Keeneland plans monthlong festival to coincide with 2015 Breeders' Cup

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2014 

The 13-horse field broke from the starting gate in the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. Room Service sat last and Rosalind 10th at the half-mile mark before surging to finish in a dead heat.

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LOUISVILLE — Keeneland Race Course plans to hold a monthlong festival next year to kick off its hosting of the 2015 Breeders' Cup World Championships.

Vince Gabbert, vice president and chief operating officer for the Keeneland Association, told county officials from across the state Friday that the festival will involve concerts, hospitality tents and other entertainment still in the planning stages.

Keeneland "will elevate the style of the event," he said.

Speaking at the 28th annual summer convention of Kentucky county judge executives, magistrates and commissioners, Gabbert said Keeneland will not be able to stage the biggest Breeders' Cup because of its small size compared to tracks like Churchill Downs in Louisville and Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

"But we want to put on a better event. We maybe can't handle 60,000 in attendance, but we will do 35,000 well."

That can be achieved with involvement from all of Central Kentucky and the entire state, Gabbert said.

"We are very comfortable we can put it together," he said. "We'll do a lot in downtown Lexington, but whether it's Winchester, Richmond, Versailles, Danville, or wherever else, we want to include the entire region in the events."

All 1,100 acres of Keeneland's campus will be used for the Cup, Gabbert said. The area will be filled with hospitality chalets "that will be as nice as any hotel you can go into anywhere in the world."

He said Keeneland also would like to promote and involve all areas of the state for the international audience.

Unlike the World Equestrian Games that the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington hosted in 2010, Keeneland, a private, for-profit corporation, will not be seeking local and state government funding for infrastructure like roads and water lines, Gabbert said.

With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010, Alltech presented a "Fortnight Festival," a series of entertainment events throughout the state.

In conjunction with the Games, the city of Lexington hosted a free 17-day festival featuring food and various entertainment.

Keeneland learned last month that it will be the site on Oct. 30 and 31 next year of what Gabbert called "the World Series of Championship Racing."

See a gallery of the announcement

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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