The debut of Keeneland’s innovative Owner’s Experience Tour during the 2018 Fall Meet was an overwhelming success. All 16 sessions of the 90-minute experience with a 10-person limit were sold out. Guests came from 20 states and Australia.
For the first race on selected days, a Keeneland tour guide accompanied each group into the Saddling Paddock for pre-race activities. Guests saw the Thoroughbreds’ connections and watched trainers saddle horses. They continued to the Walking Ring and saw trainers and jockeys discuss strategy before the call for “Riders Up.” Participants proceeded through the Tunnel and into the Winner’s Circle, where they watched the race and the Winner’s Circle ceremony.
They then conducted their own mock trophy presentation complete with a personal visit from Keeneland Bugler Steve Buttleman.
“We are always looking at new ways that we can engage with our fans and provide unique experiences that they can’t get anywhere else,” Keeneland Director of Employee and Patron Experience Kara Heissenbuttel said. “The average fan will never have the chance to experience Keeneland in a way that owners do with access to the Paddock and Winner’s Circle and the opportunity to see the smallest details executed by Keeneland staff to create an impeccable race day.”
Heissenbuttel said guests had a variety of knowledge about racing. Some were first-time visitors to Keeneland, while others were long-time fans who never had a chance to be so close to racehorses and their owners and trainers.
“Loved the Owner’s Experience Tour and getting to go where only owners can stand to view all the Thoroughbreds,” one participant wrote. “What a thrill.”
“The most common comment I heard from our guests was ‘Wow,’ but my favorite might have been from a California couple celebrating the husband’s birthday,” Keeneland Tour Guide Carol Sue Ray said. “Three different times along the tour they hugged each other and said, ‘Best birthday present ever.’ ”
“Our fans crave these intimate experiences, and we love having the opportunity to provide that for them,” Heissenbuttel said.
Click here for more information about Official Keeneland Tours, which will include Behind-the-Scenes Sales Tours on selected days during Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale.