Keeneland is known worldwide for its state-of-the-art horse-racing facilities and meticulously kept grounds. What is less known is the attention to detail the staff takes to make each trip to Keeneland a family-friendly affair.
Julie Balog, director of communications, said that it is part of Keeneland's mission to cultivate a generation of new fans. This is accomplished through including children in as many activities around the grounds as possible during spring and fall meets.
Families with small children might find Sunday afternoons most enjoyable at Keeneland, Balog said, because the smaller crowds make navigating strollers and keeping tabs on small children more manageable and enjoyable.
Keeneland welcomes families with children of all ages as the majority of Keeneland's grounds and facilities are family friendly. But always, when in doubt, ask permission, she said.
Here is a list of kid-friendly activities Keeneland offers this spring during its meet, which runs through April 27.
Kids Club and Buckles
Kids Club is new. Young fans 12 and younger can sign up for a free membership and will receive a personalized membership pass, birthday card from Kids Club mascot Buckles, a Keeneland coloring book and crayons, discounts, invitations to exclusive Kids Club events and more.
Register online at Keeneland.com or Saturdays during the meet at Breakfast with the Works.
Breakfast with the Works
From 7 to 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays during the meet, Keeneland offers a family-friendly breakfast option. The Equestrian Dining Room welcomes hungry fans with a Kentucky breakfast for $7. Kids 3 and younger eat free.
On a typical Saturday, more than 1,000 people will eat breakfast at the track, Balog said. Reservations are neither needed nor taken.
During breakfast kids can:
■ Watch the Thoroughbreds get their morning workout before the big race.
■ Learn more about horse racing with ongoing trackside commentary.
■ Enjoy free activities: have their face painted; get their photo taken in mini jockey silks (photos ready to take home that day); pin the tail on the donkey; and magic demonstrations.
A Breakfast with the Works purchase is not necessary to participate in activities.
Saturdays after breakfast
The paddock area is bustling with activity after breakfast. Depending on the day, kids can meet and interact with professionals in the horse industry: equine dentists, blacksmiths and horse farm owners. These industry professionals offer free demonstrations and a question-and-answer time.
From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., children will be able to meet a true Keeneland icon: Buckey the Bugler. Buckey will be at the Winners Circle for an hourlong photo opportunity and meet-and-greet. Additionally, photos will be uploaded to Facebook where fans can tag themselves for friends and family to see.
From 12:05 to 12:25 p.m., jockeys are in the paddock area answering questions and meeting fans.
Around the grounds
Here are a few things to remember while at Keeneland.
■ Horses always have the right of way. Children should stay close to an adult at all times and not use sudden movements (running, rough play, etc.), which can easily spook the young horses.
■ The barn area is open to the public. Families are asked to not bring strollers into the barn area or use flash photography.
■ The North Terrace is a perfect location for families to spread out and enjoy the races. Keeneland welcomes families to bring blankets or lawn chairs, but please refrain from bringing outside food or drink.
■ The educational aspect of horse racing and the history of Keeneland are now at fans' fingertips. With smartphones, kids will love hunting around the property for QR codes (those square barcodes popping up everywhere nowadays). Just scanning the code with your phone will take you directly to a specific Web page. QR codes can be found at the South Gate, Winners Circle and Jockey Garden, and will give kids and adults alike an interactive and educational self-guided tour.
■ Children are welcome to a free coloring book and crayons at the guest services area anytime during the meet.