Happy 75th, Keeneland!

| April 6, 2011

Thoroughbreds race to the finish of a turf race at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. Photo by GARRY JONES

Are you ready for the Derby?

You have plenty of time before the first Saturday in May rolls around, but Keeneland’s always-anticipated spring meet opens Friday, and if you love horses, this leads up to the best time of the year. This is Keeneland’s 75th year, but not the track’s 75th spring meet. Construction delays kept the track from opening until the fall of 1936.

The beautiful track across Versailles Road from Lexington’s airport was planned by thoroughbred breeders headed by Hal Price Headley and Major Louis Beard. They bought more than 1,000 acres from thoroughbred breeder Jack Keene, thus the name Keeneland.

Keeneland is unique in many ways, especially its nonprofit status. Even officers and directors do not get compensated.

There is room for more parking (10,000 cars) than there are seats for patrons (8,538), but don’t let that seating figure surprise you. On pretty spring days more than 20,000 fans show up. Down through the years, many UK students have swelled the crowd, many from sororities and fraternities, many dressed as if it were Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (a major Derby prep set for April 16), Coolmore Lexington Stakes and the Ashland Stakes attract more than 30,000 fans.

Headley had it just right when he said, “We want a place where those who love horses can come and picnic with us and thrill to the sport of the Bluegrass. We are not running a race plant to hear the click of mutuel machines. We want them to come out here to enjoy God’s sunshine, the fresh air and to watch the horses.”

Enjoy and good luck!

The best of the jockey colony competes at Keeneland. All-time leading jockeys are, in order, Pat Day (918 wins), Don Brumfield (716), Robby Albarado (414), Shane Sellers (401) and Earlie Fires (264).

D. Wayne Lukas is the winningest trainer with 275 and Bill Mott is second with 237.

Will Farish is the top owner with 190 wins.

For more information, visit www.keeneland.com.

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Category: Cover Stories

About the Author (Author Profile)

Earl Cox, Sports Columnist

Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.

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