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Keeneland Closes 2016 Spring Meet With Strong Gains in Attendance and Wagering

Published: 04/29/2016

LEXINGTON, KY  - Keeneland concluded its 2016 Spring Meet on Friday with robust increases in attendance and on-track and all-sources wagering. Healthy results, which included an all-time single-day handle record on Toyota Blue Grass Day, were driven by top-quality racing that featured the return of a number of horses who competed in the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland last fall; unique special events highlighted by Hall of Fame Jockey Day; and the arrival of warm, sunny spring weather.

Keeneland recorded its fourth-highest Spring Meet attendance, which totaled 262,197 for the 16-day season, held April 8-29. Attendance increased 4.69 percent from the 250,451 posted during last year's 15-day Spring Meet. Average daily attendance of 16,387 dipped slightly from 16,697 in 2015.

Attendance of 38,863 on Saturday, April 16, represented the largest Coolmore Day figure in track history and third-largest non-Breeders' Cup crowd at Keeneland. The following Saturday, April 23, drew 32,731 fans who enjoyed a classic spring afternoon featuring the Dixiana Elkhorn (G2).

Full fields and competitive racing produced double-digit gains in on-track and all-sources wagering this spring. On-track handle of $17,974,896 outpaced last spring's $16,142,325 by 11.35 percent. Average daily on-track handle increased 4.39 percent from $1,076,155 to $1,123,431.

All-sources wagering of $145,592,372 on Keeneland's Spring Meet registered significant growth, up 23.79 percent from last year's $117,617,108. Average daily all-sources handle rose 16.05 percent from $7,841,141 to $9,099,523.

Keeneland registered an all-time single-day handle record of $21,736,983 on Toyota Blue Grass Day, April 9. All-sources wagering included $20,805,455 handled on Keeneland's 11 live races; $423,679 wagered on the Big Apple/Bluegrass Pick 4; and on-track simulcast handle of $507,849. The record bested the previous mark of $21,647,378 set on Toyota Blue Grass Day of April 14, 2012.

"The momentum from last fall's Breeders' Cup carried forward to this spring and contributed to so many positives during this race meet," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. "The loyalty of our fans and horsemen and the strong support of our corporate and media partners are very gratifying. These relationships are key to Keeneland's success."

A total of 35 horses who competed in the 2015 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland last fall returned to race at Keeneland this spring, headlined by four Breeders' Cup winners: Canadian Horse of the Year Catch a Glimpse, winner of the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) who won the Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association; champion and Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner Tepin, winner of the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1); Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Stopchargingmaria, second in the Madison (G1); and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) winner Wavell Avenue, third in the Madison.

Six spring stakes were won by Breeders' Cup horses. Joining Catch a Glimpse and Tepin were Brody's Cause (Toyota Blue Grass-G1), Sheer Drama (Madison), Undrafted (Shakertown-G2) and Da Big Hoss (Dixiana Elkhorn).

Adding to the excitement surrounding the Spring Meet was the presence of champion Nyquist, the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Winner of the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland last fall, Nyquist trained at Keeneland throughout April, turning in his final Derby work on closing day, April 29.

"One of our goals in hosting the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland was to further enhance the quality of racing during our Spring and Fall meets," Keeneland Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley said. "It's very rewarding to see these great champions come back to Keeneland and thrill fans once again."

Beasley will retire this summer following a distinguished 34-year career during which he has played key roles in establishing Keeneland's position as the world's premier Thoroughbred auction house and strengthening the track's lucrative racing program.

Throughout the Spring Meet, Keeneland offered a full calendar of unique special events. On opening day, April 8, students from colleges and universities in Kentucky and the surrounding region participated in College Scholarship Day, which this year gave away a $10,000 Runhappy Scholarship in addition to ten $1,000 scholarships and $7,000 worth of prizes during the afternoon. Fans had their commemorative Maker's Mark bottle signed by members of the 1978 national championship University of Kentucky men's basketball team on Maker's Mark Day, April 15, and honored military members and their families on Military Day at the Races Presented by Marathon on April 24.

Keeneland recognized legendary retired and active jockeys during Hall of Fame Jockey Day on April 22. Eighteen Hall of Famer riders who won a total of 89,621 races, including 20 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, participated in a Q&A session and an autograph signing to benefit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. In attendance were Braulio Baeza, Bill Boland, Don Brumfield, Steve Cauthen, Pat Day, Earlie Fires, Sandy Hawley, Eddie Maple, Chris McCarron, Don Pierce, Laffit Pincay Jr., Randy Romero, John Rotz, Jose Santos, Gary Stevens, Jacinto Vasquez, Jorge Velasquez and Manny Ycaza.

Spring Meet Leaders
Once again, many of North America's top trainers and jockeys converged at Keeneland this spring. Counted among the top trainers stabled at Keeneland were Todd Pletcher, Wesley Ward, Mark Casse, Michael Maker, Graham Motion, Chad Brown, Steve Asmussen, Doug O'Neill and Brad Cox.

The nation's most prominent riders comprised Keeneland's jockey colony, topped by Spring Meet leading rider Javier Castellano, along with John Velazquez, Gary Stevens, Florent Geroux, Corey Lanerie, Julien Leparoux, Luis Saez, Joe Bravo, Paco Lopez, Flavien Prat, Joel Rosario and Brian Hernandez Jr.

Purses for the Spring Meet continued to rank among the nation's highest, averaging $624,083 compared to last spring's $652,934. Average starters per race was 8.4 versus 8.1 in 2015.

Multiple Eclipse Award winners Ken and Sarah Ramsey won nine races to claim their 17th leading owner title at Keeneland. They have won or shared eight Spring Meet titles (2004, 2006, 2010-2013, 2015-2016) and nine Fall Meet titles (2000, 2002, 2007-2009, 2012-2015).

The Ramseys rank as Keeneland's all-time leading owners in terms of titles won (17 versus 14 held by T.A. Grissom) and most wins (205).

G. Watts Humphrey Jr., both singly and in partnership with Ian Banwell's St. George Farm, notched four wins to finish second in the owner standings.

Michael Maker earned his fourth Keeneland leading trainer title, having won previously in the spring and fall of 2013, and in the fall of 2008. His 13 wins this spring included a victory with Skychai Racing's Da Big Hoss in the Dixiana Elkhorn.

Wesley Ward, winner of the Shakertown with Undrafted, finished second in the standings with eight wins. Mark Casse, who captured the Appalachian Presented by Japan Racing Association with Canadian Horse of the Year Catch a Glimpse and the Coolmore Jenny Wiley with Tepin, was third with seven wins.

Castellano edged out Corey Lanerie in a race for the Keeneland riding title that went down to the final day of the meet. In the end, Castellano accumulated 17 victories to earn his second Keeneland title, his first coming in the 2015 Spring Meet.

Castellano, voted the Eclipse Award-winning jockey for the past three consecutive years and currently North America's leading rider by money earned, won the Lexington (G3) this spring aboard Collected.

Lanerie, who closed the meet with 16 wins, and Julien Leparoux, who finished third in the standings with 14 victories, each won four races in a single day during the meet. Lanerie's four-win day came on April 23. He also won the Central Bank Ashland (G1) with Weep No More. Leparoux, who won four races on April 16, accounted for four stakes wins during the meet: Coolmore Jenny Wiley with Tepin, Giant's Causeway with Exaggerated, Adena Springs Beaumont (G3) with Lightstream and Bewitch (G3) with Olorda (GER).

Meet Figures at a Glance (April 8-29)

   Spring 2016         Spring 2015         % Change   
 All-Sources Handle
on Keeneland    
                     
 $145,592,372    $117,617,108      +23.79%    
 Avg. Daily All-Sources
Handle on Keeneland
 $9,099,523 $7,841,141 +16.05%
 Total On-Track Handle $17,974,896 $16,142,325 +11.35
 Avg. Daily On-Track Handle $1,123,431 $1,076,155 +4.39%
 Total Attendance 262,197 250,451 +4.69%
 Avg. Daily Attendance 16,387 16,697 -1.85%

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For 80 years, the Keeneland Association has devoted itself to the health and vibrancy of the Thoroughbred industry. As the world's largest Thoroughbred auction company, Keeneland conducts sales every January, September and November. Its sales graduates dominate racing across the globe at every level. In April and October, Keeneland offers some of the highest caliber and richest Thoroughbred racing in the world. In 2015, Keeneland hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Uniquely structured, Keeneland is a private, for-profit corporation that returns its earnings to the industry and the community in the form of higher purses, and it has donated millions of dollars in charitable contributions for education, research and health and human services throughout Central Kentucky. To learn more about Keeneland, visit Keeneland.com.

For more information contact Amy Gregory at 859 361-3490 or Amy Owens 859 421-2566