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UK students attend opening day at Keeneland Spring Meet

Matthew Mueller
People watch as jockeys and their horses take to the track at the start of the third race on opening day during the Spring meet on Friday, April 5, 2024, at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Matthew Mueller | Staff

Despite being under renovations, Keeneland opened their doors for their Spring Meet on Friday, April 5 with attendees entering in different entrances on the far ends of the gates.

The Spring Meet will last from April 5 to April 26, with gates opening for races at 11 a.m. but no races being held on Mondays or Tuesdays. 

For University of Kentucky junior Katie Smith, this was her first time attending Keeneland on opening day, but she still remembers her first experience at Keeneland during freshman year. 

“It was really cold,” Smith said. “We went for one of my friend’s birthdays, and I just remember it being freezing … I had no idea what I was doing there because I had no idea what went on during horse races and what not.”

While not being gifted the sunniest of skies and warm temperatures, Smith said her first experience at Keeneland brought her back for every season since then. On this year’s opening day, she said she could tell everyone was excited and happy to be back for yet another season. 

Smith said that her and her roommates had been looking forward to this year’s opening day for a couple of weeks.

“The thing I look forward to the most would probably be just being outside and seeing everyone together, like get excited for something that’s really unique to Kentucky … It’s really fun to see everyone get excited about something altogether,” Smith said. 

Smith said she only won $4 on opening day — a memorable experience since she usually finds herself losing her bets rather than winning.

Just as Smith was, many attendees were seen betting and risking the cash in their pockets for a good time. 

“I won today, so that was pretty exciting … I won about $4. I’m freezing, this is my last race,” UK student Morgan Fitts said. “My advice is always to bet on the pink horse.”

Keeneland offers multiple ways to place your bet, including the Keeneland Select app, betting windows or the self-serve machines throughout Keeneland. 

Depending upon which way the bet is placed, betters should be prepared to know the name of the track, the race number, the amount and type of bet, and the number or name of the horse running.

UK junior Josh Sigillo said he and his friends were there to celebrate a birthday, and that he wasn’t focused on the money since he isn’t a big gambler and often finds himself losing. 

So while some were hoping for big payouts, others were enjoying the memories being made with family and friends that will have chances of them coming back. 

“It’s always been a really fun experience for me and my friends. We never leave Keeneland without a smile on our faces,” Smith said. “It’s just a very happy place regardless if you win or lose.”

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Lilly Keith, Assistant News Editor
Matthew Mueller, Photo Editor

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