It may not feel like it, but it is finally fall. How do you know? Keeneland’s Fall Meet is starting on Oct. 4.
The month-long racemeet in Lexington always draws big crowds but this year there are some changes that will make it even more special.
▪ The Saddling Paddock Chalet. The chalet debuted for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships and was such a big hit that Keeneland has brought it back for the next three Fall Meets.
To get a coveted table, go to Keeneland.com for a reservation. (Some days are already sold out.) It is located at the east grandstand entrance overlooking the paddock.
Besides the amazing view, the chalet includes a premium buffet, bourbon tastings, your own Wagering Central hub and even your own Keeneland Shop. It’s $70 per person on Saturday and $60 per person on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
It’s available in tables of six, and the buffet is available from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The room opens at 11 a.m., and if guests aren’t there by 1:15 p.m. the table will be resold.
▪ The Bourbon Bar. Keeneland is introducing a special bourbon bar next to the paddock. The bar will offer premium bourbons, including the Maker’s Mark Keeneland Private Select Bourbon and Blanton’s Single Barrel for Keeneland.
▪ The Secretariat Festival. This annual event dedicated to Big Red moves to Keeneland this year, Oct. 12-13. Fans of the Triple Crown winner pour into Kentucky for the event, which this year will include the unveiling of a new monument nearby in Lexington. People connected to Secretariat and other Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys are scheduled to attend.
▪ Pony up for racehorse retirement. Now all the self-serve wagering machines at the track will let you donate all or part of your winnings to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
▪ What about the races? The meet, which goes through Oct. 26, will host lots of great racing, including the opening Fall Stars Weekend, with nine Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races. Winners of these races will go the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3 and 4, at Santa Anita Park.
▪ Into betting? Keeneland will hold major handicapping tournaments during the meet, beginning with the Fall Challenge on Oct. 12. There’s also the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge/National Handicapping Challenge on Oct. 13. The Breeders’ Cup Challenge will award up to five spots in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita and eight spots in the National Handicapping Challenge in Las Vegas in 2020.
▪ Not into betting that much? The meet will have lots of special days and events. Of course you can book a guided tour, there’s tailgating on The Hill and Sunrise Trackside on Saturday morning watching horses training on the track then having Breakfast With the Works.
Notable Keeneland events:
▪ Special Halloween edition of the Breakfast With the Works on Oct. 26, beginning at 7 a.m.
▪ Jockey autograph signing on Oct. 5, with active and retired jockeys, including Hall of Famers, as a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
▪ Sunday Brunch at Keene Place, on Oct. 6, 13, and 20, will feature seasonal offerings and craft cocktails.
▪ Make-A-Wish Day, on Oct. 10, is always a favorite day with fans. For 12 years, Keeneland and local Thoroughbred farms help grant wishes for children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The children and their families get VIP treatment at the track, presenting trophies to the winners, meeting jockeys and more. Fans also can make donations to the Make-A-Wish Wishing Well by the Paddock; a few years ago, a patron had a big win and donated the entire $26,000 ticket to the foundation.
▪ Big Blue Day, on Oct. 11, lands on the day before UK’s football team hosts the University of Arkansas. UK students, alumni, faculty and staff will get free admission and access to reserved grandstand seating with a valid UK ID.
▪ College Scholarship Day, on Oct. 18, will award 10 $1,000 scholarships and two $10,000 scholarships, so you know there will be loads of students there. Keeneland will have a College zone on the North Terrace, with music, free food, prizes and more. Go online to pre-register.
▪ Heroes Day, on Oct. 20, will honor members of the military (active duty and veterans), first responders – law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs. Free general admission for those patrons and their families along with a family zone that will offer free lunch from City BBQ.
Keeneland Fall Meet
When: Oct. 4-26; no racing Mondays or Tuesdays; gates open at 11 a.m. First post every day is 1:05 p.m.
Admission: $5, children 12 and under are free. Parking is free in designated lots