Takeout Conflict Hurts Keeneland's Total Handle, On-Track Improves

Conflict surrounding reduced takeout cost Keeneland an 11% drop in total handle for its 17-day meet that ended Oct. 27.

The Lexington racetrack's decision to reduce its takeout on exotic wagering from 19% to 16% caused a backlash from the MidAtlantic Cooperative, which refused Keeneland's signal on its opening weekend, and the New York Off-Track Betting Corporation, which refused the signal for the entire meet.

The off-track betting outlets said the lower takeout cut too far into their margins of profit. The result of these actions were declines in Keeneland's out-of-state handle and a decline in total all-sources handle to $88,434,474, down from $99,523,105 a year ago. The total average handle was down 16% to $5,202,028 compared to $6,220,194 in 2000.

More than $8.5 million was wagered on Keeneland racing last fall through New York OTB and its associated locations.

"The racing public was very supportive of Keeneland's decision to reduce the takeout." said Keeneland president Nick Nicholson, "However, it's going to require further analysis before we can determine the full economic impact of the reduction. Regrettably, one of our most important outlets, New York OTB, chose not to simulcast our racing and pass the savings to its many customers."

Keeneland did see an increase in on-track handle. Wagering on live racing and simulcasts of four out-of-state tracks totaled $25,769,366, an increase of 7.2% from $24,032,406 a year ago. The average daily handle increased 0.9% from $1,502,025 in 2000 to $1,515,845 this year. Keeneland raced one day less last fall.

A total of 208,143 people attended the fall meeting, almost equal to 209,977 a year ago. Because of the additional day, the average daily attendance was down slightly from 13,123 in 2000 to 12,244 this year.

Twice during the meeting, Keeneland drew more than 20,000 people, topped by the 26,458 who attended the Saturday, October 13 program that featured the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. I).

"The meeting was stronger than the final figures indicate," Nicholson said. "Because there were so many variables this year, comparisons are difficult. On-track attendance and betting held up very well in the face of a sluggish economy and worldwide uncertainty."

Keeneland raced an extra day because it opened the meet on Friday instead of Saturday. Only four live races--five fewer than normal--were run on closing day when the simulcast of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships took center stage.

Purses for the meeting totaled a record $10,799,499, an average of $635,265 daily.

Unbridled Elaine joined eight other fillies and mares who used the Spinster (gr. I)--now the Overbrook Spinster--as a successful steppingstone to victory in the $2 million Breeders'Cup Distaff (gr. I). She finished fourth in the Spinster.

Pat Day led the jockey's standings for the 19th time. He won 25 races including six stakes races. Robby Albarado was second with 21 wins and Jon Court was third with 11 victories.

With 13 wins, Dale Romans won his first Keeneland trainer's title. Bernie Flint and Dallas Stewart were tied for second with five wins apiece. Romans' client, McKee Stables, Inc., was leading owner with five victories.