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A different look but the racing remains the same at Keeneland

Keeneland Welcome Center
Stu Johnson
Keeneland Welcome Center

It’s the first weekend in April which traditionally means the start of spring racing at Keeneland. This year’s fan experience will be slightly different and some are calling that a sign of progress.

Work is underway on the largest capital project since the historic track opened almost 90 years ago. But the Thoroughbred racing must go on, and it will. The 16-day spring meet opens Friday and Kara Heissenbuttel, director of Patron Experience said the trackside time is consistent.

“The great thing is once they get in the gates, everything will be the exact same that they’re used to seeing when they come to Keeneland. But their path in will be a little bit different,” said Heissenbuttel.

The east gate entrance is under construction, so fans will be routed through south and north entrances. A construction paddock wall is in place as the meet gets underway.

“The construction has impeded upon our saddling paddock just a little bit as we build that new facility. But, nothing else within the grandstand is affected. So, all the same number of bars and concessions that have always been available will be available this meet,” said Heissenbuttel.

On the race sheet Saturday, is the 100th running of the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes, a prep for the 150th Kentucky Derby in May.

Once again, all tickets must be purchased online in advance. Heissenbuttel said tailgating activities on The Hill Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are free. She noted sunrise trackside will be open Saturday morning from eight to ten. In the betting arena, Heissenbuttel added a change in the daily double wager finds Keeneland reducing its takeout from 22 to 15%. The largest capital project in Keeneland’s history is expected to be completed in the fall of 2025.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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