I make fun of “fly over” states all the time; however I can’t really talk, as I’m from a fly over state. Anna and I were both born and raised in Kentucky. I know what you are thinking: there is literally nothing there. True, some parts are not worth spending more than the five minutes you would need to gas up your car and grab a bag of Cheetos. However we do have our claims to fame, including by far the best college basketball team in the country– I am not biased, google it! Bourbon, which speaks for itself, no explanation needed! Finally horses, specifically horse racing. This is not a post about the Kentucky Derby, it’s about my favorite place in Kentucky, located just outside of Lexington, Keeneland Race Track.
Keeneland is one of the most beautiful horseracing tracks in the country, with much of its original 1930’s style architecture. Every April and October, they showcase live horseracing and in my opinion surpasses the beauty of the twin spires at Churchill Downs. For most Kentuckians, Keeneland is an event, so dresses and ties are the favored dress code. Just don’t wear a hat, as those are for the Derby. We will know you are from out of town even before hearing your accent. Everyone shows up early to tailgate, complete with cocktails and homemade southern style appetizers, before the first post at 12 noon.
Every time I return, nostalgia pulls. This is where I spent most of my Fridays when I attended the University of Kentucky, skipping that last afternoon class. As you enter you almost feel as if you are pulled back in time; the grounds have been perfectly maintained since the track was constructed in 1936. My first stop is always the “Sports Bar” on the second level, which is the prefect place to grab a Bloody Mary and make your bets for the first race.
The $5 general admission grants you access to most of the grounds and the free seating on the benches at the racetrack’s edge. It’s incredible to watch the horses fly by. To sit in the fancy box seats, located in the covered Grandstand, you better know someone. These boxed areas are pre-owned and are passed down though families from generation to generation. You can also purchase Grand Stand Reserved seating or make reservations in various dining and club venues. Its the bougie way to go and should be booked in advance, since reservations go fast.
I am a weirdly traditional person, so my day here always starts with a Bloody Mary first, and then moves on to bourbon, which pairs well with a beef frank with spicy mustard for lunch. However, if you are a Kentucky virgin, I highly recommend the burgoo, a delicious stew. I always end my day down near the long finish at the Equestrian Bar–this is where my father and his friends typically set up post. At this point I have spent all my money on bets and I can usually count on a cocktail or two from him, citing that I am unmarried and therefore still his responsibility.
I rarely win, mostly because I solely choose my horses based on their names. However this place is still magical to me, maybe because it transports me back to those treasured days I spent at university or maybe it’s because the sights and sounds are the feeling of home. For me it’s not about winning, it’s about the atmosphere: Keeneland embraces the true Kentucky spirit.
Check out Keeneland from one of their own’s prospective… my dear friend Isaac Hickman from the Broadcast Department at Keeneland created this video titled “Family and Friends”
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Keeneland Racetrack: 4201 Versailles Road, Lexington KY 40510 www.keeneland.com