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Day Tripping: Keeneland

Heed the call to the post and head to Lexington for Keeneland’s spring race meet, which runs April 4–25. Never been? We’ve got you covered with a short guide to experiencing this Kentucky mainstay.

Tailgating is a tradition bordering on a requirement for the full Keeneland experience: They even have a lot specifically designed for it. “The Hill,” as it’s called, comes with a free shuttle to the grandstand—plus food trucks, live music, and more on in-season Fridays and Saturdays. But every racing day visitors can provide their own tailgating supplies to help get in the spirit.

Once inside, you can pick your vantage point. General admission ($5) lets you down on the field near the track, so arrive early to get a good spot (and with a lawnchair if you want to sit). For a few dollars more, reserve a seat in the grandstand—but do so in advance, as they often sell out. Several dining areas overlooking the track also take reservations, if spectating with a full spread is more your style.

Spend some time around the paddock to watch the horses warm up before taking to the track; it’s a great place to pick your favorite for the race, and to get a closer view of the beauty and athleticism of the Thoroughbreds. And as far as making sense of all the numbers and symbols on the betting sheet, here’s some help.

Even if you pass on placing bets, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the day and to celebrate one of Kentucky’s other great institutions—bourbon. Just grab a Keeneland Breeze, made from Maker’s Mark, orange liquor, ginger ale, and fresh orange juice, and settle in to enjoy the people watching (and the ponies).

Gates open at 11 am, the post time for the first race is 1:05 pm, and subsequent races run roughly every 30 minutes—usually nine each day, Wednesday through Sunday. Check their calendar for a detailed schedule of events. If you can’t make it before this racing meet wraps up (and don’t want to wait until October), visitors are still welcome year-round. Make your way around the grounds with this self-guided tour—or request a guide if you’re taking a nonprofit, industry, or educational group.

4201 Versailles Rd., Lexington, (859) 254-3412, keeneland.com

All photographs courtesy Keeneland.