When people think Kentucky, they think horses, and honestly, that’s only fair. Horses are big business (and big fun) here. For horse lovers, Kentucky is a dream destination, with enough equine attractions to fill an entire itinerary. October is an ideal time to do this trip, at least if you want to see live racing at Kentucky’s two major tracks.
Start in Lexington, the horse capital of the world, where the Kentucky Horse Park should be your first destination. The shows, demonstrations, and museums will easily fill an entire morning. In the afternoon, head north to Georgetown for a visit to Old Friends, a retirement farm for racehorses, followed by horseback riding with Whispering Woods Riding Stable. Return to Lexington in the evening for dinner and an overnight stay.
If it’s not April or October, rise early to catch morning workouts at Keeneland and to have breakfast at the Track Kitchen with jockeys and trainers. If one of the meets is going on, you have the option of attending the races at Keeneland, one of the most beautiful tracks in the world, or touring horse farms. Claiborne Farm in Paris, the final resting place of famed Secretariat, is a top choice for farm tours. Of course, you can also add an extra day to the itinerary and do both. Again, overnight in Lexington or one of the surrounding communities, such as Versailles or Midway.
Depart Lexington for Shelbyville, which sits between Lexington and Louisville. Although often overlooked, Shelbyville is the saddlebred capital of the world. (Saddlebreds are Kentucky’s only native breed of horse.) Tours of Shelbyville horse farms can be arranged through the local tourism bureau. After a morning tour, have lunch at Claudia Sanders Dinner House and then continue east to Louisville. Spend the night in Old Louisville for easy access to the next day’s attractions.
Spend your morning at the Kentucky Derby Museum, which not only celebrates the Derby, but also the entire sport of horse racing. For lunch, try Wagner’s Pharmacy, where track regulars and horse industry insiders like to dine. Then it’s time for a full schedule of racing at Churchill Downs, the famed home of the Kentucky Derby. Visit the paddock, place a few bets, take a photo under the twin spires, and call your trip through horse heaven a success.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Kentucky.