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Kentucky’s top equine sites double as travel attractions 

EVEN FOR THOSE WHO have lived in the commonwealth for years, there are endless opportunities for new travel and entertainment experiences connected to Kentucky’s No. 1 tourism attraction: horses. These are worth the trip. 

Horse racing comes to southeastern Kentucky 

Horse racing comes for the first time to the tri-county region of Whitley, Knox and Laurel when Cumberland Run harness track stages its inaugural meet in October and early November. Cumberland Run is in Corbin, just off the Corbin Bypass. 

Owned by a group headed by the managing partners at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland, it will be just one of the many unique travel opportunities this year for racing fans, horse lovers and sports enthusiasts around Kentucky. Cumberland Run becomes the state’s eighth racetrack and the third for gaited harness racing, which features trotters and pacers. 

While the 11-day meet, October 15– November 6, won’t run until fall, the goal is to have Cumberland Run’s year-round operation for betting on horse races around the country and electronic gaming machines ready for the public this summer. 

“The plans are to have a year-round facility,” says Henry Graffeo, general manager of Cumberland Run and its sister, The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland in Williamsburg. “I’m going to try to create more entertainment than just horse racing, although the primary reason is for our standardbred racing partners.” 

Simulcast wagering on horses and historical horse racing gaming are already available at The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland, located just 25 minutes south in Williamsburg. The venue opened in August. 

“We’ve become a destination for folks,” says Bruce Carpenter, executive director of the Southern Kentucky Economic Development Agency and Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. He lists the racetracks, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park and Williamsburg’s Kentucky Splash Waterpark among the southern Kentucky attractions.

“Another 45 minutes away you have Boone’s Ridge, a wildlife habitat being developed,” he says. “If you just take the whole beauty of southern Kentucky, with the mountains and waterways, we really feel we’re going to become a destination where folks come and spend several days in our region.” 

The Mint Cumberland also offers family entertainment. While you do have to be at least 21 to enter the gaming floor, The Backyard Race & Sports Grill has a side entrance, indoor and outdoor dining and is open for all ages. Guests can watch sports and racing on myriad TVs and there also are games such a cornhole, shuffleboard, foosball and more. 

Kentucky Horse Park: a special relationship 

Celebrating its 45th year, the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County opened in 1978 as the world’s only park dedicated to humans’ relationship with the horse. The 1,229-acre park offers tourist attractions, equine competition, event facilities, a 260-site resort campground and the offices of 30 national and regional equine organizations.

During the park’s main season, guests can enjoy a scenic horse-drawn trolley tour, walk through history at the International Museum of the Horse and watch live equine presentations that include the Parade of Breeds, Hall of Champions Show and the Kentucky Derby Winner Nightcap. Horseback trail rides and pony rides are also available for guests who are ready to get in the saddle.

Old Friends Equine: Thoroughbred racing’s living museum 

Old Friends Equine in Georgetown, among America’s most celebrated and unique racehorse retirement facilities, is adding a visitors center scheduled to open this month. Fashioned out of a traditional tobacco barn, the visitors center will serve as a museum and much more at the operation’s 236-acre Dream Chase Farm just off Interstates 64/75 in Scott County. 

The only major thoroughbred retirement facility that welcomes stallions, Old Friends embraces its role as “horse racing’s living history museum,” with visitors getting up close to racing stalwarts such as Hall of Famers and fan favorites Silver Charm and Lava Man, as well as the miniature horse Little Silver Charm. 

Book tour space in advance through Old Friends’ online portal or by phone. There’s a good chance you’ll meet the colorful Michael Blowen, the former Boston Globe film critic who founded Old Friends. 

Jazzy Jules trots at the Corbin meet with driver James Stiltner II. Photo: Amanda Stephens
The Parade of Breeds at the Kentucky Horse Park celebrates stunning equine diversity. Photo: Kentucky Tourism
The Backyard Race & Sports Grill at The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland offers sports and racing on myriad TVs. Photo: Jennie Rees
Runnymede Farm is among the many destinations visitors can experience through Horse Country Photo: Horse Country

Shaker Village: ride the trails of history 

Enjoy this unique chapter of American history, along with the horses that make up an important part of Shaker Village’s livestock population. With 34 original 19th century Shaker structures, the 3,000-acre site is Kentucky’s largest National Historical Landmark. Tour the property via horse-drawn wagon every Friday through Sunday, May–October, with tickets at $10. 

Shaker Village features 29 miles of riding trails. It’s BYOH (bring your own horse) with overnight stabling available and annual equestrian passes offered. Stay at The Inn at Shaker Village, with 72 guest rooms, suites and private cottages spread throughout 13 historic buildings. 

On November 25, from 9–10 a.m., Shaker Village hosts the Long Run Woodford Hounds fox hunters for the annual Blessing of the Hounds (also the riders and horses), followed by the first meet of the hunting season. This colorful event is free with general admission. 

Marion County Fair: harness racing 

While Kentucky has three parimutuel harness racing tracks, the fair circuit reaches back to the sport’s roots and is where Kentucky horsemen develop their young horses. Marion County’s fairgrounds will conduct non-betting racing as part of the Marion County Fair on Wednesday, June 28, as part of the June 26–July 1 event featuring tractor pulls, demolition derby and music. 

Visitors can watch horses train year-round at the fairgrounds, which also host the Washington County Fair racing on May 27 and the Woodford County Fair racing on July 5. Horse shows are staged the third Saturday of every month, May through October. 

Side trips: stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail are just a short drive, with Maker’s Mark in Loretto 15 minutes away.

JENNIE REES is a horse-racing communications specialist, working for Kentucky Downs, the Kentucky and National HBPA horsemen’s associations and others. 

Featured destinations 

Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland 

244 Penny Lane, Williamsburg  

(606) 400-2888 

Cumberland Run 

777 Winners Lane (formerly 75 Buchanan Blvd.), Corbin 

Check for updates. 

Kentucky Horse Park 

4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington 

(859) 233-4303 

Old Friends Equine 

1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown 

(502) 863-1775 

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill 

3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg 

(859) 734-5411 

Marion County Fairgrounds 

420 Fairgrounds Road, Lebanon 

(270) 699-6573 

Horse Country 


(859) 963-1004 

Tour tickets must be purchased in advance. 

Places to stay 

Springhill Suites by Marriott Franklin Mint (Scheduled to open in early July) 

5629 Nashville Road, Franklin, adjacent to The Mint Gaming Hall 

(270) 598-5757 

Derby City Gaming Hotel (Scheduled to open summer 2023) 

4520 Poplar Level Road, Louisville  

(502) 961-7600 

Dew Drop In & The Cottage at Saxony Farm 

469 Browns Mill Road, Lexington 

(859) 619-3523 

A Storybook Inn 

277 Rose Hill Ave., Versailles 

(859) 879-9993 

Charred Oaks Inn 

341 Lexington Street, Versailles 

(513) 739-6156 

The Kentucky Castle 

230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles 

(859) 256-0322 

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