The Magnolia League Guide to Keeneland

The Magnolia League Guide to Keeneland

What Is Keeneland: Dates, Tickets, What to Know

Keeneland Dates and Basic Info

  • Where: Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, KY
  • When: 2023 Fall Meet occurs Friday, October 6th through Saturday, October 28th. Racing occurs every day except Monday and Tuesday. 

Keeneland Fall Meet Tickets

  • General Admission: walk around ticket with no reserved seating ($7-$15) 
  • Reserved Grandstand Seating: reserved outdoor seat under cover ($15-$30) 
  • Indoor Room: indoor seating with private dining and drinking in Equestrian ($30-$50), Phoenix ($80-$125), or Kentucky Room ($100-$150). Each room offers different options and vibe; read more below. 
  • Learn more about the Fall Meet and ticketing options

 What to Know

  • Dress to impress. There are varying degrees of formality but err more conservative. For men, a blue blazer is always a good option. See our men's style guide in the next section.
  • Tailgating is a big deal. The spectacle includes The Hill, parking lots, and premium tent packages with spreads to the nines. 
  • Horses are the main attraction, but Keeneland is so much more. Take in Lexington’s charm. Tour stallion farms. Sip bourbon while you listen to Bluegrass music. Keep reading to make the most of your trip. 

At many popular equestrian spectacles—like Preakness Stakes or The Hunt (Far Hills, NJ)—patrons aren’t particularly interested in horses or history. Lost in a sea of “go to hell pants,” Barbour jackets, and blurry infield drinking. 

Keeneland is the real deal. Forget the Kentucky Derby, Keeneland is the premier event for Thoroughbred racing. 

It’s a who’s who in horse breeding, buying, and racing. A celebration of Kentucky Bluegrass history, tradition, and world-class horses. You’ll rub shoulders with low-key billionaires looking to find the next stud to win a Triple Crown race—without the over-the-top celebrity gawking you see at the Derby.

Lexington, KY is home to Keeneland Association, Inc. It’s a Thoroughbred Race Course, racing facility, and auction complex open year round—hosting events like the Breeder’s Cup.

But when most say “Keeneland” they refer to the month-long meets which occur each year in the fall and spring.

In short: Keeneland is center stage for the world’s best breeders to show what their stallions can do. A month-long showcase for horse buyers willing to spend whatever it takes to find a horse with the right stuff. 

Of course you can bet, tailgate, drink bourbon, dress fancy, and enjoy the celebration of Thoroughbred bluegrass culture that is Keeneland.

Keep reading to learn more about how to dress, how to tailgate, and how to experience Keeneland. 

How to Dress for Keeneland  

Men’s Keeneland Style: dress like a stud for all situations. Though formality varies from General Admission to the Thoroughbred Club, it’s best to wear an outfit for all situations—because you never know when Dave Portnoy will invite you to his box. 

But you don’t want to look too stiff or like you’re trying too hard. We consulted Kentucky insiders to compile the best looks for Men’s Keeneland Style: 

Keeneland Men’s Outfit 

Magnolia League | Keeneland Men's Style

  1. Brit & Blue: The Brit & Blue Signature Custom Jacket - Made in Kentucky with the world’s finest duck cloth, this jacket combines refined tailoring with an All-American work ethic. Also found at Keeneland Mercantile
  2. Tom Beckbe x Keeneland Mercantile: Keeneland Quilted Jacket - A windproof and waterproof jacket with the quality craftsmanship you’d expect from Birmingham’s Tom Beckbe. Read more on Tom Beckbe’s Field Journal
  3. Holderness & Bourne: Keeneland Morgan Performance Shirt - Holderness & Bourne takes their signature tailored performance apparel to Kentucky with this classic yet modern shirt. Read more about their partnership.
  4. Tecovas: The Cartwright Boot (Goat Leather) - A boot you can wear to the Thoroughbred Club or the local dive bar, you can’t go wrong with this classic cowboy style boot in quick-to-patina goat leather. 
  5. PennBilt: The American Twill Pants - We love PennBilt’s premium quality American-Made khakis. Crafted with virtues of American design and made with natural cotton and stretch twill fabrics. 
  6. Greyson: Keeneland Yukon X-Lite Vest - Made with innovative technical fabrics for a vest that’s exceptionally warm, yet ultralight. Greyson’s Keeneland vest is a good bet for just about any fall Kentucky climate. 

Keeneland Men’s Accessories 

Magnolia League | Keeneland Men's Style Accessories

  1. Ahead: Keeneland Cigar Holder - A sleek humidor made with premium leather, you’ll need this accessory to light up after that winning bet. 
  2. Logan’s of Lexington: “Stride” Silk Tie - If you go the more formal route, do it right with a silk tie from Logan’s—an iconic Lexington men’s shop for over 50 years. 
  3. Bluegrass Provisions Co: Brown Hoof Pick Belt - The best Kentucky name plate belt is quintessential Keeneland style. Handmade in Lexington with ultra durable bridle leather and a classic hoof pick buckle. 
  4. Logan’s of Lexington: Kentucky Socks - Don’t forget the small details and accessories in your getup. These socks from Logan’s are knitted in a 3rd-generation North Carolina mill in partnership with Dapper Classics. 
  5. Clayton & Crume: Keeneland Sunglass Straps - C&C has become an iconic Louisville brand and for good reason. Their premium full-grain leather goods are durable, stylish, and offer a complimentary monogram.  
  6. Bluegrass Fairway: Custom Needlepoint Belt - We’re big fans of Bluegrass Fairway’s handmade, durable golf accessories and superior service. If you’re going to get a custom “life belt,” go with this local bluegrass maker.  

How to Tailgate for Keeneland

Like any good horse race, tailgating is a sport in itself. Here you have options. “The HIll” is the main lawn with large tents, opulent spreads, bourbon tastings, and live bluegrass music. You can also stick to the spacious parking lot or pony up for premium spaces. 

Horse Racing - Equestrian - Steeplechase Tailgate - Keeneland - Land Rover

While you learn more about Keeneland tailgating and read up on the rules (e.g. tents cannot be bigger than 10x10), here are the essentials to tailgate like a Thoroughbred:  

Tailgating Supplies

Magnolia League | Keeneland Tailgate Supplies

  1. J. Earl & Sons: Blade and Bow + Garden & Gun Field Bar - If you’re going all out, this premium Field Bar takes your Keeneland tailgate to the next level. We love J. Earl & Sons’ tailgate supplies so be sure to check out their full lineup. 
  2. Pappy & Co: The Van Winkle Cup - Made by the first family of Kentucky bourbon, the Van Winkles, Pappy & Co. delivers thoughtfully-made home goods with that lives up to the family name.   
  3. Jack Rudy x Tom Beckbe: Tailgater Bag - Combining two great Southern brands into a one high-quality bag—this piece is ideal for the serious tailgater with leather handles, dividers, and added reinforcement for heavy loads.  
  4. Wine & Country: Royal Plaid Napkins, Willow Baskets, & Servingwear - W&C is a Virginia company specializing in fine tailgate supplies made especially for horse races, steeplechases, and polo. Read their Tailgating Guide for expert tips. 
  5. REVO: Party Barge Serving Cooler - This tailgate friendly design keeps drinks cool while putting on a nice display for you and your tailgate guests. 
  6. RTIC: Soft Pack Cooler - Overbuilt not overpriced is RTIC’s slogan. Fitting because coolers, especially soft pack coolers, need to do a job and RTIC does the job as good as any at a lower cost. 

Make a Killer Tailgate Spread: Tailgate Recipes from The Hunt Magazine 

Bourbon & Cocktails

Magnolia League | Keeneland Bourbon & Signature Cocktails

  1. Maker’s Mark: Keeneland Commemorative Edition - With its first case of iconic red wax bottles sold to Keeneland Racing, Maker’s Mark and thoroughbreds go together like peas and carrots.  
  2. Blade and Bow: Straight Kentucky Bourbon - An homage to the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery in Louisville, Blade and Bow is a taste of Kentucky craftsmanship. If balling out, some say their 22 is better than Pappy.  
  3. Signature Cocktail #1: Buffalo Bow Tie - Buffalo Trace, ginger ale, and peach syrup make this an invigoratingly sweet herbal bourbon cocktail. 
  4. Signature Cocktail #2: Keeneland Breeze - Like the Mint Julep at the Derby, this Maker’s Mark libation is the quintessential Keeneland cocktail. 
  5. Signature Cocktail #3: Keeneland Lemonade - Keeneland and Kentucky are all about bourbon. But you need to have at least one vodka alternative. This refreshing boozy lemonade is the perfect compliment.   
  6. Lexington Brewing Co: Kentucky Vanilla Barrel Cream Ale - Keep at least one beer in your stable. Lexington’s Cream Ale is local, one of our favorite beers anywhere, and light enough for day drinking. 

Keeneland Cocktail Recipes: Signature Keeneland Cocktails

Breeder’s Cup Cocktail Recipes: Breeder’s Cup Cocktails 

Lexington: Where to Stay, Eat, What to Do

Keeneland Race Track horse racing

Crab cakes and football are what Maryland does. Bourbon, basketball, and Bluegrass Thoroughbreds are what Kentucky does. No place does it better than Lexington.

Lexington is well worth a visit any time of the year. Here’s where to stay, eat, and what to do while visiting the “Horse Capital of the World.” 


Where to Stay in Lexington 

  1. 21c Museum Hotel (Downtown) - This Louisville based chain delivers an exceptional experience that’s part modern boutique hotel part contemporary art gallery experience.
  2. Elwood Hotel (Near Keeneland) - Lexington’s newest boutique hotel brings you close to the action. This pet friendly hotel is tastefully designed with retro-chic touches. 
  3. The Campbell House (University of Kentucky) - Offers a refined and elegant Lexington experience that will make you feel like a Kentucky Colonel in this beautifully restored white column estate. 
  4. Airbnb (House Rental) - If you’re with a group, renting a house is the way to go. Home rental services like Airbnb and Vrbo offer unique stays from horse farms to historic antebellum homes. 

Where to Eat in Lexington 

  1. Greyline Station/Julietta Market - A non-profit public market meant to foster growth in the community, find delicious food options and locally crafted goods in this former bus hub listed in the National Register of Historic Spaces. 
  2. Distillery District - Way more than bourbon, the district offers a wide variety of local favorites and world-class Kentucky distillers that make this ideal for groups. 
  3. Lockbox - Located in the 21c Museum Hotel, Lockbox offers “simple, honest, soulful” food with food made from ingredients sourced from local Kentucky farmers. 
  4. Merrick Inn - A multi-generational family-owned destination that embodies genteel Southern hospitality and one of the nation’s best bourbon selections. Book early, this favorite fills up fast during meets. 
  5. 50 More Lexington Restaurants

What to Do in Lexington

  1. Explore Bourbon Country - From gems like James E. Pepper Distillery to national brands like Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve. 
  2. Tour Stallion Farms - Now that you’ve seen Thoroughbred racing, go behind-the-scenes at one of Kentucky Horse Country’s beautiful horse farms.
  3. Mary Tood Lincoln House and Ashland (The Henry Clay Estate) - Visit the homes that played a pivotal role in America. See the estate of statesman, Kentucky hero, and almost president Henry Clay and childhood home of Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd. 
  4. University of Kentucky - Rupp Arena is hallowed ground for any college basketball fan, while Kroger Field hosts SEC football action when the wildcats are in town. 

Win, Place, Show: How to Bet

Read the guide to understand the basics of placing a bet at Keeneland. Keeneland Guide to Betting.

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