Keeneland: On Track Strong, Off Track Down

Keeneland's spring meet ended April 29 with record total attendance and the second highest on-track mutuel handle in history but a decline in total handle and total daily average handle.

Attendance for the 16-day meet was 235,220, which topped the previous record of 232,826 for 15 days of racing in 2004. The daily average was 14,701, second to last year's record of 15,522.

Included in the total were two of the three largest crowds in track history--a record 33,621 on Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) day April 16, and 30,110 on Ashland Stakes (gr. I) day April 9.

The previous single-day attendance record was 31,028 on April 17, 2004.

"The public's response to the spring meeting was tremendous," Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said in a release. "To set records for both total and single-day attendance confirms the ever-growing popularity of racing at Keeneland."

Betting on track, including simulcasts, totaled $27,635,729 for an average of $1,727,233. Both were second to last year's record totals of $28,010,988 and $1,867,399, respectively.

A single-day record of $3,599,648 was wagered at Keeneland Toyota Blue Grass day, bettering the previous high of $3,516,621 on April 13, 2002.

Keeneland's decision to drop several wagering outlets was largely responsible for the 9.3% decline in all-sources mutuel handle. Total handle was $129,208,427 compared with $142,450,673 in the spring of 2004.

The average daily all-sources handle was $8,075,527, down from the record of $9,496,712 last year.

"Wagering on track remained solid and much of the decline off track can be attributed to our decision to drop several simulcast outlets," Nicholson said. "We believe the short-term loses from this decision will result in positives for Keeneland and the industry in the future."

Keeneland distributed a spring record $10,227,276 in purses. The daily average was $639,205.

John Velazquez, the 2004 Eclipse Award winning jockey, and Rafael Bejarano, who won more races last year than any other rider, finished one-two in the jockey standings with 21 and 19 wins, respectively.

Todd Pletcher, the 2004 Eclipse Award winning trainer, led the trainer standings with a spring record 16 victories. Among them were wins in the Toyota Blue Grass with Bandini, and in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) with Coin Silver. Nick Zito was second with 10 wins.

George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable and William S. Farish and partners each won four races to tie for leading owner honors.