Meeting: Offering two of the most prestigious meets in the country, rivaled only by Saratoga and Del Mar during the summer, Keeneland runs a 15-day meet in April and a 17-day meet in October. The spring meet is headlined by the Grade 2, $1 million Blue Grass Derby, the track’s local prep for the Kentucky Derby, and is accompanied by a few Grade 1 events, including the Ashland, the Jenny Wiley, and the Maker’s 46 Mile. The fall meet is anchored by the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, and also includes the Grade 1 Alcibiades, Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, Grade 1 First Lady, Grade 1 Spinster and Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Many other graded stakes buttress both meets, which routinely display the very best of American racing.
History: One of the most iconic tracks in the country, Keeneland originated as a nonprofit racing-auction entity on farmland west of Lexington, KY. The first thoroughbred meet was conducted in 1936 in April and October — a format that continues to this day. Located right in the heart of horse country in Kentucky, it has been a stalwart of American racing ever since its inception, and a strict adherent to racing traditions. It was the last track in North America to broadcast race calls over its public-address system, which it finally did in 1997, and it did not have a trackside winner’s circle until 1984, when it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II would be visiting the track. It was in advance of this same visit that Keeneland installed a turf course and created the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, a race that is still run today. Keeneland’s dirt main track was replaced by a synthetic surface in 2006, but then switched back to dirt in 2014. In 2015, Keeneland hosted the Breeders’ Cup for the first time, and the event was seen as an enormous success. That year, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the Breeders’ Cup Classic to complete the unofficial “Grand Slam.” The track was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Facilities: Keeneland features beautifully landscaped grounds that are open to the public every day. The track features a magnificent grandstand with plenty of dining options and more exclusive areas from which to view the races. It also has a horse auction complex on the premises, with three major sales held throughout the year, and a library that is one of the world’s largest repositories of information related to the Thoroughbred.