Kentucky Association Race Track

Recognized as the “oldest turf organization in America,”1 the Kentucky Association (also known as the Kentucky Racing Association) was established in 1826 by Kentucky political and civic leaders Henry Clay, Dr. Elisha Warfield, Thomas F. Marshall, and Jesse Bledsoe. Its dirt track for Thoroughbred flat racing opened in 1828, and by the early 1870s, the Association had attained 65 acres of land in Lexington, Kentucky.

The track, grandstand, stables, and grounds were sold in 1890, after decades of success. A New York Times article from March 19, 1897, noted prior to its purchase in 1890, the Kentucky Association held race meetings annually with exception of two years during the Civil War, when “all the thoroughbreds were either in military service or in hiding to keep the soldiers from getting to them.” 2 The new investors, facing foreclosure, put the track, the then new grandstand, clubhouse, betting shed, and acreage up for sale in May of 1897. Despite the efforts of a series of owners in the early decades of the 20th century, the Kentucky Association closed its track in 1933. By 1935, none of its prior facilities were still standing.

Several stakes races trace their origins to the Kentucky Association. In 1831, the track hosted the Phoenix Hotel Handicap, which would become what is now the oldest stakes race in the country – the Phoenix Stakes. The Ashland Stakes, the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes, the Blue Grass Stakes, and the Ben Ali Stakes had their inaugural runs at the Kentucky Association track prior to 1920.

1. Johnson, E. P. (1912). A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians: The Leaders and Representative
Men in Commerce, Industry and Modern Activities
, Volume 2.  Lewis Publishing Company.

2. New York Times. (March 19, 1897). "A Racecourse to Be Sold: The Kentucky Association in Arrears on its Interest."
Alvey, R.G. (1992). Kentucky Bluegrass Country. Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi.

Wright, J.D. (1982). Lexington: Heart of the Bluegrass. Lexington, Kentucky: Lexington Historical Publishing Corporation.