Keeneland opens its Spring Meet on Friday, beginning 15 days of live racing at one of the most beautiful venues in horse racing.
And you don’t have to be an expert handicapper or even know what “handicapping” means to have a great time at the track.
There are a number of things to see, do and take advantage of at Keeneland from special promotions to family events to weekend tailgating on the grounds. Here are six things you should know:
Saturday is huge
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Saturday is Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Day and, this year, Keeneland’s signature event features some real contenders for the Kentucky Derby, including unbeaten McCraken, who’s not only the favorite for the $1 million Blue Grass, but also the No. 1 rated horse in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s top 3-year-old poll.
Second choice Tapwrit is virtually assured a spot in the Derby as well, and will be looking to improve his second-place run to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis earlier this year. J Boys Echo, Practical Joke, Wild Shot and Irap will also be looking to improve their Derby points positions Saturday.
The Central Bank Ashland Stakes has produced the last two Kentucky Oaks winners. The race for 3-year-old fillies features Kenny McPeek’s Daddys Lil Darling as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. McPeek will try for the Ashland-Blue Grass double as he also trains It’s Your Nickel, a 20-1 shot in the feature race.
Sunrise Trackside events Saturday include:
7-8:30 a.m.: Breakfast with the Works: Watch the horses train with breakfast available to purchase in the trackside Equestrian Dining Room.
7-9 a.m.: Children’s activities will be held in the Kids Club Corner.
9 a.m.: Central Kentucky Riding for Hope will have a paddock demonstration.
11 a.m. Paddock host Katie Gensler and racing analyst Tom Leach hold a trackside handicapping seminar.
12:05 p.m.: Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who will be aboard Blue Grass Stakes favorite McCraken later that day, will have a Q&A session in the paddock.
If you don’t know a place from a show, or maybe you’re looking to figure out how to bet a trifecta wheel, Keeneland’s BETologists are on hand to help you make sense of the program and all the betting options available. These betting experts wear distinctive clothing and can be found around the grounds, but their hub is Wagering Central on the first floor trackside under the grandstand. Free tutorials are offered each live race day after 11 a.m.
Every Friday and Saturday on The Hill: For those who might not like the hustle and bustle around the grandstand or who just enjoy the tailgating experience, Keeneland has a tailgate lot, The Hill, located adjacent to the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center. It features local food trucks, a jumbo television screen, wireless wagering and wagering terminals. Saturdays feature performances by some of Central Kentucky’s Bluegrass bands from noon to 4 p.m.
Get the app
Keeneland Race Day app: Most likely, you’ll be looking at your phone much of day anyway, so you might as well get the most out of it for your Keeneland experience. The app includes Keeneland’s expert picks and handicappers’ consensus for each race, and an interactive map that allows you to search for food, drink or restrooms. It even lets you mark your location on the grounds so you can message it to a friend to find you.
The app’s bet simulator lets you plot your wagers, and a link to the Keeneland Select site lets you place your bets right from your phone.
The app also highlights Keeneland’s daily promotions, contests and giveaways.
Take the tours
Keeneland offers a number of tours of its grounds. More information available at Keeneland.com/discover/tours.
The Official Keeneland Tour: Each Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in April, beginning at 8:30 a.m., a guide takes you on a stroll through the grounds to learn about the history of Keeneland and gain and insider perspective on its racing and sales operations. Tickets are $8 each (free for ages 12 and under) and include access to the Keeneland Library.
Sunrise Trackside tour: On Saturdays, free guided tours begin every 20 minutes from the paddock starting at 7:30 a.m.
Behind-the-Scenes Racing Tour: Tuesdays and Fridays in April beginning at 9 a.m. Limited to 10 people. April 7 is sold out. Guides take visitors on a two-hour tour to behind-the-scenes areas including the jockeys quarters and barns. Tickets are $25 each.
Backstretch Tours and Day at the Races: Each Wednesday in April beginning at 8:20 a.m. The two-hour tour includes a guided walk through the barn area to see race-day preparations. Also watch the morning works trackside, see the racing office and jockeys quarters, and meet a BETologist. Tickets are $50 and limited to 14 people. Ticket includes grandstand seating, a race-day program and a food voucher.
Opening day, Friday — College Scholarship Day: College students admitted free with student ID. Full-time students can register for one of 10 $1,000 scholarships. Another $10,000 Runhappy Scholarship winner will also be selected by random drawing. The first 2,000 students to register at the North Terrace will receive a free T-shirt or hat. Registration begins at 11 a.m.
Sunday — Kids Club Family Day: Children’s activities will be held from noon to 3 p.m. in the North Terrace.
April 12 — Horses and Hope Pink Day: Wear pink to help promote breast cancer awareness. A luncheon for breast cancer survivors will be held in Keeneland’s Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.
April 14 — Maker’s Mark Bottle Signing: Maker’s Mark and the University of Kentucky recently announced this year’s commemorative bottle will feature “The Untouchables,” UK’s 1995-96 national championship team. Sales of the bottle benefit UK’s Center for Academic and Tutorial Services. The signing will be held at the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.
April 12-15 — Budweiser Clydesdales: The famous horses return to Keeneland. One will be at the East Gate each day.
April 21 — Jockey Autograph Signing: Signing day benefits the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Current and retired jockeys, including Hall of Famers, will be on hand.
April 23 — Military Day: All active-duty, reserve, veterans and military families will receive free general admission with a military ID at any gate. Free food and live music will be offered in The Military Family Zone in the North Terrace from noon to 4 p.m. Children’s activities will also be available throughout the afternoon.
April 27 — Herald-Leader Day at the Races: All Lexington Herald-Leader subscribers will receive free general admission with the coupon found on the front page of the April 27 edition.
KEENELAND SPRING MEET
When: Friday through April 28 with no racing on Mondays and Tuesdays or April 16.
First post: 1:05 p.m. each day (Gates open at 11 a.m.)
General admission: $5 (free for children 12 and under)
TV: TVG (Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes on NBC Sports Network)