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Official: 'We're not going to ruin Keeneland'

For all those racing fans worried about plans for expanding Lexington's racetrack, the track president has a message: “We're not going to ruin Keeneland.”

Nick Nicholson said Friday that although the Breeders' Cup is something consultants were asked to consider in developing a master plan for the track, it wasn't the focus.

“We're doing this for April and October,” Nicholson said of the track's meets. “We're not going to build a facility for a few days” out of a year.

In announcing the development of a master plan on Thursday, Keeneland said it had asked the architectural consultants to consider how it might accommodate thoroughbred racing's championships. Racing fans, along with breeders and owners, have often asked about the possibility of holding the event in Central Kentucky. It traditionally has been at much larger facilities.

Keeneland is known for an almost intimate atmosphere of very civilized racing and horse auctions.

Another thing the consultants were asked to consider: slots. “But not in this grandstand,” Nicholson said firmly. And not in the sales pavilion or the barns area. Just as “something that may happen down the road,” he said.

He said the track and sales company wants to explore how it might grow, and it wants the process to be as open as possible. The architectural consultants, HOK Sport, will be at an Aug. 25 meeting for public comments.

“What I was most afraid of is this initial gut reaction of, ‘you're going to ruin Keene­land,'” he said. “Absolutely not. We're going to keep Keeneland Keeneland.”

The ambiance, the ivy, the stonework, the trees — all staying. He swears.

Instead, any changes might be more behind-the-scenes. One of the consultants' first observations: Keeneland has a lot of prime real estate tied up in kitchens, which are on the finish line. “That's the way it's always been,” Nicholson said. But the facilities were built for crowds of about 12,000, not the 20,000 to 30,000 Keene­land get on big weekends.