When the Breeders’ Cup team decided to bring the World Championships back home to Keeneland, the LexArts Board of Directors didn’t think twice. Having had phenomenal success in its first two iterations of Horse Mania, the LexArts public art project staged in 2000 and 2010, the board knew it would be a natural fit again this year. However, just as the popular public art project was taking shape, the COVID-19 pandemic created a full stop and Horse Mania 2020 was a late scratch.


But ingenuity prevailed. With Breeders’ Cup fast approaching, LexArts pivoted and partnered with three iconic Kentucky brands to create The Painted Horse Trilogy. Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland and Maker’s Mark have joined forces to bring this public art project to the starting gate, after all.

Three full-size fiberglass horses have now become extraordinary works of art by Kentucky artists Carlos Gamez de Francisco, Helene Steene and Agustin Zarate. These iconic sculptures celebrate our shared history and hope for the future and will greet Breeders’ Cup guests in downtown Lexington and at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland.


During Breeders’ Cup week, the horses were exhibited on the south end of the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza, adjacent to Main Street. They were relocated to Keeneland for the two days of Breeders’ Cup World Championships where they remained until they were auctioned during Keeneland’s Sporting Art Auction on November 22.


As the gavel fell, Rob Samuels and the famed Maker’s Mark Distillery laid claim to all three iconic equine sculptures. The distillery grounds will soon display the trio in an upcoming art walk.


“This partnership is many months in the making and LexArts is grateful for the commitment and support of Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland and Maker’s Mark, all iconic brands with deep Kentucky roots and enthusiasts far beyond our great Commonwealth,” said LexArts President & CEO Ame Sweetall. “The artists’ inspirational works capture the essence of each sponsor in magnificent form and represent the best of Kentucky.”


“It has always been important for Maker’s Mark to find meaningful ways to give back to the community, and this effort that brings together such iconic partners as Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup seems the perfect way to do just that,” said Rob Samuels, eighth-generation whisky maker and Managing Director of Maker’s Mark. “The vision of these amazing artists complements the vital work of LexArts to support the arts and improve the quality of life in Central Kentucky. That’s a win for everyone involved.”


“Keeneland is proud of the Painted Horse Trilogy, which showcased the talents of Kentucky artists and celebrated the return of the Breeders’ Cup to the Lexington community,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “We applaud LexArts for this creative initiative and thank them for the continued support of Central Kentucky’s horse industry.”


“We were proud to join forces with our friends at LexArts, Keeneland and Maker’s Mark to celebrate the World Championships and support the vibrant arts community here in Lexington,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup. “We applaud the talented artists who brought this initiative to life!”