Keeneland closed its 2018 Spring Meet on Friday with near-record all-sources wagering on Keeneland of more than $157 million, highlighted by an all-time single-day handle record on Toyota Blue Grass Day and driven by full fields of quality horses and competition among the nation’s top owners, trainers and jockeys.
All-sources wagering on Keeneland racing totaled $157,172,604 for the 16-day Spring Meet, held April 6-27, ranking just behind the record of $158,640,591 set during the 16-day 2013 Spring Meet, and a 14.39 percent increase from the $137,399,556 recorded during last year’s 15-day Spring Meet. Average daily all-sources wagering of $9,823,288 rose 7.24 percent from $9,159,970 in 2017.
Keeneland set wagering records for all-sources handle and Pick 4 and Pick 5 pools on Toyota Blue Grass Day, April 7. Total all-sources handle was $22,634,861, eclipsing the previous record of $21,736,983 set April 9, 2016. Wagering on the All-Stakes Pick Four ending in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) totaled $1,065,002 versus the previous record of $733,800 set April 8, 2017. The All-Stakes Pick Five handled $899,196, smashing the previous record of $653,827 from April 20, 2013.
A rollback from the takeout increase in the fall of 2017 was favorably received by horseplayers as evidenced by the substantial increase in all-sources handle.
“This was an exceptionally successful Spring Meet in so many ways – from near-record handle to robust attendance and racing of the highest caliber.” – Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason
Keeneland offered an early Pick 5 wager with a 15 percent takeout for the first time this meet on the first five races of each race day, and it was an unqualified success. Total handle for the wager over 16 days totaled $4,104,850, an average of $256,553 per day.
On-track attendance and wagering were just shy of last year’s Spring Meet totals despite inclement weather for the meet’s opening two weekends. Total attendance of 250,475 was nearly even with last spring’s 252,247. Average daily attendance of 15,655 was just short of the 16,816 in 2017.
A record crowd of 28,307 basked in the sun on Maker’s Mark Day, Friday, April 13, to surpass the previous Friday attendance mark of 24,734 established April 2, 2010. On Saturday, April 21, 37,378 fans, the fifth-highest single-day attendance in Keeneland history, celebrated the season with an afternoon of racing.
On-track wagering this spring was $17,457,750 compared to $17,668,979 last spring. Average daily on-track handle was $1,091,109 versus $1,177,932 in 2017.
“This was an exceptionally successful Spring Meet in so many ways – from near-record handle to robust attendance and racing of the highest caliber,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “Mother Nature threw us a curve ball or two, but the sometimes inclement weather never dampened the tremendous enthusiasm of our fans. We are extremely grateful to the community, our horsemen and corporate partners for their tremendous support throughout the spring.”
Spring Meet Racing Moments and Milestones
Keeneland offered average daily purses of $714,601 this spring to rank among the richest racing programs in North America and contribute to fields that averaged 8.8 starters per race.
Champion Good Magic and Monomoy Girl, both Keeneland sales graduates, established themselves as top contenders for the 2018 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) with their respective wins in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1).
The nationally prominent classic preps, each worth 100 points to the winners, were two of five graded stakes on an 11-race Toyota Blue Grass card. Also highlighting the blockbuster day of racing was the exciting finish in the Madison (G1), with Finley’sluckycharm, Miss Sunset and Lewis Bay separated by noses.
Other memorable performances this spring included Heart to Heart’s win in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) after finishing second in the stakes the past two years, and Rushing Fall’s successful 2018 debut in the Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association, her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Del Mar in November.
“Our horsemen continually elevate the quality of racing at Keeneland.” – Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston
In one of the final preps on the Road to the Derby, My Boy Jack rallied from far back to edge Telekinesis by a head to win the Stonestreet Lexington (G3) on April 14 and secure a berth in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Earlier that day, trainer Chad Brown swept the top three spots in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) with Sistercharlie (IRE), Fourstar Crook and Off Limits (IRE).
“Our horsemen continually elevate the quality of racing at Keeneland, and we thank them for their continued support,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “This spring we enjoyed the participation of many nationally established trainers and riders, and also welcomed a number of new faces to Keeneland. It’s always fun to watch these promising young horsemen embark on their racing careers.”
Keeneland’s jockey colony, perennially one of the most talented in the country, featured such current national leaders as Florent Geroux, Jose Ortiz, Javier Castellano, John Velazquez, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, Corey Lanerie, Gabriel Saez, Luis Saez, Calvin Borel, Julien Leparoux, Brian Hernandez Jr., Chris Landeros, Robby Albarado and Shaun Bridgmohan.
Thoroughbred racing’s all-time winningest jockey, Jorge Ricardo, who is approaching 13,000 career wins, rode at Keeneland during the Spring Meet. Based in South America, Ricardo surpassed Russell Baze as the world’s winningest jockey in February at Hipodromo da Gavea in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Counted among the top trainers stabled at Keeneland this spring were Chad Brown, Brad Cox, Wesley Ward, Todd Pletcher, Mark Casse, Bret Calhoun, Kenny McPeek, Larry Jones, Mike Maker, Steve Asmussen, Graham Motion, Bill Mott and Tom Amoss.
The Spring Meet also saw milestones achieved by trainers and jockeys alike.
Brown and Ortiz received their 2017 Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer and jockey during a Winner’s Circle presentation on April 13. Ortiz recorded his 1,500th career win with a victory aboard One Liner, trained by Todd Pletcher, at Keeneland on April 21.
John Velazquez’s victory with Sistercharlie in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley marked his 50th stakes victory at Keeneland. He is the sixth rider to reach that milestone.
Spring Meet Special Events Offer Philanthropic Purpose
A full calendar of Spring Meet special events offered fans the opportunity to join Keeneland in benefiting the Central Kentucky community.
On opening day, April 6, 3,151 area students participated in the popular College Scholarship Day, with a record $30,000 in scholarships, including two $10,000 Runhappy Scholarships and ten $1,000 scholarships awarded during the afternoon. Keeneland partners with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association to host College Scholarship Day. The Runhappy Scholarships were presented by Jim and Linda McIngvale, owners of champion Runhappy, who stands at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
Thousands of fans had their commemorative Maker’s Mark bottles signed by Coach Tubby Smith and members of the 1997-1998 University of Kentucky men’s basketball national championship team as part of Maker’s Mark Day, April 13. Proceeds from sales of the 2018 bottle benefit UK’s Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS).
Keeneland recognized the men and women of the armed forces and their families during Military Day at the Races Presented by Marathon, April 22. All active and inactive members of the military and their families received free general admission, and enjoyed lunch and children’s activities on the North Terrace. Among the many activities during the day was the unfurling of a 40’ x 60’ American flag on the main track.
@BetKeeneland Supports Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance
Keeneland’s newest Twitter handle, @BetKeeneland, plays both an informational and philanthropic role. Introduced last fall, @BetKeeneland delivers real-time handicapping tips and insights to horseplayers each race day and also benefits an industry cause through its Handicapper of the Day Series. Among the celebrity handicappers this spring were NBC Sports’ lead handicapper Eddie Olczyk, former ABC Sports horse racing broadcaster Dave Johnson and Tom Leach, voice of the UK Wildcats football and men’s basketball teams. A total of $5,193.55 in winnings was raised to help fund the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).
“The TAA is grateful to Keeneland for their continued support of accredited aftercare and allowing us to be a part of @BetKeeneland during the Spring Meet,” TAA President John Phillips said. “We’re thrilled with how the handicappers did and we’re grateful for their support as well. These funds will be used to retrain, rehome or retire thousands of off-track Thoroughbreds through the TAA network of 64 accredited organizations with 170 facilities in North America.”
Record Participants Vie in Grade One Gamble
Keeneland hosted a handicapping tournament doubleheader this spring with the Spring Challenge on April 14 and Grade One Gamble the following day.
John Kimove of Ontario was best of the record 195 players who participated in the Grade One Gamble, Keeneland’s premier live bankroll handicapping contest. The competition offered as many as six spots in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and 10 spots in the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas in February 2019. Kimove took home $37,000 in prize money.
On Saturday, Keeneland held the $400 Spring Challenge, which drew 284 entries. Christy Moore of Indiana won the contest by earning more than $4,700 from an initial bankroll of $250. Moore won a fully paid berth to the BCBC plus $3,500 in prize money.
Spring Meet Leaders
The race for Spring Meet leading owner, trainer and jockey came down to the wire on closing day and resulted in a tie in two categories.
Three owners – Marc Detampel, G. Watts Humphrey Jr and Ken and Sarah Ramsey – tied for leading honors with four wins each.
It is the first Keeneland title for Marc Detampel.
Humphrey, who won races this spring both alone and in partnership, earns his eighth Keeneland title, having previously accounted for four other Spring Meet and three Fall Meet titles.
Multiple Eclipse Award winners Ken and Sarah Ramsey notched their 20th leading owner title at Keeneland. The Ramseys are Keeneland’s all-time leading owners in terms of titles won (11 Fall Meet and nine Spring Meet) and number of races won (228).
Wesley Ward and Brad Cox tied for leading trainer with 13 wins each. It is the fourth Keeneland title and second consecutive Spring Meet honor for Ward, who also won in the Spring and Fall of 2012. Ward won the Shakertown (G2) with Bound for Nowhere on opening Saturday.
It is the first Keeneland title for Cox, winner of the Central Bank Ashland with Monomoy Girl.
Runner-up in the standings was Chad Brown with 12 wins. Brown won four stakes during the meet – Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3) with Analyze It, Toyota Blue Grass with Good Magic, Appalachian with Rushing Fall and Coolmore Jenny Wiley with Sistercharlie – to tie five other trainers for most stakes wins in a single Keeneland meet.
Boosted by two multiple win days, Florent Geroux accumulated 19 victories to earn his first Keeneland riding title. He teamed with Brad Cox to win nine races this meet, led by the Central Bank Ashland with Monomoy Girl. He enjoyed a four-win day on April 22, with three of those victories aboard Cox trainees.
Jose Ortiz finished second with 18 wins including the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania with Analyze It and Toyota Blue Grass with Good Magic. He rode three winners on three different days this meet, among them opening day and Toyota Blue Grass Day.
Corey Lanerie won 16 races and Joel Rosario won 15 races to rank third and fourth, respectively.
2018 Spring Meet Figures at a Glance (April 6-27)
|All-Sources Handle on Keeneland||$157,172,604||$137,399,556||+14.39%|
|Avg. Daily All-Sources Handle on Keeneland||$9,823,288||$9,159,970||+7.24%|
|Total On-Track Handle||$17,457,750||$17,668,979||-1.20%|
|Avg. Daily On-Track Handle||$1,091,109||$1,177,932||-7.37%|
|Avg. Daily Attendance||15,655||16,816||-6.91%|