Keeneland best-of-breed saddling experience


Populous will undertake upgrades on Keeneland Race Course Image: Populous

The world’s largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house Keeneland (in Lexington, Kentucky, US) officials recently announced plans for major capital investment projects highlighted by the construction of a permanent paddock building and a reimagined saddling experience.

‘POPULOUS’ stated that located alongside the Keeneland Paddock and Walking Ring, the new Paddock Building will expand viewing and dining experiences available to the public during Keeneland’s two signature race meets, enhance hospitality during Keeneland’s Thoroughbred auctions and provide exceptional new venues for special events year-round.

Keeneland is the world’s largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house and hosts world-class racing twice annually during its boutique Spring and Fall meetings. Owners, trainers, riders, and fans from all over the world travel to Lexington (US) each year to participate at Keeneland.

Kansas City (US)-based Populous is a global architectural and design practice specializing in sports facilities, arenas and convention centers, as well as the planning and design of major special events.

‘POPULOUS’ further stated that furthering Keeneland’s culture of equine safety, the saddling stalls will be repositioned to provide the safest environment possible for equine and human participants and to give fans an unmatched view of the Saddling Paddock.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2024 at the conclusion of Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale. Plans are to complete the project in the Fall of 2025. Keeneland’s race meets and sales will continue at full capacity during construction.

The global design firm Populous is serving as the Lead Architect and will carry out exterior and interior architecture and design, landscape design and experiential branding for the project. The Populous team, through its vast expertise creating world-class equestrian facilities, race courses and exhibitions buildings coupled with its rich history of developing immersive entertainment venues, has focused on weaving the beauty and traditions of Keeneland and the majesty and safety of the horse throughout the design.

Maintained Mason Paoli, Principal, Interior Design Director, Populous, “Keeneland is a national treasure and Populous is honored to support the emerging needs of horsemen and guests through these thoughtful design solutions while creating a new vantage point for the future generations to enjoy all that Keeneland has to offer. This project offers a unique opportunity to combine our deep background in the sports, entertainment and hospitality sectors to create these one-of-a-kind spaces for fans and patrons in reverence to the horse, further extending Keeneland’s timeless mission and legacy in the sport.”

The three-level building is planned in the current footprint of the Keeneland administrative building and Jockeys Quarters and will extend the entire length of the Paddock and Walking Ring. The new venue will feature a variety of ticketed experiences available to the public, including traditional sitdown dining, new bar concepts, a panoramic rooftop, and more. The Paddock Building will include a reconfigured East Gate entrance that will align with the Keeneland Boulevard while expanding the area inside the gates around the historic Sycamore tree. Additionally, a new Jockeys Quarters will be housed within the building, providing fans a unique experience in which jockeys will walk directly through the venue before each race.

Stated Shannon Arvin, Keeneland President and head honcho, “Keeneland’s founding mission is to be a model race track, to invest in the future of our sport, to enrich our Central Kentucky community, and to always do what is best for the horse. This project is central to our mission because it will allow us to welcome more fans and give them a variety of world-class experiences during our race meets and beyond. The improvements to our saddling processes are not only functional in providing more space for horses and horsemen, but the results will offer unobstructed views to showcase the beauty and pageantry of our equine and human athletes.”

To accommodate the Paddock Building, a two-story operations building is planned for construction within walking distance of the race track. The new facility will enable Keeneland to consolidate core business and operations teams under one roof in an updated work environment. As part of the project scope, plans are also in development for an on-site Visitors Center.

These new structures will be architecturally consistent with the track’s existing Clubhouse and Grandstand and feature the two-over-two pattern of stonework unique to Keeneland. This seamless integration into Keeneland’s campus will enhance the patron experience while also maintaining the qualities and traditions that are beloved by so many in Central Kentucky and beyond.

Opened in 1936, Keeneland unites world-class Thoroughbred racing and industry-leading sales under one mission-driven entity. Keeneland hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 2015, 2020 and 2022. The track’s renowned grounds were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The site also has been a location for major motion pictures, including films about ‘Seabiscuit’ and ‘Secretariat’ (movies about the world of horse racing).

In addition to the new Paddock Building and improvements, Keeneland plans to make future announcements in furtherance of its mission to enhance racing and sales and the health and well-being of the horse.

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