When the Breeders' Cup comes to Lexington in October, the city with throw a weeklong festival of food, music, art and horses, organizers announced Monday.
At the announcement, organizer Kip Cornett said there were already more than 20 sponsors and the event committee has raised more than $600,000 for Breeders' Cup Festival, a celebration of the arrival of Thoroughbred racing's annual championships in the horse capitol of the world.
For the first time, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships will be held at Keeneland Oct. 30-31.
"We have the opportunity to host a world championship right here in Lexington in exactly 139 days from right now," Cornett said Monday. "This is no ordinary world championship, but one that centers around what makes our region admired around the globe, our love affair with the thoroughbred. And let's hear it for that thoroughbred that won on Saturday afternoon," he added, speaking of newly enthroned Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
"The conversation has already turned from 'wow, they won the Triple Crown' to, hopefully, next stop Keeneland," Cornett said.
Bob Elliston, vice president of Breeders' Cup, said that the festival "is unprecedented ... we've never had this level of programming around the Breeders' Cup."
Elliston said that the event will be special, regardless of whether American Pharoah races in the Classic.
"But let's keep our fingers crossed. It would be wonderful to have American Pharoah at the Breeders' Cup as his last race," Elliston said. "Instead of the whole United States watching ... the whole world would be paying attention. ... This has got the potential to be the best Breeders' Cup in the history of 32 years."
Just returned from the Belmont in New York, Keeneland president Bill Thomason said that as he watched the excitement there he was thinking, "just wait 'til it gets to Lexington. ... People can't wait."
For racing fans who won't be at Keeneland, there will be the Breeders' Cup Bash on Oct. 30-31 at The Red Mile, which is undergoing a major renovation, with food and drinks, music, and wagering on the Breeders' Cup races, which will be shown.
The Breeders' Cup itself will host invitation-only events, but the city wanted to create a festival for locals and visitors alike that would encourage the championships to return in future years. To augment the races, the Breeders' Cup Festival, Oct. 24-31, will include a variety of events.
■ The "Feeders' Cup," a invitational food truck competition at Whitaker Bank Ball Park, will showcase the best in mobile dining from the Bluegrass and beyond.
■ Free concerts in the Festival Zone at Stephens Courthouse Plaza, kicked off by Here Come the Mummies on Oct. 25 and featuring the Best of Bluegrass' presentation of Town Mountain and the Travelin' McCourys on Oct. 28. Local acts performing will include guitarists Ben Lacy and Tee Dee Young on Oct. 26.
■ There will be more free music at Cheapside Pavilion featuring local bands.
■ Demonstrations of retired Thoroughbreds being retrained for careers in eventing, show jumping and other riding will be at the Kentucky Horse Park.
■ A presentation of I Dedicate this Ride, Affrilachian poet Frank X Walker's play about Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Isaac Murphy, will be presented at the Lyric Theatre, along with a discussion by Pellom McDaniels, author of The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy.
■ There will be special tours of area horse farms, where many Breeders' Cup contenders were bred.
■ Guest chef events, to be announced later, may be held. Organizers hope to find ways to incorporate chefs — coming in for Bobby Flay's invitation-only Taste of the World event for Breeders' Cup at WinStar Farm — to other venues like Spindletop Hall.
■ There will be free art exhibits around the city at the Downtown Arts Center, the Headley-Whitney Museum, LexArts, Loudon House, Lyric Theatre, University of Kentucky Art Museum and the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park.
■ A 5k fun run will be held at the Horse Park.
■ The annual Thriller parade through downtown Lexington will be in a bigger spotlight.
■ The unveiling of plaques honoring Breeders' Cup founder John Gaines and horse owner and breeder Khalid Abdullah of Juddmonte Farm will be held.
■ A dedication of the statue honoring the late great Cigar will be held at the Horse Park.
■ The Livery will host a market of Kentucky crafts and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Bourbon Experience, featuring many of the commonwealth's distilleries in one venue.
■ The inaugural lighting of the public art project on Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, Christopher Weed's Origins, will be celebrated with fireworks and other activities.
■ And there will be events built around the races themselves like morning workouts by contenders at Keeneland, the Breeders' Cup Draw party, a handicapping seminar by the Daily Racing Form, and more.
Laura Prewitt, executive director of the Breeders' Cup Festival, said they hope to highlight the arts and Kentucky culture as well as the horses to give visitors more reasons to come in early.
"That's one of our goals with the festival, trying to get people in early, rather than on Thursday, Friday and Saturday," she said.
But there will be a lot for locals to enjoy, too, she said.
For instance, at the Cheapside Pavilion, the festival hopes to have big screens to watch morning workouts and the races and even ways to place bets, she said.
The fun run at the Horse Park will be the "Kentucky for Kentucky 26 furlong (the length in traditional horse race terms)," she said. "And we're going to have a little fun with it, have you dress like your favorite Kentuckian."
Mayor Jim Gray said the festival will be success because of the enthusiasm of local businesses and people.
"The Breeders' Cup, as we all know ... is all about being the best ... in every way. First class racing, first class track, first class Thoroughbred industry, first class hospitality, and as we are announcing today, first class festivities that everyone can enjoy," Gray said.
The festival is looking for volunteers, organizers said. Information is available at breederscupfestival.com.