Wagering was up on Oaks Day.

Wagering was up on Oaks Day.

Dave Harmon

Total Oaks Day Wagering Up By 6.5% to $39.9M

A near record ontrack crowd of 112,552 braved weather-related delay May 4.

Churchill Downs Inc. reported record total wagering for the 138th Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) day program of $39.9 million.

Officials reported that a near-record 112,552 were on hand at Churchill Downs to see Rosie Napravnik become the first female jockey to win the Oaks aboard Brereton C. Jones’s Believe You Can in spite of a threat of severe storms. The Kentucky Oaks theme of “Ladies First” proved prophetic for Napravnik, a 24-year-old native of Mendham, N.J., who had narrowly missed winning the Oaks a year ago when she finished a close second to Plum Pretty aboard St. John's River.

A mid-afternoon threat of severe weather prompted Churchill Downs officials to order a temporary evacuation of the track’s infield with three races, including the Oaks, remaining on the 12-race program. The heaviest of the storms that had prompted the precautionary evacuation missed the track, and racing resumed after a 52-minute weather delay.

Despite the storm, wagering from all sources on the full 12-race card increased by 6.5% from the 2011 total of $37.5 million. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race rose 3.4% to $11.8 million.

Ontrack wagering on the Oaks program dropped 3.7% to $11.6 million, and wagering on the Oaks race fell 12.8% to $2.6 million.

“We had a successful and historic Kentucky Oaks day with record total wagering, near-record ontrack attendance, and the historic victory by jockey Rosie Napravnik, who is truly one of our sport’s rising stars,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs.

The 2012 Kentucky Oaks, viewed by a national television audience on the NBC Sports Network, continued the event’s focus on women’s health issues and raised more than $112,000 for new fundraising partner Stand Up to Cancer. An emotional highlight of the day was the inspirational "Survivors Parade" presented by Kroger, which was held for the fourth time and featured survivors of all kinds of cancer in an ontrack parade prior to the day’s marquee racing event.

The day also continued a four-year fundraising partnership with Horses and Hope, a breast cancer outreach program in Kentucky’s horse industry championed by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. Churchill has raised nearly $100,000 for Horses and Hope during the first three years of that partnership and will donate $1 from each Friday sale of the Oaks Lily, the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, to that initiative.

Believe You Can, owned and bred by the former Kentucky governor, won by three-quarters of a length over Broadway's Alibi.  Favored Grace Hall finished third in the field of 14 3-year-old fillies.

The winner went off at odds of 13-1 and paid $29.60 for a $2 win wager. The daughter of Proud Citizen is the second Kentucky Oaks winner for both owner-breeder Jones, and trainer Larry Jones. The Joneses had teamed to win the 2008 Kentucky Oaks with Proud Spell.

The winner covered 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.50 and won for the sixth time in nine career races.  The first-place purse of $564,200 lifted her career earnings to $1,059,484.