Cheap Trips: Haute Couture Horsing Around

With a bronze horse at the door, a basket of carrots at reception and equine art on the walls, a rider might be forgiven for galloping up the stairs right into the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa.

The Lexington landmark lies among some of the world’s richest horse farms, within an easy trot of the Kentucky Horse Park and Keeneland Racetrack. The lobby glows with marble and fieldstone, and equestrian art is everywhere. Even your guest room may have images from the heady worlds of polo and dressage. It’s a natural base for a couple horsing around in the Bluegrass State.

The Trip: Three days of horse whispering
The Travelers: Two adults

The Tab:
$692 Airfare (Roundtrip, Cleveland to Lexington, on Continental as of July) $50 Unique Horse Farm Tour tickets
$418 Two nights at Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa (price beginning in October) $30 Lunch in the Equestrian Room
$128 Dinner at JW’s Steakhouse (seared ahi tuna, the Cowboy Ribeye, filet mignon and a bottle of Franciscan Oakville Estate Napa Valley) $138 A round of golf, with cart, at Griffin Gate (price beginning in October)
$138 Dinner at the Mansion at Griffin Gate (baby artichoke salad, shrimp tempura, sautéed sea bass, bacon-wrapped rack of lamb and a bottle of Castle Rock Pinot Noir) Located at Griffin Gate $120 Bluegrass Wrap at the Spa at Griffin Gate (for her)
$60 Blue Grass Tour tickets  $95 Gentleman’s Facial at the Spa (for him)
$6 Tickets to Keeneland $13.90 Inside-out Hot Browns from Wallace Station
$33 Parking and entry to the Kentucky Horse Park (the trolley ride is free with admission) $10 Woodford Reserve Bourbon Discovery Tour
$1,931.90 Total (not including taxes, tips or surcharges) $965.95 Per person

Fall’s highlight is racing at Keeneland Racetrack, Oct. 3 through 25. It’s America’s only English-style thoroughbred course, and it’s the height of gentility.

After an evening dinner at the hotel’s JW’s Steakhouse, rise early for an equestrian-themed Blue Grass Tour. At Old Friends Farm — “a retirement home for stallions,” as tour coordinator Kathy Velker calls it — you can see retiree Popcorn Deelites, who played Seabiscuit in the 2003 movie of the same name. (It was filmed, by the way, at Keeneland.) A tour provides the opportunity to peek behind the scenes. Stop at the Equestrian Room, next to the finish line, for lunch and track action. Later, experience soul-stirring antebellum cooking at the Mansion at Griffin Gate.

Devote a morning to the International Museum of the Horse and a horse-drawn trolley ride at the Kentucky Horse Park. Don’t miss the Parade of Breeds, 24 types from azteca to Welsh cob, with costumed handlers astride.

Join the Unique Horse Farm Tour right from the horse park and you may see English Channel, Turf Horse of the Year 2007, at Hurricane Hall, and Distorted Humor, sire of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, at WinStar Farm.

When it’s time for some R&R, head out for a round of golf, then in for facials and Bluegrass wraps with local herbs in the Marriott’s new $1.7 million spa. Stay in relaxation mode with a casual lunch at the Wallace Station country store near Midway. It’sthe spot to try an inside-out version of Kentucky’s famous hot brown.

Now that you’re properly fueled, break stride and make for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Woodford’s tiered campus, with its limestone buildings along the Grassy Springs branch of Glenn’s Creek, is a National Historic Landmark. Elijah Pepper chose the spot in 1812, and the

company clings to his vision, using the only surviving stone warehouses in the industry today.

JW’s pours more than 45 bourbons, so you’ll find the Marriott covers all the Kentucky basics when you return for a nightcap. Beneath the gaze of a winning steed, sink back into the leather and savor the memories of a championship weekend.

Share this story: