Off to the Races — Keeneland meet marks official arrival of spring

Tailgating area enhanced with jumbo TV, wagering terminals

By Esther Marr
For BG Magazine

One of the most highly anticipated events of the season in Lexington — the Keeneland spring meet — returns April 5-26 with plenty of exciting, new features to attract racing enthusiasts and socialites alike to the historical Thoroughbred racetrack on Versailles Road.

Spring is even more beautiful at Keeneland. (Jonathan Palmer photo provided by Keeneland)
Spring is even more beautiful at Keeneland. (Jonathan Palmer photo provided by Keeneland)

Whether you’re entertaining out-of-town guests, planning a group outing with friends or family, or wanting a special day with your significant other, Keeneland offers something for everyone.

The 16-day spring meeting features racing Wednesdays through Sundays, with post time for the first race each day at 1:05 p.m. Fifteen of the spring’s 16 stakes are graded, highlighted by five Grade I events.

Anchoring the spring’s opening week are the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland on April 6, for 3-year-old fillies, and the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass on April 13, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, both signature preparation races on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks and Road to the Kentucky Derby, respectively.

Traditionally one of North America’s richest and most diverse racing programs, the Keeneland spring meet attracts the country’s top horses, trainers and jockeys.

“Keeneland is so special because the ‘best of the best’ from across the country converge here to compete against each other, and that makes for some very memorable racing moments,” said W.B. Rogers Beasley, Keeneland’s vice president of racing.

One of Keeneland’s most enticing new offerings in conjunction with the races this spring is its improved tailgating opportunities. Each Saturday during the meet, Keeneland fans will get the chance to take their tailgating experience to a whole new level.
Keeneland’s official tailgate lot, located adjacent to the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center, is being enhanced to include a variety of amenities to make one’s tailgating experience the perfect and easy way to spend a day at the races.

Some of the enhancements for the tailgate lot include:

— The addition of food trucks, which are relocating from their usual downtown Lexington locations for tailgate days. These popular, traveling food venues offer high-quality food choices.

— A jumbo television screen will be located in the tailgate lot so fans can watch all the live racing action.

— Wireless wagering and wagering terminals will be available for fans who wish to bet on live racing.

— Race day programs and general admission tickets will be available for purchase.

Special events planned

For those who want to take their racing experience inside the track, plenty of events are taking place this season that are sure to excite patrons of all ages. The fun-filled calendar features College Scholarship Day, Breakfast with the Works, Maker’s 46 Mile and Bottle Signing, Horses and Hope Pink Day, Military Appreciation Day, the Markey Cancer Concert and other events.

One of the most highly anticipated events of the season in Lexington — the Keeneland spring meet — returns April 5-26.
One of the most highly anticipated events of the season in Lexington — the Keeneland spring meet — returns April 5-26. (David Coyle photo provided by Keeneland)

On College Scholarship Day, April 5, full-time college students will receive free general admission and the chance to win one of 10 $1,000 scholarships after each race. Registration will begin at 11 a.m. in the College Zone, an area that offers live music, free snacks, photos and various prize drawings.

The first 1,000 students to register for a scholarship will receive a student-designed Keeneland College Scholarship Day t-shirt courtesy of Kennedy’s Book Store.

Keeneland’s Breakfast With the Works program, which takes place every Saturday morning during the race meeting, gives patrons the opportunity to experience the sunrise, sights and sounds of a busy morning at the racetrack.

Attendees are invited to watch the horses during their morning workouts and enjoy a southern-style breakfast buffet in the Equestrian Dining Room. Breakfast is from 7 to 8:30 a.m., followed by an 8:45 a.m. paddock demonstration related to the equine industry. Breakfast is $7; kids three and under are free.

During breakfast, there will also be a Kid’s Club from 7 to 9 a.m. with age appropriate activities and crafts. Tours of the track will be from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., followed by photo opportunities with Keeneland’s iconic bugler Bucky Sallee 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For those that want to improve their betting knowledge, a handicapping seminar will take place every Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

The Maker’s Mark Bottle Signing will be conducted trackside at 6:30 a.m. Friday, April 12, in conjunction with the Makers Mark Mile, an important race for older horses. Patrons may purchase the 2013 commemorative bottles at stores across the state and have them signed by Keeneland and Makers Mark officials. Each year, sales from the specialty bottle support people and entities that have a positive impact on Kentucky.

Also that day, the Keeneland Gift Shop will have a Maker’s Mark Dipping Station, where guests can dip special Keeneland and Maker’s Mark merchandise.

Patrons are encouraged to wear pink April 14, Keeneland’s Horses and Hope Pink Day, which will benefit First Lady Jane Beshear’s breast cancer awareness program Horses and Hope. Beshear formed Horses and Hope to educate, improve awareness and offer screenings for the “often overlooked” members of Kentucky’s horse industry.

On April 21, Military Appreciation Day, all active and inactive members of the military, including family members, will receive free general admission with a military ID at any pass gate. The North Terrace will be transformed into Military Family Zone with free food and activities.

The closing day of the spring meet, April 26, will feature the Concert on the Lawn. Patrons are invited to stay after the races to enjoy live music benefiting the Markey Cancer Foundation on the clubhouse lawn with a special, to-be-announced headliner at 7:30 p.m.

Other events taking place during the 2013 Keeneland spring meet include: a visit from the Budweiser Clydesdales on April 17; the Christine A. Moore Millinery Trunk Show at the Keeneland Gift Shop, April 12-15 (the perfect opportunity to find a hat for the Kentucky Derby); Peter Williams book signing April 12-13 (author of “Peter Williams’ Retrospective: Paintings and People Dear to Me”); and handicapping contests April 10 and 17.

You can find more information at Keeneland.com or find the track on Facebook and Twitter.

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