Keeneland Spring Meet Produces Strong Attendance, Wagering Results

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LEXINGTON, KY (April 28, 2017) – Keeneland successfully concluded its 2017 Spring Meet on Friday as exceptional racing, enhanced food and hospitality offerings, one-of-a-kind special events and warm, sunny weather yielded robust attendance and on-track and all-sources wagering results.

On-track attendance for the 15-day Spring Meet, held April 7-28, totaled 252,247 compared with 262,197 recorded during last year’s 16-day Spring Meet. Keeneland was closed Easter Sunday, which fell on April 16 this year. Average daily attendance of 16,816 was just above with last year’s Spring Meet average of 16,387. 

Keeneland carded blockbuster days of racing featuring multiple graded stakes on consecutive Saturdays that when coupled with idyllic spring weather drew crowds in excess of 30,000 on track. On opening Saturday, April 8, 32,610 fans were on hand for Toyota Blue Grass Day and 30,782 people attended Coolmore Jenny Wiley Day the following Saturday, April 15. On Friday, April 14, 24,114 fans turned out to celebrate Maker’s Mark Day, which was highlighted by the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1). 

Competitive racing with fields averaging 8.6 starters per race produced strong on-track and all-sources wagering totals this spring. On-track handle of $17,668,979 was down just slightly from last year’s 16-day meet total of $17,974,896. Average daily on-track wagering of $1,177,932 was up from $1,123,431 in 2016.

All-sources wagering on the Spring Meet, including wagering at Keeneland on imported simulcast signals, totaled $140,616,388, down 5.75 percent from last spring’s $149,198,361. Average daily all-sources handle of $9,374,426 rose from $9,324,898 last year.  

Keeneland’s stellar Toyota Blue Grass Day card was particularly attractive to bettors. The All-Stakes Pick Five, encompassing the day’s five stakes races, handled $633,000 to eclipse all previous non-carryover Pick Five pools. The All-Stakes Pick Four, which included the Shakertown (G2), Madison (G1), Central Bank Ashland (G1) and Toyota Blue Grass (G2), handled an all-time Keeneland record $733,000. The late Pick Four, which ended in race 11, handled $546,000. Taken together, the three big multi-leg wagers on Toyota Blue Grass Day handled $1.912 million, a 32 percent increase from 2016.

“Keeneland’s continued success is built on the contribution of many, from our horsemen to our enthusiastic fans, sponsors, media partners and staff, and we extend our thanks to all those who make racing at Keeneland such a memorable experience,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “Their efforts reflect a community that takes pride in Keeneland and is passionate about horse racing at the highest level.”

This spring, Keeneland offered average daily purses of $709,861, up 13 percent from 2016 to rank among the highest in the country, attracting Thoroughbred racing’s human and equine stars. 

Opening Saturday, April 8, featured five graded stakes, anchored by the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland, premier preps on the Roads to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively. That day, Irap became the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass, earning 100 points to establish himself as a major contender for the Kentucky Derby. Sailor’s Valentine won the Central Bank Ashland to vault to fourth place on the points leaderboard for the Kentucky Oaks.

In other Spring Meet highlights, American Patriot took the Maker’s 46 Mile to give trainer Todd Pletcher his 51st stakes victory at Keeneland, surpassing mentor D. Wayne Lukas to become the track’s leading trainer by stakes wins. A day later, Dickinson nipped Lady Eli by a head at the wire to win the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1), and European champion Lady Aurelia kicked off her 3-year-old campaign with a dominating victory in the Giant’s Causeway (L). 

“Horsemen know they have to bring their A game to Keeneland,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “Keeneland offers a unique convergence of trainers and jockeys who may otherwise never get a chance to compete against each other except on the world’s biggest stages. Keeneland certainly affords them that opportunity to test their skill against racing’s best.”

Keeneland’s jockey colony, perennially one of the deepest in the country, featured newly minted Hall of Famer Javier Castellano and current national leaders Jose Ortiz, John Velazquez, Julien Leparoux, Joel Rosario, Florent Geroux, Luis Saez, Paco Lopez, Brian Hernandez Jr., Corey Lanerie, Robby Albarado, Ricardo Santana Jr., Jose Lezcano, Channing Hill, James Graham and Joe Bravo.

Many of the nation’s leading trainers were represented by powerful stables at Keeneland this spring,  among them Eclipse Award winners Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, Bill Mott, Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, Shug McGaughey and D. Wayne Lukas as well as Wesley Ward, Kiaran McLaughlin, Mark Casse, Brian Lynch, Ian Wilkes, Brendan Walsh, Mike Maker, Kenny McPeek, Eddie Kenneally and Nick Zito.

As a complement to its world-class racing program, fans enjoyed a full calendar of special events designed to further Keeneland’s philanthropic mission. On opening day, Friday, April 7, thousands of students from colleges and universities in Kentucky and beyond took part in the popular College Scholarship Day, which gave away a $10,000 Runhappy Scholarship in addition to ten $1,000 scholarships and prizes. Fans had their commemorative Maker’s Mark bottles signed by members of the 1996 national championship University of Kentucky men’s basketball team on Maker’s Mark Day, April 14. On Sunday, April 23, Keeneland honored active and veteran military members and their families on Military Day at the Races Presented by Marathon.

Keeneland offered a handicapping contest doubleheader, introducing the Spring Challenge on Saturday, April 22, followed the next day by the Grade One Gamble, one of the most prized titles on the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Tour. The inaugural Spring Challenge, a $400 buy-in tournament, drew 258 entries; a record 170 entries competed in the Grade One Gamble, a $3,000 buy-in tournament that awarded seven spots in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, 10 NHC spots and $40,000 in cash prizes. Cleveland native Blaise Brucato won both the Spring Challenge and Grade One Gamble. 

Spring Meet Leaders and Racing Milestones

Boosted by three multiple-win days, Joel Rosario captured his second leading rider title at Keeneland, accumulating 17 victories. Rosario swept the riding title in 2013 with a Spring Meet record 38 wins. 

Rosario partnered with Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation and trainer Mark Casse to win consecutive stakes on Toyota Blue Grass Day, scoring with Holding Gold in the Shakertown and Awesome Slew in the Commonwealth (G3). 

Corey Lanerie finished second in the rider standings with 15 wins, led by a victory with Sailor’s Valentine in the Central Bank Ashland. Tied for third with 12 wins each were Javier Castellano and Julien Leparoux. Castellano’s wins included three stakes: the Maker’s 46 Mile aboard American Patriot, Adena Springs Beaumont (G3) with Sweet Loretta and Transylvania (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select on Big Score. Leparoux won the Toyota Blue Grass with Irap.

Wesley Ward led all trainers with 11 wins to earn his third Keeneland leading trainer title, having previously won in the Spring and Fall of 2012. Ward won the Giant’s Causeway with European champion Lady Aurelia.

Todd Pletcher notched eight wins to be second. Pletcher won three stakes during the Spring Meet: Adena Springs Beaumont with Sweet Loretta, Maker’s 46 Mile with American Patriot and Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) with Unbridled Mo.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing teamed to win four races, including the Coolmore Jenny Wiley with Dickinson and Ben Ali (G3) with Watershed, on Saturday, April 15. 

For McLaughlin, the four-win day tied him with Mott and Pletcher for the most wins by a trainer in a single day at Keeneland. McLaughlin finished third in the trainer standings with seven wins.

Godolphin Racing closed the Spring Meet with five victories to secure its first title as leading owner at Keeneland.

Finishing second in the owner standings with four victories was Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, which was represented by Madison (G1) winner Paulassilverlining.

Owner John C. Oxley won his eighth graded stakes at Keeneland with La Coronel in the Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association, earning a milestone Keeneland Tray. La Coronel was also the third stakes winner of the Spring Meet for trainer Mark Casse.

Meet Figures at a Glance (April 7-28, 2017)

 

Spring 2017

(15 days)

Spring 2016

(16 days)

%  Change

All-Sources Handle incl. wagering at Keeneland on imported simulcast signals

$140,616,388

$149,198,361

-5.75%

Avg. Daily All-Sources Handle incl. wagering at Keeneland on imported simulcast signals

$9,374,416

$9,324,898

+0.53%

Total On-Track Handle

$17,668,979

$17,974,896

-1.70%

Avg. Daily On-Track Handle

$1,177,932

$1,123,431

+4.85%

Total Attendance

252,247

262,197

-3.79%

Avg. Daily Attendance

16,816

16,387

+2.62%

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