Spring Events for All Ages at Keeneland Library

March 20, 2024

Keeneland Library. (Keeneland photo)

• New Exhibit Highlights Blue Grass Stakes
• Starting Gate Storytime

Keeneland Press Release

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland Library is kicking off springtime in Kentucky with a full slate of events designed to appeal to racing fans of all ages and interests. The Library will celebrate the milestone editions of two iconic Kentucky races, the 100th Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, with a sweeping photographic exhibit, Derby Week tours and a handicapping seminar. For kids ages 4-8, the Library will inaugurate Starting Gate Storytime, which will combine readings of horse-centered children’s books with a literacy, art, history, industry awareness or STEM activity.

Information about Keeneland Library and more details on the spring events are available at keeneland.com/library.

Exhibit Highlights Blue Grass Stakes

The tenacious Tapit Trice was victorious over Verifying in the 2023 Toyota Blue Grass (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire) 

Keeneland Library’s newest exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes, opens Monday, April 1, featuring photographs that capture race highlights over the decades with memorabilia from notable jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners such as Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold. The exhibit’s photographs, curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers, spotlight some of the greatest moments of the time-honored spring stakes.   

“We are fortunate to have rich resources in the Library’s collections to celebrate this historic running,” Keeneland Library Director Roda Ferraro said. “The exhibit features never-before-published photographs alongside iconic shots that capture some of racing’s greatest equine athletes and their connections spanning more than 100 years. The public submission call for photographs was a welcomed boon to the exhibit’s curation process, and we are pleased to spotlight the work of photographers in concert with images from the Library’s collections.”

Named after Kentucky’s picturesque Bluegrass region to showcase its legacy as the breeding ground for exceptional racehorses, the Blue Grass Stakes was inaugurated at the Kentucky Association race track in 1911. The track, located in what is now Lexington’s East End, operated from 1828-1933. Held from 1911-1914 and from 1919-1926, the Blue Grass was revived at Keeneland during its inaugural 11-day Spring Meet in April 1937. 

From the unexpected win by trainer Earl Sande’s colt Fencing in 1937 through favored Tapit Trice’s victory in 2023 that secured trainer Todd Pletcher’s fourth win in Keeneland’s spring centerpiece, the Blue Grass maintains a history of close finishes, upsets, fan favorites and some of racing’s all-time greats. Among the equine stars who took the stage in the venerable race are one runner who would claim the Triple Crown (Whirlaway), 10 winners who would secure their place in the Racing Hall of Fame, 11 winners who would triumph in the Kentucky Derby and 55 runners who would win Triple Crown races.

The free exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Library.

The 100th Blue Grass, a $1 million race sponsored by Toyota, will be run Saturday, April 6.

Derby Week Tours

To celebrate the 100th Blue Grass and the 150th Kentucky Derby, Keeneland Tours and Keeneland Library will offer tours titled “From Keeneland to the Kentucky Derby” the week of April 29. Each tour will include a visit to the track to watch racehorses train, spotlight Keeneland sales graduates who made their mark in the Kentucky Derby and provide an exclusive tour of Keeneland Library’s latest exhibit.

For tour details and tickets, visit tickets.keeneland.com/tour-tickets/.

Handicap the Derby with Tom Law

Racing fans both novice and knowledgeable are invited to join veteran handicapper and award-winning Turf writer Tom Law on Wednesday, May 1 for a night of handicapping the 2024 Kentucky Derby. Law, winner of the Red Smith Kentucky Derby Writing Award and multiple Eclipse Awards will discuss the leading contenders for this year’s Derby and the undercard races at Churchill Downs.

“Unlocking the Kentucky Derby puzzle is one of the most anticipated challenges every year for horseplayers and fans, whether they are longtime gamblers or newcomers,” Law said. “Everyone has an opinion on who will win – and who won’t – and it will be great to discuss both for this year’s 150th Kentucky Derby. We’ll have some fun, talk traditions new and old and hopefully give out plenty of winners for the big day.”

The event will be held 6-7:30 p.m. at the Library. For more information and tickets, visit keeneland.com/library

Starting Gate Storytime

C Z Rocket Gate Schooling (Keeneland photo)

Beginning May 11, Starting Gate Storytime will combine a reading of a children’s book centered on horses with a literacy, art, history, industry awareness or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activity. Beloved Keeneland Kids Club mascot Buckles will be on hand to brush up on his reading and spend time with young racing fans and horse lovers. The series is ideal for learners ages 4 through 8. 

“As a complement to the free in-classroom educational programs Keeneland Library provides to schools and partnering public libraries across the Bluegrass, we are pleased to launch this new literacy series for young learners to foster appreciation of the horse and to heighten industry awareness,” Ferraro said.

Starting Gate Storytime programs are free, ticketed events for children and their families. For series dates, the lineup of featured stories in 2024 and to reserve free tickets, visit keeneland.com/library.

About Keeneland Library

Founded in 1939, the world-renowned Keeneland Library houses one of the most comprehensive collection of materials related to Thoroughbred racing, featuring thousands of books, magazines and newspapers and millions of photographic negatives and prints about all aspects of the industry. Staff at this distinguished public research facility annually assist thousands of visitors, racing fans, journalists, writers, academics, historians and others seeking information for their personal use or for articles, books, movies, documentaries and other projects.

Throughout the year, the Library hosts public exhibits, education and outreach programs for youth and adults, and special events, including a Lecture Series to showcase authors who have conducted research at the Library. Artwork and memorabilia about Thoroughbred racing are also on display.

The Library, open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is located near the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center. Admission is free. 

For more information about Keeneland Library and how you can support its preservation and outreach efforts, visit Keeneland.com/library.

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