Keeneland is a great track for first-timers and seasoned race track veterans alike. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire, other photos by Christina Moore unless noted)
Heading to a new racetrack for the first time can be a little intimidating, no matter how many tracks you’ve been to before. If you’ll be at Keeneland Race Course for the first time this fall, you’re in luck, because we have an illustrated guide giving you the insider tips you need to enjoy Keeneland like a seasoned pro.
Tailgating at Keeneland is just like football tailgating, except it’s in a beautiful setting and people are dressed for a day at the races rather than in football jerseys. You can tailgate in the paid parking area shaded by trees, or on Fridays and Saturdays head to The Hill, a designated tailgating and party zone, complete with Bluegrass music, food trucks, betting options and a giant TV screen to watch the races.
TAILGATING AT THE HILL
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
If you’re running late and are about to miss your best bet in the first race, you might want to head to the drive thru betting windows before you park. They take bets starting at 8 a.m. on race day and close around the featured race, which is usually the second-to-last race on the card. It’s also not a bad option to visit the drive thru in the morning if you know you might miss the first few races due to other obligations.
DRIVE THRU BETTING
If you do tailgate, once you’re ready to head into the track you can hop on a shuttle bus that will deliver you to the track entrance. The ticket booth and will-call are both near the south gate entrance, so if you have or would like to buy reserved seating, head there first.
When you enter the track from the south gate entrance, the first thing you see is the walking ring, where the jockeys get a leg up onto their mounts and they proceed to the track. If you’d like to get some autographs from jockeys, the best place to hang out is just outside the jockeys’ quarters, to the right of the walking ring when you walk in from the south. The jockeys leave and enter this door before and after each race.
If you enter from the east gate entrance, you’ll see the walking ring to your left and the saddling paddock to your right. The saddling paddock is your best option if you want to get a good look at the horses before making your bets. You can stand along the rail for an up-close look, or step out onto a balcony from the second-floor Brats and Brews area to take in the scene.
VIEW FROM BALCONY
When the horses head to the track and you head to the betting windows, the large wall of windows closest to the paddock area (directly behind the Breeders’ Cup trophy statue) is a better place to make your bets. The lines are shorter than the track apron side of the betting windows.
MAKE YOUR BETS AT THE WINDOWS NEAR THE PADDOCK
Now you’re ready to watch the race. Though many people congregate near the winner’s circle for race watching, which is also where the horses enter the track, a better view and smaller crowd can be found on the apron near the finish line. Though keep in mind, these photos were taken early on a Wednesday, so crowds will be bigger in both places on weekends or later in the day.
WINNER’S CIRCLE CROWD
FINISH LINE CROWD
FINISH LINE APRON VIEW
If your picks didn’t come in and you want some betting advice, visit a Keeneland Betologist, who can be found roaming the track in green vests and fedoras or at their Wagering Central stand set up under the grandstand near the finish line.
Now that you’ve got some winnings in your wallet, grab a bite to eat. Keeneland’s famous (read: delicious) burgoo and bread pudding both can be found at Mane Street Deli, located on the far end of the paddock side of the second floor grandstand. If you’re a novice when it comes to Kentucky provisions, burgoo is a tasty beef stew and bread pudding is bread-based dessert topped with Maker’s Mark bourbon sauce. And if you love the bread pudding so much that you want to make it at home, Keeneland is kind enough to provide the recipe here.
MANE STREET DELI
If a carved sandwich is more your style, find that at the Paddock Carvery, on the first floor grandstand just off the paddock. They make a mean corned beef sandwich.
And finally, when you’re in need of a celebratory drink and only Kentucky bourbon will do, you can find that at a stand in the paddock area.
If you have any other questions, Keeneland has lots of customer service staff waiting to answer them. Just look for a green coat. And if you want to get the lay of the land even more before you arrive, take a look at the interactive map of the grounds. No matter if it’s your first time or your hundredth time, though, it’s nearly impossible for a day at Keeneland to be anything but great.