Keeneland officials reported an all-time fall meet attendance record of 28,880 Saturday, the second day of the Lexington racetrack's meet. The figure topped the previous record of 27,788, set Oct. 14, 1989.
The Oct. 7 program, which featured two grade I stakes and a grade III stake, was aided by clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. In addition, the University of Kentucky was playing a night game at home, and under such a scenario, the crowd at the track usually swells.
Keeneland officials weren't sure how the betting public would respond to the new Polytrack surface, but opening-day handle figures indicate there's at least a comfort level.
Total handle on the 10-race Oct. 6 program was $9,082,354, up 7.1% from $8,493,205 from the comparable day last year. On-track handle was $1,761,144, up 10% from $1,600,604 in 2005.
The on-track growth could be attributed to the crowd--the attendance of 18,580 was the second largest for an opening-day Friday in the fall and up from 14,448 last year. The record of 18,681 was set in 2004.
Interstate handle probably benefited from technical problems that forced Belmont Park to limit wagering to New York outlets early in its program. Average field size, boosted by a 14-filly field in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II), was 10 for opening day and contributed to the healthy Keeneland handle.
Before the meet began, Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley said he believed field size and quality of the horses competing would make the difference even if some big bettors take an initial wait-and-see approach to Polytrack at Keeneland. The surface has been in use for racing at Turfway Park for more than a year, and at Woodbine since August.