Despite the wettest April on record in Central Kentucky, Keeneland concluded its 15-day spring meet with strong attendance and handle figures.
Total attendance for the April 8-29 run was 241,684–the third-highest for a spring meet ever–compared to 238,282 last spring. On-track handle increased 3% to $18,473,700 from last year’s $17,906,359 while average on-track wagering was $1,231,580 compared to $1,193,757 in 2010. All-sources handle totaled $117,225,845 compared to $107,858,516 in 2010, marking a 9% increase.
“To surpass last spring, which saw mostly mild, pleasant race days, is a tribute to the fans that braved the sometimes treacherous conditions this meet,” said Keeneland President and CEO Nick Nicholson. “We have some of the greatest race fans in the country.”
Despite the nearly 13 inches of rain at Keeneland, the racing remained formful with relatively few scratches. “Field sizes would’ve plummeted with such a wet April on our old track, resulting in a dramatically lower handle,” he said.
Nicholson pointed out that the all-weather surface has had only one equine racing fatality during the spring since its installation five years ago.
The race for leading jockey honors between Julien Leparoux and Alan Garcia went down to the final day. Leparoux, a multiple Eclipse Award winner, accumulated 19 wins and earned his fourth spring meeting title (2006 [first apprentice to win a Keeneland title, tying with Rafael Bejarano], 2007 and 2009) and sixth title (fall 2006 and 2010) overall at Keeneland. Leparoux boosted his record with four wins on April 17 and a victory in the Coolmore Lexington (gr. III) on April 23 aboard Derby Kitten.
Garcia, who rode his first full season at Keeneland this spring, finished second with 16 wins, followed by Javier Castellano with 15 victories. Three of Castellano’s wins came in stakes–an upset victory in the Central Bank Ashland (gr. I) with Lilacs and Lace, with Get Stormy in the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT), and aboard Exhi in the Ben Ali (gr. III).
Ken McPeek captured his first spring trainer title to go along with honors earned in fall 2009 and 2010. McPeek finished the meeting with 14 wins, two shy of Todd Pletcher’s 2005 spring meeting record of 16 wins. Wesley Ward ranked second with nine victories, followed by Michael Maker with seven wins.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey dominated the owner standings with 10 wins, including two stakes victories on April 23: Derby Kitten in the Coolmore Lexington and Holiday for Kitten in the Giant’s Causeway. That day they also finished second with Dean's Kitten in the Ben Ali. This was the ninth Keeneland leading owner title for the Ramseys.
“It’s been an awesome meet,” Ken Ramsey said. “This meet has been very special because of the success of our homebreds. To have two homebreds win stakes races and another run second in a stakes race, all on the same day at Keeneland, was just unbelievable. It’s an honor to be the leading owner here.”
Owners Charles E. Fipke, Susan McPeek et al’s Magdalena Racing, and Wesley Ward tied for second with four wins each.
On April 16, Aikenite ’s victory in the Commonwealth (gr. II) gave owner Cot Campell’s Dogwood Stable its eighth Keeneland graded stakes victory and a gold tray as part of Keeneland’s unique gold trophy program to recognize owners.
“The quality of races, the size of purses, and the ability to draw the attention of the racing world allows us to attract many of the best trainers, jockeys, and horses to Lexington each spring,” said vice president of Racing Rogers Beasley. “Our short meet was filled with dramatic and thrilling racing.”