The people came out to Keeneland, but handle was down.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

The people came out to Keeneland, but handle was down.
Order This Photo

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Handle Slips, Attendance Strong

The Lexington track drew near-record crowds but the handle still fell 19.5%.

On-track business at Keeneland was good this spring, but the all-sources handle suffered declines along with most other tracks around the country.

The Lexington, Ky., track reported a decline in the all-sources handle of 19.5%, falling to more than $121,124,351 for the 15-day meet from $150,497,482 realized during last spring’s 16-day meet. Average daily all-sources handle of $8,074,957 decreased 14.2% when compared to last spring’s $9,406,093.

The on-track handle fared a bit better, falling 9.6% to $23,476,393 compared to $25,973,789 for the 2008 spring meet. Average daily handle was $1,565,093, a decline of 3.6% from last year’s $1,623,362.

Helping the on-track churn were two days that attracted more than 30,000 people. The day of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) attracted 33,680 — the second-largest crowd in Keeneland history. The other big day was the first Saturday of the meet, which featured the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) that drew 30,550. Overall, Keeneland had a total spring meet attendance of 240,755 — the third-highest in track history — and an average of 16,050 that was the second-highest in Keeneland history, up 5.4% from last year's 15,225.

Keeneland April 2009 Slide Show
KeenApril09Looking back at the Keeneland Spring Meet

"Three of the past four spring meets have been the best in Keeneland history, so this is a trend and not an aberration," said Keeneland president and CEO Nick Nicholson. "Our fan base is growing, and we are seeing great loyalty from our new fans."

Jockey Julien Leparoux won the leading rider title, his fourth Keeneland title (he tied for the 2006 spring title, and won the fall 2006 and spring 2007 titles). Bill Mott earned his fifth leading trainer title with seven wins. He previously won leading trainer honors at Keeneland in the spring of 1995 and 2001, and in the fall 1986 and 2007.

(Editor's note: Earlier versions of this article contained incorrect handle figures supplied by Keeneland).