Keeneland horse racing track
Oct 2019

Keeneland Race Course: Fall’s Hottest Track

by Jen Perkins in Features category

Del Mar and Saratoga may be over, but real racing fans know the fun is just beginning. As the leaves change color and the fall season begins to set in, it’s time to head back to Kentucky for some of the most anticipated racing of the year at Keeneland Race Course.

Keeneland Race Course is located in Lexington, Kentucky, home to racehorses, bourbon…and more racehorses.

Learn about what makes this town and track special in the racing world and plan a trip to visit the sacred ground of Thoroughbred racing. Can’t make it in person? Make a virtual trip to the track with a free account online to watch and wager on all the races at, or

Kentucky: Heart of Thoroughbred Racing…and Bourbon

Kentuckians are serious about two things: Thoroughbred racehorses and bourbon. Ask anyone in the state and they’ll tell you that there’s no such thing as bourbon produced outside of the state of Kentucky, and they likely feel the same way about their racehorses, also.

Even in a state known for racing, Lexington takes the cake as the horse capital of the country. Louisville, an hour’s drive away, may be the home of the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs and host of the Kentucky Derby, but the real horse town is nearby Lexington.

Visiting Lexington, Kentucky

If you live and breathe horses and want to see the best Thoroughbreds in the country, make a pilgrimage to Lexington, Kentucky. Located in the heart of Thoroughbred country, Lexington is home to dozens of Thoroughbred horse farms as well as Keeneland Race Course, a Thoroughbred race track that hosts two month-long premier meets and dozens of graded stakes. You could find yourself literally surrounded by horses while at Keeneland; the track is across the street from the Lexington airport, no stranger to horses flying in to compete in some of the country’s most important racing events.

A small city, Lexington is a good balance of small-town feel and big city activities. The town comes to life even more in April and October when it hosts the Keeneland race meet, but it is also home to the University of Kentucky and loyal college sports fans. Equally famous is the Bourbon Trail, connecting numerous producers of Kentucky’s favorite non-equine export.

Something in the water

By definition, bourbon must contain 51% corn and be stored in a container of charred oak. It also must be produced in the United States. Though there is no geographical restriction on location within the United States, 95% of bourbon produced in the country hails from a single state: Kentucky.

Why Kentucky? Tradition, in part. Locals also will suggest that the native underground limestone uniquely filters the water used to create the product, which would explain the number of quality distilleries throughout the state. Near Lexington alone, there are 17 traditional hallmark distilleries, and if you are looking for something off the beaten path, you can check out an ever-growing number of small craft distilleries, which currently outnumber the flagship brands.

What Do Thoroughbreds and Bourbon Have in Common?

The same limestone that is credited with creating the best bourbon in the country may also be connected to developing the best Thoroughbreds in the country.

Limestone can play a role in the development of young Thoroughbreds by providing an increased supply of calcium in the Kentucky bluegrass on which they graze in pastures. Perhaps more importantly, the layers of limestone create gently rolling hills in the pastures surrounding the city, allowing horses to gallop and run up and down hills to develop stronger bones.

Pair that with a nearby world-class racing facility and yearling sales pavilion and you have a hotbed of Thoroughbred breeding farms – over 150 to be exact.

Birthplace of Champions

The sheer number of Thoroughbred horse farms is overwhelming, but there are a number that house the biggest names in the breeding business, from American Pharoah at Ashford Coolmore, to California Chrome at Taylor Made, to Tapit at Gainesway Farm, the champion stallions that collect the highest stud fees can be found within a short drive of Keeneland Race Course.

You can visit the birthplaces and homes of past champions as well, some of whom are buried at their farms. Perhaps the most racehorse of the twentieth century, Secretariat, was laid to rest at Claiborne Farm in nearby Paris, Kentucky.

Keeneland Race Course

Keeneland Race Course is located in Lexington, Kentucky, the heart of Thoroughbred racing. The track was first opened in 1936 and features a main dirt track of 1 and 1/16 miles, slightly larger than most tracks, where a one-mile oval is standard. A seven and one-half furlong turf track sits inside the main track.

When you log in to your account at TVG, TwinSpires or Xpressbet and turn on the Keeneland signal for the first time, you may have a moment of déjà vu. If the track looks familiar to you, it was often used for filming scenes in the 2003 movie Seabiscuit as well as the 2010 release of Secretariat.

Keeneland Race Course is part of Keeneland Association, Inc. The other division is Keeneland Sales, which hosts sales of Thoroughbred racehorses, in case you want to get involved in the game at an entirely new level as an owner.

For handicappers and true horseplayers, Keeneland is unparalleled. The short meets and prestigious stakes create full fields of quality horses and attract some of the biggest names in the business to train and ride. Of the 65 commercial Thoroughbred tracks in the United States, the Horseplayers Association of North America ranks Keeneland in the coveted number one spot.

Keeneland is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The timing of Keeneland’s meets provide handicappers with excellent opportunities to see top horses training for the best races. The spring meet includes the Bluegrass Stakes, a Grade 1 event with enough qualifying points to send at least the top two finishers straight to the Kentucky Derby.

Road to the Breeders’ Cup

As good as the spring meet is, the fall meet is even better: Keeneland offers 18 stakes races, ten of which are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program. Each of the winners in the ten stakes earns a free berth to a race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

The Breeders’ Cup has been held at Keeneland as well. The track hosted a successful edition of the event in 2015, and the event will return to Lexington in 2020.

This fall, dress up, sip some bourbon, and play the full fields and great prices at Keeneland online for free as the racing world makes its final preparations for the biggest racing event of the year, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, held this year at Santa Anita on November 1 and 2.

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