Tour Bluegrass horse farms, or spend a day at the races
By Alicia Wincze | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexington offers a plethora of chances to get to know its signature animals from every angle. (Click here for a list of horse-farm tours.)
If one wants to witness the state's famed Thoroughbreds in action, Keeneland Race Course runs a meet in April and in October but is open year-round for training and simulcast betting. Not only can one get a stirring view of morning workouts during training hours, from 6 to 10 a.m., but Keenelandís stable area is unique in that it is open to the public. Visitors, however, must be respectful of the horses and their caretakers.
Of course, no trip to the Bluegrass State would be complete without visiting Louisville's Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Derby Museum (in the video below, experience Derby Day 2009).
The Louisville track is a little over an hour away from Lexington and hosts spring and fall meets. Fans can also pay their respects to the late 2006 Derby winner, Barbaro, and the 2008 Derby runner-up, Eight Belles, as their ashes are interred on site at the Kentucky Derby Museum on site.
Thoroughbreds are the state's glamour breed, but fans of standardbreds can get their fix with a trip to Lexington's The Red Mile, the second-oldest harness track in the world. The Red Mile hosts its Standardbred meet from the end of July through the first weekend of October and — for the most impatient of sports fans — the track also holds a two-day quarter horse meet in mid-July where you can witness "America's fastest athlete" compete in sprints that often clock in under 30 seconds.
Whether you are a racing fan or simply an animal lover, getting a hands-on experience with horses is one to savor.
The Kentucky Horse Park is a prime place to do just that. It offers several demonstrations daily, including a parade of breeds, as well as the Hall of Champions, home to two-time Horse of the Year Cigar and 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. And if you haven't heard, the horse park is also playing host to a little event known as the 2010 World Equestrian Games from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10.
If you want to support a good cause while literally rubbing noses with these animals, Old Friends, a retirement facility for former racehorses, is your spot. Based at Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown, Old Friends offers free tours — reservations are required, and donations are much appreciated — and its residents include such stars as 1988 turf champion Sunshine Forever.
Kentucky is home to some of the most famous horse farms in the world and, with a little planning and diligence, some will let you get a glimpse into their world. Three Chimneys Farm, home of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and 2008 Derby champ Big Brown, offers tours several days a week year-round. Saturday tours are booked through Horse Capital Tours. If you want to get in during Derby Week, you will need to book a space at least six months in advance.
WinStar Farm, owner of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, offers public tours at 1 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.Laneís End Farm, which stands former Horse of the Year and leading sire A.P. Indy, offers free tours on Thursdays during the breeding off-season (July to January) while Ashford Stud and Claiborne Farm also give tours by appointment. Many farms also host open house events several times a year that are open to breeders and the public.
Too shy to call the farms yourself? Several companies offer tours with stops at several farms that might not otherwise be open for visitors (below).
You've watched horses run, scratched them behind their ears and gotten a look into their homes. The next step is getting in the saddle yourself.
Several rental places such as Whispering Woods Riding Stable offer trail rides and pony rides suitable for beginners, as does the Kentucky Horse Park.
For those seeking more than the occasional jaunt through the woods, you can sign up for lessons at facilities such as Punchestown Stable , where beginners through advanced riders can get lessons.
These companies offer group tours:
- Blue Grass Tours: 1-800-755-6956 or (859) 252-5744.
- D.W. Guided Tours: (859) 361-4390.
- Horse Farms Tours Inc.: 1-800-976-1034 or (859) 268-2906.
- Kentucky Horse Tours: (859) 312-1124.
- Lexington Connection Inc.: (859) 269-4040.
- Lexington in Touch Inc.: (859) 224-4226.
- Thoroughbred Heritage Tours: 1-800-808-9533 or (859) 260-8687.
- Unique Horse Farm Tours: 1-800-678-8813 or (859) 233-4303.
The following companies offer private, customized tours: