Horsing Around in the Bluegrass

By Michael Dwyer and Sonya Julie

Lexington was Kentucky’s first city and residents were so sure of their role in the new nation that they embraced decadent banquets, dancing, horseracing, and torchlight parades. Bankers, lawyers, and merchants brought an extension of the elite to the city and mingled with the emerging professional class. Exotic travel books were written and visitors were greeted by a new gentry with Old World ways when visiting the “Athens of the West.”

Morning Workouts at Keeneland Race Track - photo by Michael Dwyer

Morning Workouts at Keeneland Race Track – photo by Michael Dwyer

The Running of the Horses

The historical Keeneland Race Track is a great place to go for Thoroughbred racing and sales in the heart of the rolling Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. Stop by in the morning for an insider’s view of behind-the-scenes activities that make up the everyday life of the horses, trainers, owners, and staff. Stop in early at the Keeneland Track Kitchen, fill up on a hearty breakfast while you read the Daily Racing Form, and view the pictures along the walls. The $4.75 Special is popular and filling with biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, eggs and grits.

Then walk around the backside of the track where the horses are stabled in the Shedrows. Walk out to the track to watch the horses in their morning workouts and catch the occasional glimpse of a famous trainer. During racing season, Keeneland offers Sunrise Trackside, which includes breakfast, kid’s activities, tours, and demonstrations.

Michael Dwyer and Sonya Julie at the Bluegrass Stakes in Lexington, KY 2014

Michael Dwyer and Sonya Julie at the Bluegrass Stakes in Lexington, KY 2014

Keeneland has live racing in April and October. Five dollars gets in through the gate for general admission and for as little as two dollars, one may make a bet. Visitors may choose to just look good in their Sunday Best attire, it’s a fashionable event with men wearing spring suits and ladies in hats and dresses—think Kentucky Derby—but with more charm, abundant elegance and less people.

The National Historic Landmark racetrack converted back to a dirt track in 2014 and this year’s big race, The Bluegrass Stakes, will run on a natural six-inch-deep dirt surface for first time since 2006. “Keeneland’s mission is to provide the highest level of racing possible, and in order to accomplish that goal going forward, a dirt surface is preferable,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason. Keeneland is host to this year’s Breeder’s Cup held Halloween weekend.

The Kentucky Horse Park - Photo by Michael Dwyer

The Kentucky Horse Park – Photo by Michael Dwyer

Kentucky Horse Park

A one of a kind educational theme park, the Kentucky Horse Park, also hosts equine competitions and working horses. They opened to the public in 1978 as a family-friendly venue dedicated to the relationship between human and horse. Horses of the World Shows are 30-minute presentations that will bring visitors up to speed on the different breeds. Meet and greet sessions after the shows allow wonderful photo ops and a chance to speak with the authentically costumed handlers. Stroll the Hall of Champions, peruse the various museums and check out the Walking Barn Tour – all while passing memorials and statues of famous equines. Unique Horse Farm Tours depart from the Kentucky Horse Park daily, tours last three hours, and is one of the best ways to absorb “The Horse Capital of the World.”

Make New Friends at Old Friends

Old Friends, a non-profit Thoroughbred retirement center, is home to 166 equine retirees in nearby Georgetown. Daily tours are available to guests who want to visit racing’s royalty. Some famous residents include 1997 Kentucky Derby hero Silver Charm and Game On Dude, three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner. In January 2015, the farm was presented with the Special Eclipse Award for their extraordinary service to the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Walking tours allow visitors to learn about the careers and lives of each unique horse that they meet along the way.

Across from Table  Three Ten is the Village Idiot in Lexington - Two Wonderful Restaurants - Photo by Michael Dwyer

Across from Table Three Ten is the Village Idiot in Lexington – Two Wonderful Restaurants – Photo by Michael Dwyer

Lexington Dining Options

Visit Table 310 for memorable food and drink and superb service. This modern and industrial loft-like establishment will treat you to delicacies such as oysters, smoked salmon, gourmet cheese, Charcuterie, and specialty drinks featuring Genepi and Bourbon. With seasonal menus and specials, the variety keeps guests returning to the heart of downtown Lexington for quality meals. Try the Steak Tartare and the Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Rhubarb, Fennel and Vanilla Balsamic Vinaigrette from the spring menu.

Across the street, you’ll find The Village Idiot – a gastro pub known for their fresh, local foods and large selection of craft beers. Famous for their burgers and Pimento Cheese Fritters, one of the must-try entrees is the Duck & Waffles with herbed butter, maple syrup, and a buttermilk fried duck leg. Built in 1825, it’s one of Lexington’s oldest surviving post office buildings.

Just around the corner is the Bluegrass Tavern with more than 150 Bourbons available. Talk to the bartender to figure out which Bourbon might peak your interest. Grab a local beverage before or after dinner in Downtown Lexington.

For more about Lexington and the Bluegrass Region: 

Visit Lexington, Kentucky
About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at michael@rochestermedia.com.

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