Lexington, Kentucky 40588
Keeneland is a thoroughbred horse racing facility and sales complex in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. Operated by the Keeneland Association, Inc., it is also known for its reference library on the sport founded in 1939 which contains more than ten thousand volumes plus an extensive videocassette collection and a substantial assemblage of photo negatives and newspaper clippings.
In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in North America. Of the top ten, Keeneland was ranked #1.
Keeneland was founded in 1935 as a nonprofit racing–auction entity on 147 acres (0.59 km2) of farmland west of Lexington, which had been owned by Jack Keene, a driving force behind the building of the facility. From its onset it has used proceeds from races and its auctions to further the thoroughbred industry as well as contributing back to the surrounding community. The racing side of Keeneland, Keeneland Race Course, has conducted live race meets in April and October since 1936. It added a grass course in 1985. The spring meet contains several preps for the Kentucky Derby (held the first Saturday in May), the most notable of which is the Blue Grass Stakes. The fall meet features several Breeders' Cup preps.
Keeneland takes pride in maintaining racing traditions; it was the last track in North America to broadcast race calls over its public-address system, not doing so until 1997. Most of the racing scenes of the 2003 movie Seabiscuit were shot at Keeneland because its appearance has changed relatively little in the last several decades.
Lately, however, Keeneland has adopted several innovations. The most significant of which is the reshaping of the main track and replacement of the dirt surface with the proprietary Polytrack surface over the summer of 2006 in time for its fall race meeting. Rogers Beasley, current (2006) director of racing at Keeneland, prefers to stress the track as selectively conservative.
Keeneland was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
In the thoroughbred racing world, Keeneland is equally famous for its other side—its sales operation. It holds four (previously five) annual horse auctions that attract buyers worldwide.
Keeneland Association, Inc. also owns half interest in Turfway Park at Florence, Kentucky; casino and race track giant Harrah's Entertainment owns the other half interest. Through Turfway, Keeneland also owns a part of Kentucky Downs, near Franklin, Kentucky.
Keeneland Association's influence is felt throughout the industry and in Kentucky politics. In recent years, its opposition to allowing slot machines at race tracks in the Commonwealth has largely squelched the issue on the floor of the General Assembly, though competition from riverboat casinos (and Keeneland's "strange bedfellows" partnership with Harrah's at Turfway) is starting to reduce that opposition by the association's members. This ownership arrangement also partially explains Keeneland's fondness for tradition.
The track has a one and one-sixteenth mile (1710 m) Polytrack oval and a seven and one-half furlong (1509 m) turf oval. As noted earlier, the Polytrack surface was added between the 2006 April and October meetings. The turf course uses two configurations: the Keeneland Course setup has a temporary rail set fifteen feet out, while the Haggin Course has no temporary rail.