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The Bluegrass Region encompasses roughly 1,600 square miles of lush farmland in north-central Kentucky. For most visitors this land epitomizes the state—quiet farmhouse communities and rolling green pastures bounded by picturesque white and black plank fences. Rock fences, some built in the 1800s by Irish immigrants, add to the pastoral surroundings.
These pastures are seeded with the long-lived perennial for which the region is named. The grass, which produces small blue flowers during its late May blooming season, is said to take on a bluish tint; however, since most fields are constantly mowed or cropped by livestock, the blue color is rarely seen.
Color and scenic value aside, the grass—fortified with calcium and phosphorous due to limestone deposits that feed the soil—is prized for its role in producing the equine blue bloods for which the region is recognized. The Bluegrass Thoroughbred horse is world-renowned for its speed, stamina and strength.
Since the first racetrack was built in 1797, the breeding, training, racing and selling of horses—American Saddlebred horses, Standardbreds and especially Thoroughbreds—has become a lucrative industry. Some 50,000 horses are foaled each year, and many champions earn millions at big-ticket races and even more as retired studs. The wealth is apparent in the careful attention given to the construction and maintenance of horse barns. Stables, some of which resemble posh estates, feature such architectural elements as cupolas, spires and picture windows. Inside, it is not surprising to find rich woods, brass fixtures or other embellishments.
Shows and exhibitions take place year-round, and both Keeneland Race Course and The Red Mile Harness Track have spring and fall meets in Lexington. Thoroughbred racing reigns supreme, but harness races, steeplechases and horse shows also draw crowds. Thoroughbred sales take place in January, April, September and November.
Lexington, one of the world's most prominent horse centers, is the region's geographic and commercial hub. Other Bluegrass Country towns listed individually are Berea, Danville, Frankfort, Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Paris, Richmond, Versailles and Winchester.
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