Keeneland set an attendance record at its fall meet that concluded Oct. 29.

Keeneland set an attendance record at its fall meet that concluded Oct. 29.

Courtesy of Keeneland

Keeneland Sets Fall Meet Attendance Record

Lexington track also saw a double-digit percentage spike in wagering.

Keeneland closed its 2016 fall meet, which celebrated the 80th anniversary of racing at the world-famous track, on Oct. 29 with record total on-track attendance of 276,543 and substantial gains in on-track and all-sources wagering. 

Double-digit percentage growth in attendance and handle for the 17-day fall meet, held Oct. 7-29, was fueled by full, top-quality fields that averaged 9.1 runners per race, popular special events, exciting wagering options, and unseasonably warm, sunny fall weather. 

On-track attendance of 276,543 exceeded last fall's 240,709 by nearly 15% and surpassed the previous record of 266,466 set during the 2013 fall meet. Average daily attendance of 16,267 bested the 2013 fall meet record of 15,674. 

Total on-track wagering of $17,793,419 outpaced last fall's $15,813,986 by 12.5%. All-sources wagering on Keeneland racing totaled $132,937,720, up 11.6% when compared with last fall's $119,051,901. 

The strong numbers continue a strong season of wagering at Kentucky tracks. The meet is the eighth straight in the state to register increased handle. Total handle on Kentucky tracks this season, compared with this time last year, is up 8.4% to $859,231,829.

Increased betting interest also was fueled by the 9.1 horses per race at the meet, up 7.1% compared with last year's 8.5. 

Field sizes were up as horsemen chased more than $725,000 added to this year's purses. According to Jockey Club Information Systems, purses at this year's meet were up 6.8% to $11,487,785. Of those purses, $878,400 came from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, up by more than $500,000 this year compared with 2015 thanks, in large part, to Keeneland's historical racing joint venture with The Red Mile.

The fall meet enjoyed a strong start when Keeneland hosted a record Fall Stars Weekend crowd of 66,437 on Oct. 7-9 to break a decade-long record of 62,454. The three-day weekend comprised a record Friday opening-day crowd of 19,882, the second-largest Fall Stars Saturday crowd of 28,101 and a record Fall Stars Sunday crowd of 18,454. 

Oct. 15, a total of 29,319 fans, the second-largest single-day fall meet crowd in track history, turned out to watch Time and Motion win the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane's End (gr. IT). The date was exactly 80 years after Keeneland opened its inaugural racing season in 1936. 

All-sources handle on the 10-race card on opening Saturday, Oct. 8, reached $15,926,396 to surpass the previous fall meet single-day record of $14,135,204 set Oct. 6, 2007.

Wagering was further driven by a Pick 6 carryover that grew to $329,321 before being hit Oct. 20, when 61 perfect tickets each paid $16,690. On that day, a total of $1,145,677 was wagered into the Pick 6 pool to set a record single-day Keeneland fall meet Pick 6 handle (the previous record was $629,310 in the fall of 2003). It was the second-largest single-day Pick 6 handle in Keeneland history, falling just behind the record $1,366,063 wagered in April 2008.

"The Fall Meet was simply spectacular," said Keeneland president Bill Thomason. "The world-class racing, idyllic weather, and colorful fall landscape, wonderful food and fun-filled special events all combined to make this a very special race meet. I often saw fans linger until well after the last race to savor every minute of an afternoon spent in this extraordinary setting." 

2016 Fall Meet Figures at a Glance (Through Saturday, Oct. 29)

 

Fall 2016

Fall 2015

%  Change

All-Sources Handle on Keeneland

$132,937,720

$119,051,901

+11.66%

Avg. Daily All-Sources Handle on Keeneland

$7,819,866

$7,003,053

+11.66%

Total On-Track Handle

$17,793,419

$15,813,986

+12.52%

Avg. Daily On-Track Handle

$1,046,672

$930,234

+12.52%

Total Attendance

276,543

240,709

+14.89%

Avg. Daily Attendance

16,267

14,159

+14.89%

Meet Leaders
On the track, familiar names ranked atop the leaderboard at Keeneland this fall. 

Eclipse Award winners Ken and Sarah Ramsey won nine races to cruise to their 18th leading owner title at Keeneland. The Ramseys are Keeneland's all-time leading owners in terms of titles won (10 fall meet titles and eight spring meet titles) and number of races won (214).

John C. Oxley won five races to finish second, including three stakes: the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) with Classic Empire, JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (gr. IIIT) with La Coronel, and closing-day Hagyard Fayette (gr. II) with Noble Bird.

In a race that came down to the final day of the meet, Mark Casse edged Mike Maker to capture his third leading trainer title at Keeneland. Casse notched 13 wins during the fall, four of those in graded stakes: the Breeders' Futurity with Classic Empire, Dixiana Bourbon (gr. IIIT) with Keep Quiet, Jessamine with La Coronel, and Fayette with Noble Bird. Casse also won three races on Oct. 27. 

Maker finished second with 10 wins while Ian Wilkes won nine races to be third in the standings.    

Casse and Graham Motion each won four stakes during the fall to equal Racing Hall of Famers Ben Jones and D. Wayne Lukas and multiple Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher for most stakes wins by a trainer in a single race meet at Keeneland. Motion's victories came in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) with Dancing Rags, Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) with Miss Temple City, Buffalo Trace Franklin County (gr. IIIT) with Miss Ella and Pin Oak Valley View (gr. IIIT) with Quidura

Two-time Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux led all riders with 21 victories to earn his 11th meet title and move into sole possession of third place in total meet titles behind Hall of Famer Pat Day (22) and Don Brumfield (16).  

Leparoux won four stakes: the Breeders' Futurity with Classic Empire, Thoroughbred Club of America (gr. II) with Irish Jasper, Lexus Raven Run (gr. II) with Lightstream and Fayette with Noble Bird during the fall meet to push his Keeneland career total to 56. Only Day has won more stakes (95). 

Florent Geroux tallied 17 victories to finish second in the jockey standings. His record included two three-win days on Oct. 9 and Oct. 26 and three stakes wins: the Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) with I'm a Chatterbox, Bourbon with Keep Quiet, and Jessamine with La Coronel.