The Keeneland Association was born out of equal parts need and passion.
In 1933, when the Kentucky Association track — the oldest racetrack in America at the time — ceased operations, Lexington found itself without a Thoroughbred racetrack for the first time in 107 years. It took less than three years for the members of the central Kentucky Thoroughbred industry, as well as a few key investors, to design, build and open what would become the world’s largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house and racecourse. The Keeneland Association was founded with a mission to “create a model race track to perpetuate and improve the sport and to provide a course that is intended to serve as a symbol of the fine traditions of Thoroughbred racing.”
Keeneland held its first race and meeting in October 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression. More than 8,000 fans came out to see the new facility and support their new hometown treasure. Since its inception, Keeneland has continually hosted two world-class race meets each year, one in the spring and one in the fall, and has operated as a nonprofit entity that invests everything back into the grounds, the industry or the community. Today, owners, trainers, riders and fans come from all over the world to watch and take part in the pomp and pageantry of these twice-annual race meets.
Tradition remains a large part of Keeneland’s DNA. The track is known for its flawless tread and timeless beauty, and acted as the backdrop for many of the racing scenes in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” and many scenes in the 2010 movie “Secretariat.”
Keeneland attracts the world’s most talented horses as well as the world’s finest jockeys, over the years having welcomed legends like Eddie Arcaro, Pat Day, Don Brumfield, Bill Shoemaker and Jerry Bailey. The tranquil setting and natural beauty, along with ample options for meeting spaces, make this National Historic Landmark an ideal place to bring the family, co-workers or friends for a memorable meeting any time of the year.
Keeneland sits on more than 1,000 acres on the outskirts of Lexington. It has 11 different event spaces and ample green space that meeting planners can use. Many events there take place in progressive stages at various spaces around the grounds. Spaces and their maximum number of guests include the Second Floor Clubhouse, 200; the Sales Arena, 700; the Phoenix Room, 400; the Pavilion Bar, 100; the Limestone Café, 150; the Lexington/Kentucky Room, 350; the Keeneland Room, 80; Keene Place, 125; the First Floor Clubhouse, 200; and the Entertainment Center and Keene Barn, 800.
Keeneland Hospitality handles all the food-and-beverage needs for meeting groups, with all menus chosen specifically by executive chef Marc Therrien. Therrien brings more than 25 years of culinary experience to the company, having worked alongside Neil Connolly, the former personal chef for the Kennedy family, and then going on to oversee the food-and-beverage program at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, home of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, co-founded by holistic physician Deepak Chopra. Custom menus are available upon request, but Therrien has become well known for his belief in simple food with good technique and locally sourced ingredients. Alcohol is available.
In addition to traditional race-day experiences during the spring and fall, the meetings team at Keeneland offers walking tours and scavenger hunts for meetings groups during any season. The tours can be customized to any subject or theme that interests the group. Past tours have included a walking history of the track, racing tours and even tours focused on the landscaping and grounds program. Since Keeneland is a boutique racing facility, the team is able to bring the excitement of a race day to events with mock racing games displayed on TVs in the private meeting rooms.
The team of experts at Keeneland is dedicated to the success of each event, including a broadcast team that can assist with the audiovisual aspects. Most of the venues have built-in TVs that work well for presentations, sponsor logos and slideshows. Planners can arrange for custom experiences during events, including culinary experiences like a salsa challenge, where guests are divided into teams and challenged to create their own salsa. The Keeneland Hospitality team can create cooking classes, demonstrations and challenges that can engage guests in the world of cooking and help them leave inspired and energized.
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Type of Venue: Off-site, racecourse
Capacity: 800-plus guests
Nearby Accommodations: The Campbell House Lexington