LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Like a thoroughbred thundering down the final stretch, Keeneland's fall meet is almost here.
"Keeneland in the fall is spectacular. The leaves are changing colors and the morning air is crisp and it's just such a fabulous time to be out here at the track," said Kara Heisenbuttel, senior director of operations and community relations at Keeneland. "As we get closer to racing and sales season, it's like the little busy-bees come out and they're polishing and shining everything and getting the place looking spectacular for our fans who are coming here for race day,"
Keeneland sits on more than 1,000 acres of beautiful land here on the outskirts of Lexington. Thousands of fans see the beauty of the grounds from the grandstands during each meet, but there's a lot more to see.
"There's so much that goes on behind the scenes here to make a race day go so smoothly. There's so much care for the animal. It's a great experience for people to come out and learn about all of those inner workings — all of that behind-the-scenes work that goes on. Keeneland has a rich history here and being able to share that history, the vision that our founders started and how we continue through with that today," said Heisenbuttel.
Throughout the meet, the track offers several different tours. A behind-the-scenes racing tour shows guests the path a jockey and horse take throughout the race day, getting a look inside the jockey's quarters, a walk by the barns, and a look at the morning workouts. A backstretch tour gives guests the chance to see some of the horses being bathed and getting new shoes. If people really want to have a special race-day experience, Kara says there’s one that will make them feel like racing royalty.
"A fan favorite is the owners experience tour. Fans get to pretend like they're an owner for the day and they get to follow the horses from the barn areas into the saddling paddock and they get to watch the race from the winner's circle. It's such a treat if you want to pretend you're an owner for the day," said Heisenbuttel. "I think they really see the appreciation for the horse and how much love and care goes into taking care of a thoroughbred racehorse,"
Regardless of what kind of tour guests choose, Heisenbuttel said the highlight is pretty much the same.
"While I like to think that our history and content of our tour is the hero, really being able to pet a horse and get close to a horse, that's the magical moment for everyone," she said.
Of course, the spring and fall meets are only a few weeks out of the year. Thankful, the beauty of Keeneland isn't off-limits the rest of the year. Anyone can come enjoy the scenery anytime.
"I think it's always surprising for people that the Keeneland grounds are open to the public 365 days a year. Our founding fathers wanted a place for the community to come and picnic and enjoy God's sunshine and there's no better place than the grounds here at Keeneland," she said.
In November, Keeneland will host the Breeders Cup World Championships. The track will have special tours through October and in the weeks leading up to Breeders Cup with a look at those preparations as well. Guests can book any of those tours at Keeneland.com/tours or VisitHorseCountry.com.