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The History of Keeneland

Image Sourced from Kentucky Monthly

Looking for something fun to do this month? Keeneland’s 2018 Fall Race Meet opened this past weekend, and races continue through October 27th. Keeneland is renowned as one of Lexington’s top places to visit (especially during the racing seasons). Aside from all the excitement that horse racing may bring, a lot of people don’t know about Keeneland’s history and the role it’s played in the racing community.

Founded in 1936, Keeneland started as a “nonprofit racing-auction entity.” Since its founding, the entity has used all proceeds from its races and horse auctions to contribute to the betterment of the thoroughbred industry and to help develop the surrounding communities. Keeneland has also proven to be a Hollywood location hotspot. Scenes from Seabiscuit, Dreamer, and Secretariat feature Keeneland’s beautiful track and grounds.

Ever heard of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes? In preparation for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Keeneland in 1984, Keeneland created this annual Challenge Cup for 3-year old fillies (young female horses) to race at a distance of 1 and ⅛ miles. On October 11th of that year, the winner of the first Challenge Cup was presented with a trophy by the Queen herself! A few years later, in 1986, Keeneland was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.

In 2015, Keeneland had the opportunity to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, where Triple Crown winner American Pharoah thrilled fans by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, thus becoming the first horse to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing. For lucky Lexingtonians or those who want to visit in the future, Keeneland was named as the host for the 2020 Breeders’ Cup.

In terms of horse sales, Keeneland is the “world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house.” With three sales a year (September Yearling Sale, November Breeding Stock Sale, and January Horses of All Ages Sale), Keeneland constantly produces winners. Keeneland horses have gone on to win over 100 Breeders’ Cup races, and 22 Kentucky Derby winners, 24 Preakness winners and 20 Belmont winners have been Keeneland graduates. With buyers coming from all over the globe, Keeneland horses have also won prestigious races worldwide.

To learn more about the Fall Race Meet or to buy tickets for upcoming races, click here.


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