Citing the challenging economic climate, Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley said the Lexington racetrack has cut purses for the fall meet by more than $1 million, with the vast majority of the reduction coming from stakes. Two stakes–the Perryville (gr. III) and the Bryan Station (gr. IIIT)–have been eliminated from the schedule.
It's the second straight year Keeneland has cut stakes purses. Last year, the track reduced stakes purses by $275,000.
In a July 1 release, officials said by offering $500,000 a day in purses, Keeneland will maintain one of the top average daily purse structures in the country. Moreover, Beasley said cuts were focused on trimming stakes purses, so as to preserve--as much as possible--overnight purse money for horsemen.
No reductions to the April 2011 meet--with key prep and stakes leading up to the Triple Crown races--are currently planned.
“We are making these reductions after a great deal of thought and strategy,” Beasley said. “Our goal is to maintain a commitment to the highest quality racing and purses within the constraints of a very challenging economy. We think this purposeful approach accomplishes that objective.”
Keeneland spokesman Jay Blanton said Keeneland president Nick Nicholson was out of town and unavailable for comment on the situation. “Like everyone in the industry, we are looking at ways to cut costs during these challenging times,” Blanton said.
While the stakes schedule has been reduced, Blanton said Keeneland is investing in “initiatives aimed at increasing revenues in some strategic areas.” He cited investments in efforts to attract and retain new owners, and changes in September yearling sale as examples of this effort.
On the racing side, Keeneland is investing in initiatives that will enhance the customer experience. When asked about possible layoffs at Keeneland, Blanton said: “It is our policy not to discuss personnel matters.”
In all, Keeneland will host 18 stakes totaling $4.35 million--including 10 stakes during its opening FallStars Weekend--for its 2010 race meet, Oct. 8-30.
Included in the schedule are three new sponsors: Abu Dhabi is sponsoring the $400,000 Oct. 9 First Lady (gr. I); The Emirates Equestrian Federation is sponsoring the President of the United Arab Emirates Cup Oct. 9, a $50,000 race for Arabians; and The Greenbrier, an exclusive resort in West Virginia, is sponsoring The Greenbrier Fayette (gr. II), a $150,000 stakes Oct. 30 for 3-years-old and up.
“Even in these challenging economic times, we have been able to put together a month of the best that racing in North America has to offer,” Beasley said. “Our opening FallStars Weekend, in particular, will offer some of the most compelling racing in America and provide a chance for fans to watch some of the top contenders for the Breeders’ Cup in action.”
During the fall meet, Keeneland will host nine Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, which are automatic qualifiers for the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships to be held Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs.
Eight Breeders’ Cup Challenge races will be run during FallStars Weekend: the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I, reduced by $100,000 from 2009) (Juvenile Fillies); Phoenix (gr. III) (Sprint); Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) (Mile); Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) (Juvenile); First Lady (gr. IT) (Filly and Mare Turf); Thoroughbred Club of America (gr. II, reduced by $50,000) (Filly and Mare Sprint); Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) (Ladies’ Classic); and Bourbon (gr. IIIT, reduced by $25,000) (Juvenile Turf). The J.P. Morgan Chase Jessamine Oct. 14 will serve as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Other stakes that were reduced are the Woodford Stakes (gr. IIIT, $25,000); Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. I, $100,000); Sycamore (gr. IIIT, $25,000), and the Lexus Raven Run (gr. II, $50,000).
All of Keeneland’s races will be broadcast on TVG, with the Breeders’ Cup Challenge races also being broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.
Ron Mitchell contributed to this story