Located 6 miles from Lexington, KY is Keeneland – a horse racing track that only opens for live racing two months out of the year.
Keeneland is a National Historic Landmark. It’s a beautiful park that has always played and continues to play a substantial role in Thoroughbred racing and breeding.
Originally being from Cincinnati (only 90 minutes from Lexington), I’ve had the pleasure to visit Keeneland a few times now. My dad loves heading to the races and you can often find him betting on horse races online. While I don’t have the same gambling spirit, I’ll never turn down the chance to go to Keeneland.
Last Saturday, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes took place at Keeneland. This is one of the larger prep races for the more widely known Kentucky Derby.
A friend of our family organized a bus (round) trip to head down to Keeneland in the morning from Cincinnati a few months in advance. One of my best friends from Denver was flying into Cincy for it, so I thought – if she’s going home from 1,000+ miles, I can easily make the 300 mile journey home for this fun event.
I took the Friday before off work, and drove home that Thursday. It was nice to have some family time before I was off to the races!
I know if you don’t live too close to Lexington, KY, chances are you’ve never heard of Keeneland and have no desire to check it out. But, I’m here today to explain why you should!
Here are my top 5 reasons to visit Keeneland:
1. Quality Time with Friends
Are you sick of doing the same thing over and over with your friends? Heading down to Keeneland was a good change of pace from bar and restaurant hopping for me. It was a different activity that I got to enjoy with those closest to me. Plus, the bus ride down to Keeneland from Cincinnati gave us plenty of time to catch up (since none of us really live in the same city anymore). Drinking beers and playing games with my friends on the bus was just the quality time I needed. And, of course, the fun didn’t stop there! Once you arrive to Keeneland, you can tailgate or head into the park to snag a good seat to watch the races. We opted for the first choice, naturally. We took tons of photos and really enjoyed each other’s company on this beautiful, Spring day.
2. Learn How to Place Bets/Win Big $
I know nothing about placing bets. Zero. Zilch. Which is probably why I didn’t win any money. But, the chance is there! Since my dad is a veteran to horse racing, he gave advice on which horses to bet on. I usually just go with the most fun name. Since there were 11 total races this particular day, I didn’t bet on all of them. The ones I did put money on were super exciting. It gives you something to stand up and cheer loud for. I did learn some new strategies when it comes to betting, so I can be ready for next time. (Side tip: You can increase your chances of winning by betting on horses to win, place or show – meaning they can come in 1st, 2nd or 3rd. That’s about all I got).
3. Meet the Horses
If you’re an animal lover like me, you’ll walk around until you find the stables, where they keep those big, beautiful, athletic animals. We left right after the final race ended and my friend and I had our hearts set on finding the horses. The stables were pretty easy to spot, and we just walked right in and started chatting with the stable manager. He let us pet the horses and feed them mints. They were such gentle giants. It totally made me want to get into horseback riding. Look how pretty they are!
4. The Designated Driver
Heading to Keeneland is a marathon, not a sprint. It can certainly be a long day, and the beer is usually flowing. A bus trip to Keeneland is the way to go. You don’t have to worry about who’s driving, and you can fit SO many people on a coach bus. Our group paid $70 each a person, which included the bus (+ tip for the DD), a general admission ticket to Keeneland, food and mimosas to start. Not too shabby. So hire a driver for your bus trip and feel free to get as crazy as you’d like!
5. Visit the Queen City
Since you’re only going to be 90 minutes from my hometown of Cincinnati, it’s worth the short drive to visit! Of course I’m going to sit here and tell you that Cincinnati is an awesome city – but only because it is. They’ve done a lot in the downtown area and neighboring areas to build it up. There’s a cute little park along the Ohio River (pictured below), two pro sport stadiums, tons of bar and restaurant options, etc. Be sure to venture over to OTR (Over-The-Rhine) to have a picnic in Washington Park!
Have you been to the races lately? Comment below!