Exterior views of Keeneland |
of Keeneland Association, Inc.
Lexington, the heart of Kentucky "bluegrass," has been
renowned for two centuries for horse raising and horse racing.
Shortly after the track's completion in 1936, Keeneland Racetrack
became the most conspicuous manifestation of this culture. Jack
Keene, for whom Keeneland is named, was an extraordinary figure
in American racing, and helped revive this industry during the
1930s when it was beginning to suffer. Keene was a descendant
of a distinguished Lexington family and was known worldwide as
a trainer of thoroughbreds. After training abroad in Russia and
Japan he returned to Kentucky where he began laying out the Keeneland
racecourse in 1916. The main track is one and 1/16th miles in
circumference and has retained this length since its original
inception by Keene. The grounds also include Keene's mansion and
training center. Constructed of limestone that was quarried on
Keene's farm, this building was designed with living quarters,
a large clubroom and stalls. The two-story center section of the
building is flanked on either side by stone arcades leading to
three-story wings of the building.
After $200,000 and 20 years of fluctuating finances for Keene, he
sold his private racing complex to the newly formed non-profit Keeneland
Association in 1936. The Association planned to conduct racing for
the benefit of the horsemen and to reinvest profits in the track
and grounds. Keene's mansion was converted into a clubhouse, and
a portico and bi-level porch, or miniature "grandstand"
were added. A large stone and wood grandstand was completed in 1936
which seated 2,500 spectators. By the 1940s Keenland was one of
the most successful tracks in the country, and the grandstand was
expanded over the years to seat 5,000. Today, Keeneland still plays
host to the Blue Grass Stakes, which is a precursor to the famed
Kentucky Derby held in Louisville each year, as well as many other
races. The Keeneland Racetrack is a Lexington institution that figures
prominently in its designation as the "horse capital of the world."
Keeneland Racetrack and exterior
view of Keeneland|
Courtesy of Christine
Amos, Kentucky Heritage Council
The Keeneland Racetrack, a National Historic Landmark, is
located at 4201 Versailles Rd. in Fayette County. Races are held
Wednesday-Sunday from April-October. Keeneland plays host to a
wide variety of horse related events annually including the Blue
Grass Stakes and the Phoenix Handicap, the oldest stakes race
in the United States. The annual horse sales at Keeneland are
also world-renowned and literally attract the "crowned heads of
Europe." For more information about races or the track itself
please call 859-254-3412 or visit their website.