Keeneland and The Greenbrier resort on Wednesday announced a marketing partnership that will offer both entities the opportunity to "cross-pollinate" patrons.
Beginning this fall, the historic resort in West Virginia will offer packages that include daily flights to Keeneland's race meet and Thoroughbred sales, just in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington.
Plans eventually might include running a $15 million train between White Sulphur Springs and Lexington, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice told The Associated Press. The train might be operational in 12 to 14 months, he said, and would include restored brunch, lounge and passenger cars.
Justice and Keeneland President Nick Nicholson said the pairing is natural for two unique American institutions with much in common: atmosphere, luxury and the sporting life.
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"Last year we sold horses to people from 50 different countries, all of whom came to Lexington to buy their horses. We think that our customers — who work hard, who enjoy a sporting life, who enjoy an active lifestyle — will be wonderful patrons of The Greenbrier as well," Nicholson said.
And, as he put it, "they didn't fly halfway around the world to not spend money."
He said the track envisions winners of big races and buyers of glossy horses jaunting off to celebrate in the posh but cozy preserves of The Greenbrier.
Perhaps they will want to keep the party rolling at the resort's new casino, which Justice said will be part Gone With the Wind, part James Bond's Monte Carlo, with high rollers pausing nightly at 10 p.m. for champagne toasts and The Greenbrier Waltz.
Maybe Greenbrier casino guests will be inspired by the Keeneland-provided equestrian memorabilia in the Twelve Oaks lounge and decide to taste all that bourbon-and-Bluegrass flavor for themselves, only 30 minutes away by resort plane or helicopter.
The track will welcome those guests with open arms and reserved seats, and if they decide to buy a horse, or even a horse farm, while they are rusticating, so much the better.
"We'd like to take this as deep as we can," Nicholson said.
"Today is a magical day, a magical day for The Greenbrier," Justice said at Keeneland. "This place is magical, it's eloquent, has mystique about it. It has all the characteristics of The Greenbrier. ... I think the opportunities are limitless."
He said that Greenbrier patrons, by and large, are unaware of Keeneland and that the partnership will open untapped seams of like-minded deep pockets for both institutions.
"This is where a Greenbrier guest would love to be. This is exactly what the Greenbrier guest would love," he said, looking around at the vine-covered limestone grandstand and sycamore-shaded paddock. "The patrons at The Greenbrier will absolutely fall all over themselves about this place. This is so in their wheelhouse as far as their style."
Justice bought The Greenbrier resort out of bankruptcy in 2009 for $20.1 million and has been working to revamp its business model (hence, the casino) and restore the 721-room hotel to its former five-star glory. The resort in White Sulphur Springs was established in 1778 and has welcomed presidents and princes to its spa and golf courses.
"We wanted to retain all the history, all the tradition but we want to inject some energy," Justice said. "This partnership will inject a bunch of energy."
One possibility: giving Keeneland clubhouse members access to the exclusive Greenbrier casino, which is available to the resort's overnight guests and Greenbrier Golf and Tennis Club members.
Finally, Keeneland could get exactly the casino the track's been dreaming of, just in West Virginia.