May 19, 2023

By: Alexa Treon

Sports & Entertainment Travel (SET) recently hosted our annual Kentucky Derby trip welcoming over 100 guests from 13 different college universities to Lexington, Kentucky for 4-days, 3-night immersion into the thoroughbred horse racing and Bourbon distillery industries. 


Often referred to as, “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” this race is top of many’s bucket lists, rightfully so! Even for the horse racing novice, this spectacle is an experience unlike any other. 

There are endless ways to enjoy your time at Churchill Downs from General Admission in the Infield to Grandstands or Box Seating to the newly-opened First Turn Club. Situated on the iconic first turn of the racetrack, the First Turn Club offers exclusive betting windows, food, and drinks with a front row view of the famous Kentucky Derby Walkover, where contenders and their connections parade along the track from the barn area to the Paddock prior to the big race. With next year being the 150th running, the options are continuing to grow! The best part? All reserved seating includes all-inclusive food and beverage!


The trip started on Wednesday evening with a Reception to welcome travelers at Harper Hall. Just celebrating their one year anniversary, this venue was a perfect space to host our guests with its open concept and exposed white brick walls. The evening began with a delicious buffet meal paired with entertainment by a BlueGrass Trio. We ended the night with an engaging conversation with longtime SET friend and tour manager at the Kentucky Derby Museum, Barry Northern.

Thursday morning started with a breakfast at the American Saddlebred Museum among the historic artifacts outlining the history of American Saddlebred horses

Next stop was a Tour and Tasting at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Guides took our guests along a tour of the grounds diving deep into the history of bourbon and the journey of how it came to be what it is today. The tour ended with a tasting of multiple of Buffalo Trace’s offerings finished with a Bourbon Cream Root Beer float and chocolate bourbon ball.

Lunch was held at Castle & Key Distillery. Located on historic grounds that date back to the late 1800s, this distillery was restored and reopened in 2014.

Finally, we ended our day at Old Friends Farm, one of the most well known Thoroughbred retirement farms started by Former Boston Globe movie critic, Michael Blowen. With his love for horses and passion for creating a relaxing environment for horses after the breeding sheds and race tracks, Michael is still very much present around the farm. Knowledgeable volunteers will guide you through the current residents and their stories. One of Old Friend’s most famous residents is Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby Winner. All animal-lovers alike will enjoy Old Friends, while even having the opportunity to feed the horses a carrot or 2!

Keeneland was our first stop on Friday with a guided tour of the grounds during morning workouts. We had the chance to get up close and personal to watch training at this historic racecourse.

Friday afternoon we visited a variety of horse farms including:


Spy Coast Farm specializes in the breeding and development of top quality performance horses. They employ an integrated approach to all reproductive, training, competition, and sales efforts and over time have extended this approach to include rehabilitation and fitness services, CEM quarantine, and an Equine Education Center.  Our 2 hour tour started at the state-of-the-art medical/rehabilitation facility, where Dr. Julie Vargas told the group about the different treatments available. Farm Tour Guide Lisa Biererman then took us across a majority of the 800 acre property, seeing the vast paddocks, breeding barn along with the newborn foals.


Lane’s End Thoroughbred Farm has a fascinating history, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visiting on multiple occasions and an extraordinary sales record, selling more than 365 stakes winners, including A.P. Indy, Saint Liam, Rags to Riches, Lemon Drop Kid and Flightline. This farm has a true family feel, with several family members of the Farish family involved in all aspects of its operations. A trip to Lane’s End should be on your list during your next venture to Lexington to see some of the world’s leading breeding stallions. 

Lunch was provided at Fasig Tipton, North America’s largest Thoroughbred auction house!


ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at the Lexington Marriott City Center, situated in the heart of downtown Lexington.There are various restaurants, shops, and activities all within a 10 minute walk. The hotel has courteous staff and many amenities including a lobby bar and daily breakfast options, making it a great choice for our travelers! 

RESTAURANTS: Downtown Lexington does not lack amazing cuisine. Our first night in town, we visited Corto Lima. This latin-inspired restaurant offered a welcoming atmosphere with bright lights and courteous staff. The environment, paired with their blue corn or smoked jackfruit empanadas and their signature Prickly Pear Margarita, started our trip out on a high note.

Owned by the same duo as Corto Lima, another great option in the area is Italx. We started out the evening with the Prosciutto di Parma that came dressed with burrata, tomatoes, basil, and fresh toasted focaccia. For our next course, we indulged in the lobster ravioli, which was recommended by our waitress and lived up to the hype! We finished the night with the Tiramisu al Marsala and as if the great meal wasn’t enough, this restaurant is located in the Residence Inn, connected to the Marriott, so we just had a short (covered) walk back to the hotel. This is definitely a popular option, so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time. 

Check out some photos from this trip HERE

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