Spring heralds horse racing in the bluegrass


Horses turn a bend in the second race of Keeneland’s first of the spring meet on Friday, April 6, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Brooklyn Kelley

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and some aspects of life in Lexington – like traffic – are ramping up to normal. A much more beloved tradition will return this spring as well.

Keeneland will have their Spring 2021 meet in person. Though there is limited capacity, spectators will be allowed to watch the races in person once again. The Spring Meet will begin Friday, April 2 and end on Friday, April 23. There will be no races on Mondays, Tuesdays, or on Easter Sunday. 

There will be no opportunity for fans to buy tickets on site, so they will need to pre-order them online. For those that wish to watch the race off-site, individuals can stream the races from their homes. 

As with most locations, Keeneland is enforcing a mask policy in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Though tickets have sold out, Keeneland encourages fans to keep their eyes out for resale tickets. 

“We certainly look forward to when we’re able to host all of our fans again in person,” said Keeneland’s Director of Patron Experience, Kara Heissenbuttel. Heissenbuttel said that the biggest impact that the pandemic has had on Keeneland is keeping fans from being able to experience races from the stands. 

Keeneland is not permitting tailgating for the Spring Meet. Additionally, they will not be having Sunrise Trackside. There are, however, opportunities for guests to come and watch morning workouts from sunrise to 10 a.m. each day, according to Heissenbuttel. 

Similar to last year’s event, Keeneland will be hosting their annual Scholarship Day virtually. Registration for this event opens on Friday, March 26. 

“All full-time college students are eligible for scholarships,” said Katherine Hutchinson, the Promotions and Community Relations Manager at Keeneland. 

This year, Keeneland will be partnering with Lane’s End, a Thoroughbred racing farm based in Versailles, for the scholarship event. 

There is $30,000 available in scholarship funds. This will be broken up into two $5,000 scholarships and 10 $2,000 scholarships. The winners of the $5,000 scholarships will be invited to be recognized on April 9. Because of this, Keeneland is asking that students pre-register for scholarships in advance. The winners of the $5,000 scholarships will be selected on April 5. 

Students should visit Keeneland.com/csd to apply. This link will go live Friday, March 26. 

Another recent event regarding Keeneland is the passing of Senate Bill 120. This bill aims to ensure a future for the horse racing gambling slot machine industry, saving many jobs for Kentuckians. 

“We are thrilled the legislation passed and operations are open again at Red Mile,” said Amy Gregory, Keeneland’s Director of Communications, via email. This bill is expected to have a positive economic impact on the horse racing industry.