of being up to the rail, watching a horse pass by and being close enough to hear its rhythmic breathing syncing with its thunderous gallop.
And where else could you find a more photogenic subject?
As you meander around the deserted grounds, you can fully appreciate the depth of charm that Keeneland has to offer. From the climbing ivy to the manicured hedges, the landscaping envelopes you in traditional Kentucky.
Now that the sun is shining and you’ve walked up an appetite, head on over to the Track Kitchen where you may bump into your favorite jockey or spy a horse industry celebrity. The ladies there serve up Southern staples such as gravy & biscuits, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon.
At the very least, you’ll get to dine under a montage of equine royalty as the photos of winning horses grace the walls.
The apparent lure of Keeneland may be racing, but the quiet solitude of Keeneland at dawn will give you a unique perspective into the behind the scenes life of this Fayette County treasure. The peaceful beauty of exploring minus the chaos of the crowds is definitely worth an early rise. Your daybreak adventure is just an alarm clock away…
For additional photos, please visit our Facebook album “Fayette County.”
Keeneland Association, Inc.
4201 Versailles Road
Telephone: (859) 254-3412
Toll Free: (800) 456-3412