Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Nourish the Backstretch

Keeneland has formed a partnership with Blue Grass Farms Charities and Nourish Lexington to offer meals and groceries to industry employees at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.

Every week Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to recognize those doing good in the horse world. Today we recognize Nourish the Backstretch, a partnership founded by Keeneland, Nourish Lexington and Blue Grass Farms Charities to offer meals and groceries to industry employees at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.


LEXINGTON, KY – On May 5th, Keeneland announced Nourish the Backstretch, powered by Keeneland, Nourish Lexington and Blue Grass Farms Charities (BGFC), which will provide weekly meals and groceries to stable area workers at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center (TTC). More than 500 people are employed by trainers to care for horses at the two locations. Proceeds from wagers placed through Keeneland Select, Keeneland’s online ADW, during May will be donated to Nourish the Backstretch.

“Keeneland is forever grateful to the industry’s front-line heroes, the men and women on the backstretch who are out there every day taking care of the horses,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “We recognize and appreciate your hard work and dedication, and we are committed to support you during this challenging time where resources are scarce. You are vital to this industry and an important part of the Keeneland family.”

Nourish the Backstretch is a further extension of Nourish Lexington, an initiative Keeneland co-founded with VisitLEX, FoodChain and other community partners in April. Nourish Lexington provides complimentary meals five days a week to anyone in the Lexington community who is affected by the COVID-19 crisis. More than 22,000 meals were distributed in the first month of operation.

“Nourish Lexington provides immediate access to food to those who need it most – from the hardworking stable worker who is caring for our horses to the recently unemployed mother who is homeschooling her children. Everyone deserves a nutritious meal,” Keeneland Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Christa Marrillia said. “Nourish the Backstretch extends the reach of these resources, allowing us to highlight our stable area community through our Chaplaincy program and Blue Grass Farms Charities.”

Keeneland Hospitality, whose staff already has cooked nearly 3,000 meals for Nourish Lexington, will prepare all meals for the Nourish the Backstretch initiative and distribute them every Wednesday at 11 a.m. in May and June at Keeneland and TTC, which is on Paris Pike. At Keeneland, distribution will take place in the parking lot of the Rice Road barn area and in the open-air pavilion near the barns numbered in the 40s in the track’s main stable area. At TTC, distribution will be at the parking lot by Building A, which is to the left after you enter the security gate.

Information about Nourish the Backstretch’s Wednesday’s lunch as well as Nourish Lexington’s weekday distribution locations will be updated and posted on the Còmo app. A free app managed by Thoroughbred Charities of America, Còmo connects Thoroughbred industry employees to vital services including health care, legal and continuing education.

Keeneland’s Chaplaincy program will work with BGFC to identify families for the grocery distribution. Grocery care packages will consist of healthy grains, pastas, canned goods, fruits, vegetables, proteins and a variety of children’s snacks. Since March 16, BGFC has provided more than 225 bags of food to farm workers, equine medical barn and track workers.

“Along with the benevolent services Blue Grass Farms Charities provides, including housing/utility assistance, medical assistance, dental services and eyewear, Nourish the Backstretch is a safety net for those who work with racehorses and means food security at home for their families,” BGFC Executive Director Julie Berry said. “Food sources can be limited to these workers because of location and transportation. This program is a huge help.”

People who would like to support Nourish the Backstretch also may donate directly to Nourish Lexington or Blue Grass Farms Charities.

By the end of April, Nourish Lexington had prepared and served more than 15,000 warm meals and employed more than 20 hospitality industry workers. Meals are distributed at several locations in Lexington, including Athenian Grill, FoodChain, Red Mile and Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Keeneland Hospitality and its Executive Chef and Managing Director, Marc Therrien, prepared some 2,600 meals in support of Nourish Lexington during April. Many meals fed children who attend Fayette County Public Schools.

Proceeds from all online sales in April through The Keeneland Shop and Keeneland Mercantile were donated to Nourish Lexington. The pledge resulted in a donation of more than $20,000 to the program.

The road leaving Keeneland. Canva/kellyvandellen/CC

About the Keenland Association:
For more than 80 years, the Keeneland Association has devoted itself to the health and vibrancy of the Thoroughbred industry. The world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland conducts four sales a year, in January, April, September and November, and its sales graduates dominate racing across the globe at every level. In April and October, Keeneland offers some of the highest caliber and richest Thoroughbred racing in the world. Keeneland hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 2015 and will hold the event again on Nov. 6-7, 2020. Uniquely structured, Keeneland is a privately held company with a not-for-profit mission that returns its earnings to the industry and the community in the form of higher purses and millions of dollars donated in support of horse industry initiatives and charitable contributions for education, research and health and human services throughout Central Kentucky. Keeneland also maintains the Keeneland Library, a world-renowned public research institution with the mission of preserving information about the Thoroughbred industry. To learn more, visit

About Nourish Lexington: 
Nourish Lexington is an initiative to utilize the skills and talents of hospitality workers recently unemployed due to the COVID-19 closings to provide prepared meals to those who need immediate access to food. In exchange for preparing and delivering meals, food service workers will receive a $60 payment for a four-hour shift. Meals will be distributed to hospitality industry families, other families in need, seniors in affordable housing apartment complexes and children and their families through family resource coordinators. To learn more, visit

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.