This can be one of the most affordable days out or one of the most expensive - all depending on how much you want to gamble on some of Kentucky’s, and sometimes the world’s, top thoroughbred racehorses. Kentucky Downs is known as a European-style turf racecourse, and just about an hour up the road from Nashville. My husband and I discovered this hidden gem by traveling up and down I-65 - this past year being our third trip to the fall meet.
It’s no Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky or Santa Anita Park on the west coast, but this track I consider one of my favorites. The laid-back atmosphere’s something I enjoy - including the freedom to wander around the majority of the grounds. I also love being able to make it a ‘true’ day at the races. Of course there’s food and drink for purchase, but I find it a win being able to pack a cooler, a couple of lawn chairs and set up camp where we please. Another big sell for me is being able to get up close to the turf track horses and watching them at the finish line deliver successful wins. Plus, there’s plenty of betting windows for those that like to wager a little (or a lot) on their favorite horses in hopes of finally choosing the ‘big winner.’ This year was a record year for the horse track - paying out a record of $8.6 million in purses.
If being in a covered area with catered food and TVs is more your speed - Kentucky Downs also offers two different tented areas for purchase where you’re guaranteed shade, food and a table. Otherwise, some of the new upgrades include picnic tables equipped with umbrellas to beat the heat and humidity, plus more pavement, more beverage stations and merchandise emblazoned with the Kentucky Downs logo.
It’s always a pleasure seeing some of the big names in trainers, jockeys and owners at the track. Ken and Sarah Ramsey are one of the more noticeable names among owners and breeders. Usually on the last day of the meet, you can find Ken Ramsey at the entrance of the Turf Club proudly cheering on his well-established bloodlines that trace back to world class sire, Kitten’s Joy. Some of the top jocks that also come to ride on the bluegrass are names like Edgar Prado, Channing Hill, Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux - just to name a few.
Plan on staying as little or as long as you like at this boutique track that borders the state line between the Volunteer and Blue Grass state. If you’ve bet on all the ponies you can and are still looking for something to fulfill your time, Kentucky Downs also offers casino-style gambling. I also heard there’s great bingo across the street.