I had a chance to go on one of the behind-the-scenes tours that Keeneland Race Track offered leading up to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. Oddly enough, it’s never been held at Keeneland before, even though Keeneland is one of the world’s premier Thoroughbred race tracks and auction houses.
Keeneland has been ranked #1 of the top ten race tracks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
My tour took place on a rainy September morning. I was feeling a bit guilty that I’d lived in the Bluegrass for more than a year and hadn’t gotten anywhere near the Thoroughbreds that made the region famous. We were there early enough to see the horses coming through the paddock area and working out on the very muddy dirt track. Our tour included VIP areas where normally you’d be turned away if you didn’t pass dress inspection. Details about Keeneland’s race day dress code are available in the FAQs section of their website. Don’t plan to wear jeans, shorts or tennis shoes unless you’re in the cheap seats! Tradition rules at Keeneland.
After the tour, I checked out the Track Kitchen, hoping to get breakfast. It’s where track workers, jockeys, trainers and owners eat on site and online reviews are universally positive. Unfortunately, they’d finished serving breakfast, so I’ll have to try it on another visit.
Even if you don’t make it to Keeneland during racing season, be sure to treat yourself to a drive through the beautifully maintained property, which is always open to the public. Tours are available year-round. You can walk the grounds of Keene Place, the 1805 Keen (the original spelling) family home where General Lafayette once stayed. There is also a walled family cemetery nearby. The recently restored mansion is now an event space. Also free and open to the public, Keeneland Library is a “public research/reference library that is one of the world’s largest repositories of information related to the Thoroughbred.”