Kentucky’s Royal Connections
Queen Elizabeth II of England is celebrating 70 years of service in 2022 with a Platinum Jubilee. She ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, but the festivities last all year long. The queen has a known love for horses and has visited the Bluegrass State five times: 1984, 1986, 1989, 1991 and attended the Kentucky Derby on her last visit in 2007. Enjoy some of the locations the queen has visited in Kentucky by planning your own trip!
In Queen Elizabeth II's first visit to Kentucky in October 1984, Her Majesty visited the historic Keeneland racetrack in Lexington to celebrate the inauguration of the race named in her honor, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. It was reportedly her first visit to an American horse racing track. You can visit this National Historic Landmark and its beautifully-landscaped grounds throughout the year, for tours, spring or fall racing, horse sales, and November 4-5, 2022 for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
2007 was a very special time in Kentucky! Queen Elizabeth II and the late Prince Philip attended the 133rd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Fans stood for almost an hour to see the queen, most only caught her motorcade, but they were still excited to know she was here in the Bluegrass State! She received a tour of the trophy room and watched the Derby with Prince Philip and others while in attendance. People traveled from as far away as New York City to see her, with one woman reportedly saying excitedly, “I saw her lovely hat!” You can learn more about the Derby and its history at the adjoining Kentucky Derby Museum, which offers tours of the racetrack throughout the year.
Hermitage Farm in Oldham County
During her second visit to the states in May 1986, Queen Elizabeth II visited horse farms around the state, including Hermitage Farm in Oldham County, located just outside of Louisville. The horse farm is now a multi-faceted attraction, with a farm-to-table restaurant, Barn 8, horse farm tours, an Art Walk experience, and a new bourbon tasting room for visitors known as Barn 6.
Lane’s End Farm in Woodford County
The queen has visited and stayed at Lane’s End Farm in Woodford County near Versailles over multiple visits throughout the years. A variety of tours are available so you can also tour the farm and its operations. During her 1986 visit, she got her first look at one of her mares and its foal at the farm. Her working holiday visit in 1989 included the farm and others in the region, as well as her 1991 visit, when she examined stallions to potentially breed with her mares in future years. The queen seemed to be impressed by 1988 Kentucky Derby Winner and Horse of the Year Alysheba, who lived on the farm during that time and later moved on to the Kentucky Horse Park, where he is buried today.
Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington
Queen Elizabeth II has also visited Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington during her multiple visits to Kentucky. The nursery farm even built a special covered pavilion on its grounds for the queen to use when visiting to inspect horses she owned, boarded and bred. Today, tours of the farm start in the breeding shed, where there are display boards detailing the farm’s history, including pictures of the queen’s 1991 visit.
Other Horse Country farms
More than 450 horse farms with rolling hills and fences can be found in Central Kentucky surrounding Lexington, the “Horse Capital of the World.” Visitors can book tours with Horse Country to explore the homes of champions and learn about the care and husbandry of Kentucky’s signature athletes. From nursery farms to stud farms, training facilities to aftercare – there’s a variety of equine attractions where you can get up close and personal and go behind the scenes, no matter the time of year.