Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Ahead of 2016 Through Seven Programs

Attendance, total handle, and on-track handle above 2016 figures.

Spectacular weather and one of North America's highest purse structures that drew some of the top horses in training combined to boost the numbers in every major statistical category for Keeneland's first seven days.

The 15-day meet began April 7 and continues through April 28.

Following the April 15 card (April 16 was a dark day because of Easter), Keeneland had recorded total attendance of 141,104, for a daily average 20,157. Through the same number of days a year ago, attendance averaged 16,965 daily on a total 118,758.

This year's total wagering of $78.5 million through seven programs represented a slight gain over the $76.4 million total at the same juncture in 2016. On-track handle this year of $9.2 million is also tracking ahead of the $8.9 million for seven cards in 2016.

"Keeneland has a tremendously loyal fan base," said Bob Elliston, vice president of racing and sales. "When you give them beautiful blue skies and best-in-class racing, they will come out in droves. Many of the stars of racing, equine and human, have populated our race cards giving fans a product they can't miss."

On opening day, 14,301 hearty souls braved rain, drizzle, and temperatures in the mid-40s to attend races on the College Day card in which Keeneland caters to students attending colleges and universities within the state with special events including scholarship drawings.

The following day, Reddam Racing's Irap posted an upset victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and Keeneland reported attendance of 32,610, well above the 2016 figure of 20,848 on a chilly Saturday a year ago when Brody's Cause  took the then-grade 1 stake.

Keeneland received a windfall from the calendar this year as Good Friday fell on Friday, April 14, and 24,114 took advantage of the holiday to attend the races highlighted by American Patriot's victory in the grade 1 Maker's 46. On the comparable Friday in 2016—when Easter was on March 27, before the Keeneland meet began—Keeneland reported attendance of 17,645.

On the second Saturday of the meet, again with a continuation of the outstanding spring weather in the Bluegrass, Keeneland reported attendance of 30,782—well off the 38,963 figure a year ago—for the card highlighted by the upset victory of Godolphin's Dickinson over champion Lady Eli in the grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes.