“This is like-minded neighbors working together,” said Nick Nicholson, president and CEO of Keeneland, as he joined Greenbrier owner and chairman Jim Justice in announcing a strategic partnership between the two internationally known destinations.

Wednesday’s announcement in the Crystal Room of the legendary West Virginia resort echoed a matching event earlier in the day at the Kentucky race course and sales center.

As one of the world’s most prestigious thoroughbred racetracks and the world’s largest thoroughbred auction company, Keeneland attracts buyers and visitors from around the globe.

Since both destinations draw much of the same clientele, forming a partnership to develop new offerings for their members and guests was a natural decision, Justice and Nicholson agreed.

“There’s a lot of overlay between our customers, our patrons,” Nicholson commented. “Keeneland aspires to the same qualities that can be found here at The Greenbrier. There’s maybe a little touch of anachronism to it.”

Justice noted, “There’s a real magic about The Greenbrier, and Keeneland has the same appeal. Thoroughbred racing is almost romantic; it ties directly to what we’re doing here.”

Both Keeneland and The Greenbrier are National Historic Landmarks.

Although the relationship between the destinations is just getting under way, Justice has plans to link the two via air and rail.

“We’re going to have our own air travel here at The Greenbrier,” he said, explaining it would involve both helicopters and airplanes and employ facilities and services available at nearby Greenbrier Valley Airport.

“And you know we’re building a train — The Greenbrier Express,” Justice said.

The train is about 12 months away from realization, he predicted, saying he envisions Greenbrier guests boarding the train at the station just across the street from the resort’s front entrance early in the morning, enjoying breakfast on the train and arriving at Keeneland five or six hours hence, just in time for lunch and an afternoon of watching races before taking the train back to the Spa City.

Nicholson waxed enthusiastic about the possibility of train excursions, pointing out, “We have tracks the farmers used to bring their stock in on. The tracks are literally on the border of Keeneland.”

He added, “Arriving at the races by train is so old-fashioned, it’s modern.”

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Operated as a non-dividend-paying corporation, Keeneland conducts three weeks of live racing each April and October and holds four horse sales each year.

Keeneland’s 1,038-acre complex in central Kentucky includes a race course, sales pavilion, 57 barns that can house 1,951 horses, five dining rooms, corporate boxes and a clubhouse.

Keeneland’s partnership with The Greenbrier comes just weeks before the July 2 grand opening of the resort’s much-anticipated Casino Club, a 102,000-square-foot sophisticated gaming facility with new restaurants, lounges and upscale retail boutiques.

Following the casino opening, the resort will host the first Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour FedEx Cup event that will bring the world’s greatest golfers to the resort’s Old White Course July 26-Aug. 1.

“With the opening of the Casino Club only three weeks away, we are thrilled Keeneland will be providing us with historic memorabilia for Twelve Oaks, our equestrian-themed lounge in the casino,” Justice said.

“Having Keeneland’s memorabilia in such an elegant setting will extend interest about us among upscale travelers and help promote our spring and fall races to the benefit of our members,” Nicholson said. “To show our commitment and loyalty, we will also offer Greenbrier guests premium seating and other exclusive amenities as part of this new relationship.”

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com


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