City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Off to the Races in 2019

An Equine-Enriched Trip to Kentucky Downs

Article by Julie Brown Patton

Photography by Courtesy of Kentucky Downs

Originally published in Green Hills Lifestyle

Did you know that Kentucky Downs is home to America's only European-style and most unique horse track? 

At 1.3125 miles in length, Kentucky Downs showcases one of the longest courses in the nation, with all of the races conducted on grass. While other U.S. racetracks are oval and flat, Kentucky Downs was fashioned in a kidney-bean shape when its founders laid out the course in an undulating field in 1990 with the intention of staging world-class steeplechase racing. The course's jumps and hurdles since were removed. But the track’s gentle mounds and subtle elevation changes, massive sweeping turn into a distinctive stretch featuring a dogleg bend and quarter-mile dash to the finish remain to make racing at Kentucky Downs an exhilarating experience for both those competing and those cheering, says Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager.

Kentucky Downs is heralded within the industry as a one-of-a-kind and “must-see” experience, providing fun for entire families along with extraordinarily up-close views of the people and equine participants.

Starting in 2019, the track’s international flavor will be accentuated by Michael Wrona, a pre-eminent race-caller known around the world and the voice of Santa Anita Park in California. The 52-year-old Australian has a reputation of being one of the sport’s most colorful and entertaining announcers, weaving humor into precise calls.

General admission and parking at this course, including tailgating on the far turn, are free. Unlike most racetracks, Kentucky Downs doesn't have typical grandstand seating; instead, it features stadium seats and picnic tables, or guests can bring their own lawn chairs or picnic blankets. Reserved seating is offered, starting at $25 each. 

Ted says the annual five-day racing meet averages more than $2 million a day in purses and about 11 horses per race, both tops in the country. Its 14 stakes races, from sprints to routes and everything in between, feature four that boast graded status: the G3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, G3 Ladies Turf Stakes, G3 Turf Sprint Stakes and G3 Ladies Turf Sprint Stakes. Graded stakes races are those designated as the best in North America, with Grade 1 the highest rating possible.

2019 Kentucky Downs live race dates are:

  • Saturday, Aug. 31
  • Thursday, Sept. 5
  • Saturday, Sept. 7
  • Sunday, Sept. 8
  • Thursday, Sept. 12

Kentucky Downs, located just off Interstate 65, also is open year-round for betting on horse tracks around the country and playing innovative, electronic gaming terminals.

5629 Nashville Road, Franklin, Kentucky, 270.586.7778,


While in the Kentucky horse racing region, consider also visiting retired equine greats at the Thoroughbred Retirement Facilities in Georgetown and Franklin. The Georgetown team was recognized for putting a new face on the concept of equine aftercare. Founded in 2003, the organization grew from a leased paddock and one horse to a 136-acre farm, a herd of more than 175 rescued and retired horses and two satellite facilities: Old Friends at Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield Center, New York. 

1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown, Kentucky, 502.863.1775 

Tours at Old Friends at Kentucky Downs are offered daily, beginning at 11 a.m. It was the first thoroughbred retirement home located at a race track in the country.

5565 Nashville Road, Franklin, Kentucky
Call 270.586.3040 to confirm a tour guide.

  • Retired Eldaafer and friend Yahoo. Photo by Laura Battles.
  • Little Silver Charm at Old Friends Equine.
  •  Bint Marscay and Miss Dubois. Photo by Laura Battles.