Keeneland Spring Meet Shows Slight Declines In Attendance, Wagering

by | 04.26.2019 | 9:17pm
Vekoma (Candy Ride) wins the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland on 4.6.2019. Javier Castellano up, George Weaver trainer, Gatsas Stable and R.A. Hill Stables owners.

Keeneland concluded its 2019 Spring Meet on Friday with robust attendance and wagering results driven by outstanding racing with full fields of top-quality horses. The Spring Meet also featured distinctive special events to benefit the local community and horse industry as well as enhanced food and hospitality offerings.

For the first time in 60 years, Keeneland opened its Spring Meet on a Thursday, a day earlier than usual, with a special celebration featuring a 3 p.m. post time, the inaugural Palisades Turf Sprint and the popular Central Bank Thursday Night Live, held for the first time at Keeneland.

On-track attendance for the 16-day meet, held April 4-26, totaled 242,547 compared with 250,475 recorded during last year's 16-day Spring Meet. Keeneland was closed Easter Sunday, which fell on April 21. Average daily attendance of 15,159 was just shy of last year's 15,655.

Keeneland showcased blockbuster days of racing featuring multiple graded stakes on the first two Saturdays of the meet that, when coupled with warm spring weather, attracted crowds in excess of 34,000 people. The 34,775 fans that enjoyed Toyota Blue Grass Day, April 6, marked a record opening Saturday crowd. The following Saturday, April 13, Keeneland welcomed 34,527 people to celebrate Coolmore Jenny Wiley Day.

On-track attendance was among a number of records shattered at Keeneland on Toyota Blue Grass Day. Single-day all-sources handle for the 11-race card totaled $25,809,200, eclipsing the previous record of $22,634,861 set last year on Toyota Blue Grass Day. The All-Stakes Pick Five handled $1,079,197, well above the former record of $899,196 set on the same day in 2018. The single-race exacta pool totaled a record $1,300,591, and the single-race win-place-show pool was a record $2,068,406. The daily double pool that day was a record $249,934.

“The extraordinary support and sense of pride the Central Kentucky community demonstrates time and again for Keeneland are truly gratifying,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “Keeneland's success is a team effort with contributions from horsemen, sponsors, media partners, local businesses and hospitality, staff, and most of all, our loyal fans. They are the reason we strive to create the most memorable racing experiences possible for each of our guests.”

All-sources wagering on Keeneland racing totaled $153,116,119, down 2.58 percent from last spring's $157,172,604. Average daily all-sources wagering was $9,569,757 versus $9,823,288 in 2018.

On-track wagering this spring was $16,490,636, down 5.54 percent from last year's $17,457,750. Average daily on-track handle was $1,030,665 versus $1,091,109 last year.

Keeneland offered record average daily purses of $770,618 this spring, up 7.84 percent from 2018 to rank among the richest in North America, attracting Thoroughbred racing's most talented trainers and jockeys.

Keeneland expanded its 2019 Spring Meet stakes schedule this year to include two new stakes, both $100,000 turf sprints, for a total of 18 stakes worth a season record $4.6 million in purse money.

Five graded stakes were carded for opening Saturday, anchored by the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), major preps on the Roads to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively. Vekoma was an authoritative winner of the Toyota Blue Grass, earning 100 points to establish himself as a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby. Out for a Spin won the Central Bank Ashland to rank among the top point earners on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.

In other Spring Meet highlights, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (L) winner Bulletin made a successful season debut in the opening-day Palisades Turf Sprint.

Rushing Fall earned her fourth Keeneland stakes victory with a win in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) on April 13 to tie her with Take Charge Lady for the second highest number of stakes wins at Keeneland behind only Wise Dan's seven stakes victories.

Jockey Javier Castellano notched six stakes wins during the Spring Meet, just one shy of Pat Day's record seven stakes wins accumulated during the 1998 Fall Meet. Castellano dominated opening weekend, recording wins in the Palisades Turf Sprint with Bulletin, Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3) aboard Avie's Flatter, Madison (G1) on Spiced Perfection and Toyota Blue Grass with Vekoma. His winning streak continued the following week when he won the Maker's 46 Mile (G1) on Delta Prince and Coolmore Jenny Wiley with Rushing Fall.

“We owe a huge thanks to our horsemen; the level of racing at Keeneland this spring was exceptional,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “And the competition isn't limited to the equine stars. The convergence of the nation's leading owners, trainers and jockeys at Keeneland in the spring makes for a spirited race for meet leader honors, which always seem to go down to the wire on closing day.”

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