A view of Keeneland’s grandstand at dawn, taken from the last turn leading into the home stretch.
Keeneland includes the Keeneland Racecourse, a Thoroughbred horse racing facility, and a sales complex, both in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. Operated by the Keeneland Association, Inc., it is also known for its reference library.
In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in North America. Keeneland was ranked #1 of the top ten tracks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Keeneland was founded in 1936 as a nonprofit racing–auction entity on 147 acres (0.59 km2) of farmland west of Lexington, which had been owned by Jack Keene, a driving force behind the building of the facility. It has used proceeds from races and its auctions to further the thoroughbred industry as well as to contribute to the surrounding community. The racing side of Keeneland, Keeneland Race Course, has conducted live race meets in April and October since 1936. It added a grass course in 1985. The spring meet contains several preps for the Kentucky Derby, the most notable of which is the Blue Grass Stakes. The fall meet features several Breeders' Cup preps.
Keeneland takes pride in maintaining racing traditions; it was the last track in North America to broadcast race calls over its public-address system, not doing so until 1997. Most of the racing scenes of the 2003 movie Seabiscuit were shot at Keeneland, because its appearance has changed relatively little in the last several decades.
Nonetheless, Keeneland has adopted several innovations. It reshaped the main track and replaced the dirt surface with the proprietary Polytrack surface over the summer of 2006 in time for its fall race meeting. The track was restored to a dirt racing surface during the summer of 2014.
Keeneland hosted the Breeders' Cup for the first time in 2015. It was won by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah by 6 and a half lengths. He became the first to win the unofficial Grand Slam of horse racing; winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup. Many horse-industry personal were skeptical of Keeneland as a suitable venue because the track and town were too small to host such a large event. However, it was a huge success and even had a Thoroughbred Daily News writer report "I was wrong...it was spectacular" and how the he "couldn't be more impressed".
Keeneland is the world's largest Thoroughbred auction house, conducting three sales annually: The September Yearling Sale, November Breeding Stock Sale, and January Horses of All Ages Sale. Horses sold at Keeneland sales include 82 horses that won 88 Breeders' Cup World Championship races; 19 Kentucky Derby winners; 21 Preakness winners; 18 Belmont winners; 11 recipients of the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year; and five Epsom Derby winners. Graduates of Keeneland sales
The track has a 1 1⁄16 miles (1,700 m) dirt oval and a seven and one-half furlong (0.875 miles (1,408 m)) turf oval. The turf course uses two configurations: the Keeneland Course setup has a temporary rail set 15 feet (4.6 m) out, while the Haggin Course has no temporary rail.
Outside view of Keeneland
From its inception in 1936, Keeneland’s founders, led by respected horsemen Hal Price Headley and Major Louis Beard, intended it to be a special place—one that symbolizes the best in Thoroughbred racing. Today, Keeneland continues to be guided by that original mission, taking a leadership role in the industry to improve safety, promote integrity and preserve racing’s storied history.
Each April and October, the nation’s best Thoroughbred owners, trainers and jockeys converge at Keeneland to compete for some of North America’s richest purse money. The Spring Meet meeting is anchored by the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland Stakes, Grade 1 prep races for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively. Keeneland’s Fall Meet opens with Fall Stars Weekend, featuring nine graded stakes, led by the Shadwell Turf Mile, Darley Alcibiades, Juddmonte Spinster, Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and First Lady, all Grade 1 stakes that have served as a springboard to Breeders’ Cup success for many horses.
As the world’s leading Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland has sold more champions and stakes winners than any other sales company, including 82 horses that won 88 races during the Breeders’ Cup World Championship winners; 19 Kentucky Derby winners; 21 Preakness winners; 18 Belmont winners; 11 recipients of the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year; and five Epsom Derby winners. Keeneland’s global brand attracts a diverse international clientele, with buyers representing nearly every U.S. state and 50 countries attending its four annual sales.
Keeneland, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, has beautiful, park-like grounds that are open to the public every day. Fans also are welcome to visit the Keeneland Library, one of the world’s largest repositories of information and photographs related to Thoroughbred racing.
It all began on October 15, 1936, when Keeneland hosted its first day of live Thoroughbred racing.
However, a sequence of events years earlier actually set the stage for the founding of Keeneland — beginning with the closing of the historic Kentucky Association track near downtown Lexington in 1933 — leaving the Horse Capital of the World without a race track for the first time in more than 100 years.
Two years later, in the midst of the Great Depression, a volunteer committee comprising 10 men and led by respected horsemen Hal Price Headley and Major Louis Beard began their quest to bring racing back to Lexington.
Their goal was to create a race track unique in structure. It would be a community project, a nonprofit venture in which proceeds would be returned to the racing purse money for horsemen and improvements to the facility, with any remaining profits to be donated to local charities. Most importantly, they wanted to create a race track that would carry on Kentucky’s Thoroughbred tradition for future generations.
From among 20 locations, they selected Jack Keene’s property. It was selected first and foremost because Keene was willing to part with the property for much less than its fair market value. Additionally, the land included a mile and a furlong private track, combination stone castle and barn, a 100,000-gallon water tank, a roadway and land for future stables and parking.
Keene was an internationally known Thoroughbred trainer who started the ambitious project of building his own private racing and training facility during the 1920s on a tract of land that belonged to Keene ancestors long before Kentucky became a commonwealth in 1792. Keeneland’s sprawling stone clubhouse, grandstand and other original structures were quarried from native Kentucky limestone. These beginnings gave Keeneland’s planners a foundation for constructing a new facility.
The facility, while a good start, still required much work to welcome racing’s finest. Headley, Beard and others worked feverishly around the clock, and a mere 15 months later, Keeneland opened its gates and became one of the world’s first and only not-for-profit tracks. It was managed by the Keeneland Association, which consisted of a team of volunteers under the direction of Beard and Headley, Keeneland’s first president.
On opening day of the nine-day season, more than 8,000 fans came to the races — ranging from locals who simply wanted to see racing in their hometown for the first time in years to titans of business who brought some of their best bloodstock to compete. Lexington, a town of 46,000, had supported racing’s comeback as the meet posted attendance of 25,337. And even with 15 million Americans out of work, those fans had taken a gamble or two, wagering more than $500,000. By the end of the year, Keeneland had scraped by, losing just $3.47 in its first year.
As Headley 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 the mutuel machines. We want them to come out here to enjoy God’s sunshine, fresh air and to watch horses race.”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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