10/15/2014 3:06PM

Handle, attendance down at Keeneland

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Attendance for Keeneland's fall meet has fallen 19 percent compared to last year.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Betting figures and attendance so far during the fall meet at Keeneland have plummeted when compared with last year’s record results, according to figures supplied by the track.

Poorer weather than last year probably is playing a large role in the drops, but other factors, including a new dirt surface and a drop in field size partially attributable to fewer horses shipping in from tracks with artificial surfaces, also are contributing to the declines.

Though officials cautioned that it is too early to call the drops a trend, especially considering the weather, the numbers are sobering. Total attendance through eight days of the 17-day meet has dropped 19 percent, according to the figures, while all-sources handle is down 9 percent. Ontrack handle is down 14 percent.

Keeneland has experienced far wetter and far cooler weather than last year, which has held down attendance figures. In addition, attendance on both Saturday cards has been negatively affected by the resurgence of the University of Kentucky football program. UK has played home games on both Saturdays of the meet, and last Saturday’s home game started at 12:30 p.m.

Keeneland replaced its artificial surface with a dirt track prior to the opening of the fall meet, after eight years racing on Polytrack, an all-weather surface. The change led to uncertainty over how the track would play among handicappers and has negatively affected the amount bet on the track’s races, according to Jim Goodman, Keeneland’s director of mutuels.

“Even if we had everything equal with last year, we still thought we’d be down early because of the change in the track,” Goodman said. “Especially early on, when players didn’t have any feel for it. This is a brand-new track.”

Goodman also acknowledged that a drop in field size, from 9.7 horses per race last year to 8.7 horses per race this year, has contributed to the declines. During this year’s fall meet, it’s been rare to see horses shipping in from Woodbine or Presque Isle Downs, two tracks with artificial surfaces. Horses from those two tracks commonly entered races at Keeneland last year, at approximately 10 horses a card.

The wet weather has led to more races being taken off the turf and more scratches in the main-track races than last year. During meets with an artificial surface, horses very rarely scratched when it rained.

“It’s way too early to say this is a trend,” Goodman said. “This could turn around in a week, especially if we start getting better weather.”

Larry Rudolph More than 1 year ago
Field size, lack of competitive racing, horrible racing quality with large part of card are two year olds are the major reasons for lack of handle unless racing quality and field sizes improve the handle will drop big time there are obviously not enough dirt horses three years old and up to conduct a race meet
john g More than 1 year ago
As listed, the two main reasons are Ky. football game schedule has been on Kee. busiest day's, and the weather has been cool and wet. Most are not going to the track on a rainy day. I think it will come around some, and even out. Keenland and the public wanted the change to dirt to draw more competive horses in the Bluegrass for the Ky. Derby. Its mind boggling though why Ky. state legislature has repeatedly refused to add slots to Ky. tracks, when Ky. is noted for horse racing, breeding and bourbon making, but they bow to the religious folks on slots? rofl ..and, take a short drive across the Ohio river to numerous Indiana casinos and look at their license plates, 75% are from Ky., goofy politicians.
Len Dehler More than 1 year ago
Don't care about keenland gulfstream and santa anita are bettor betting tracks.
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
I just have two problems. One is that there's insufficient data from which any conclusion might be drawn. Forget the weather and the change of surface. This will take time, don't you think? More importantly, I wonder why DRF would write something that's little more than an anecdote. Do we really need another subscriber screaming that they should "lower the takeout"?
Mike Cooper More than 1 year ago
You wonder why DRF would write something that is more than an anecdote? Take a short look at their Home Page. The website is just a mirror of the sport. Attendance down! Handle down!, increase the takeout. Charge for articles that were once commonplace. Doesn't DRF have a decent sales department that can bring in a reasonable amount of revenue? A sport spiraling down the drain that has great athletes run by a bunch of myopic individuals. I keep checking back with DRF every month or so to see if anything has changed. Nope. Lost a generation of fans.
Fred Linderman More than 1 year ago
Funny, they never tell you the real reason why handle and attendance is down. Wake up people!!!!! LOWER THE TAKEOUT and you will see an increase in both handle and attendance.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
So true.
Matthew More than 1 year ago
Keeneland has one of if not the lowest takeout rates of any track in the country. It is also without question the best run track in the country. The track made a major change in changing the surface from poly to dirt which makes serious handicappers take a wait and see approach about how the new track plays. The weather has been awful for at least half the meet. Takeout has NOTHING to do with it.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Not taking a position here because the SAMPLE SIZE is way to small. You have less then 1/2 of the fall meeting.
Dan Cronin More than 1 year ago
Bottom line is heavy hitters play where they can get paid and get prices. The 40% favs and P4 's paying 25% less this meet is cause of the dirt. I understand why they went to dirt but you have to have the support of the horseman and they didnt get it. The barns are full we hear but yet no one is running. The Wed thru Fri cards are as bad as I have ever seen at keen. Maybe the Ky voters and lack of casino money has finally included Keen with the rest of the Ky tracks. Ellis Turfway are about to close it is so bad maybe keen is finally included in that. I dont know that answer. Jim is a great guy and very smart but he cant do it alone the voters need to help.
Scott Dixon More than 1 year ago
Ellis is not about to close. Where did you come up that?
Matthew More than 1 year ago
You are right,. Keeneland is about to close.... Right after they host the most anticipated Breeders Cup in history. Try getting a ticket .... You are delirious. Obviously you have never been to Keeneland. Get a clue....
Joey W More than 1 year ago
For myself. I believe this is as fair of a racetrack as I have seen in recent memory. The Poly bull in article is way off. NY horses are staying put to much money to leave. And Indiana running with purses not much lower than Keeneland. Hawthorne is running with decent purses. Ky has got to figure out how to raise the purse structure or there will be no more racing in KY. As for betting on Keeneland, I bet a total of about 1,000 in the spring the last meet of the Synthetic surface and in this fall meet so far have wagered over 6,000. Takeouts are as fair as they come at Keeneland. Not saying any are all that fair. But they don't get you like Churchill or Parx. Good luck to everyone and keep playing the ponies.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
Keeneland got rid of a successful and safer synthetic race track and put in a dirt track for the worst of reasons: most likely because of pressure from the decision makers. In return, and immediately after they announced they were ripping out the safer track for the dirt track, the Breeder's Cup Committee rewarded them as host city of the Breeders' Cup races. The same thing happened at Del Mar, another synthetic track. Once they caved in to the handful that run the industry they also were rewarded with being designated host city of the Breeders' Cup races. What do they both have in common. They were very successful and for no significant reason got rid of the synthetic track. Both have since had bad seasons. Del Mar not only needs to rethink its decision to go back to the good old bad days of dirt but it also has its hands full with the turf. Keenland was unique. But since their misguided decision to go back to dirt, they lost what set them apart from other race tracks. And the whole industry took another hit. The synthetic tracks were one of a few major efforts by the industry to make the race track safer for horse and jockey. They let that concept go by the wayside. Notwithstanding a few Luddites at DRF, who keep talking like we are still in the 1950's or thereabouts, potential new bettors and fans nowadays pay close attention to things like how the animals and jockeys are being treated. A marquee track now is just another dirt track. Someone needs to look into the theory of regression. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Richard. I know you won't do this...but, if you would take the time to actually look at the real statistics you'll see that synthetic did nothing to improve the safety.....period. Those stats don't lie. Dirt is just as safe or unsafe as the synthetic.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
Frank, Even on DRF, they have cited the few longer-termed reports stating that the synthetic tracks are safer for horses with respect to injuries. This is now common knowledge. You can nitpick or speak indirectly but ask the reporters at DRF. I think even they would say the same. So spend time on researching before making general statements on the synthetic or on what others say. As a related aside, I read the hilarious article by S. Crist today. I believe you made some hard to understand benign comment, trying to sound positive. Go look at what I wrote about HOY, if you can access back the article about California Chrome and HOY. Even then I could see from a mile away how these East Coast voters will fall. At the time I did not know that Wise Dan would later be unfortunately not able to run in the Breeder's Cup. Yet, even not running in the B.C. you hear an East Coast writer mention, lo and behold, Wise Dan as a potential default HOY contender. Funny article by funny writers. The bottom-line, the DRF adheres to a mainly East Coast regional bias, touting horses that run or based over there. They were against synthetic tracks in the main. And that is why they have the audacity to keep putting their favorite horses for HOY, etc. I maybe spoke too soon. But you don't have to be Einstein to know that the East Coast bias, with its block of votes, will determine HOY, usually on a whim or for the wrong reasons, and nothing to do with performance, except when performance works against who they want.
Matthew More than 1 year ago
Read what I wrote in response to Running dog below. My comments pertain to you as well. In addition , you may want to check the map but Wise Dan resides and trains in Kentucky. That is the Midwest , not the east coast. You are a very simple thinking person.
Matthew More than 1 year ago
Also you may want to check your past performances but Wise Dan has raced twice on the a West Coast.... Guess how many times he has raced on the East coast .... THREE times. The rest were in Kentucky and twice in Canada. Is every racing venue outside California the east coast bias??! Maybe he might just be the GREATEST turf horse ever. Maybe that's why he is so revered by those nasty " east coast biased" writers.
RunningDog More than 1 year ago
You are stupid. The facts are clear synthetic was safer for fatalities. As to whether people prefer it to gamble that is up for debate. Time will tell.
Matthew More than 1 year ago
No YOU are stupid. Synthetic tracks cause less CATASTROPHIC injuries on track but actually cause MORE soft tissue injuries which are not seen by patrons right away but cause long term , career ending injuries which result in lameness and often laminitis . Every one wants to simplify data to support their own views. Before you insult others you may want to check your info.
Joshua Harrison More than 1 year ago
The competitive purse structure in New York. Keeneland's MSW purses are good at $56K but compare that to the 75K they run for in New York. Trainers used to go from Saratoga to Kentucky for fall racing before heading to Florida or Louisiana, now they are staying home and making only one trip south, many bypassing Kee and CD altogether.