04/30/2012 2:18PM

Keeneland business figures up sharply

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All-sources handle and ontrack attendance at the recently-ended spring meet at Keeneland Race Course showed double-digit increases in what was a triumphant exit for track president Nick Nicholson, who announced his retirement late in the 15-day meet.

All-sources handle grossed $136.7 million for an average of $9.1 million per day, an increase of 13 percent in both categories over corresponding figures from the 2011 spring meet, while ontrack attendance totaled 269,292 and averaged 17,953 for an increase of 11 percent each. Ontrack handle grossed $19.5 million for an average of $1.3 million, with both figures up nearly 6 percent.

The attendance marks were records, as was the 40,617 who turned out on Blue Grass Stakes Day, April 14, easily surpassing the prior record of 33,821 set in 2007. Excellent weather was in evidence for most of the meet, which ran April 6-27.

On the racetrack, Julien Leparoux was the leading jockey for the eighth time; Ken and Sarah Ramsey were leading owners for the 10th time; and Wesley Ward was the leading trainer for the first time.

The meet was the final one for Nicholson, who became president and chief executive officer in 2000 and whose tenure was marked by a number of significant milestones, including a major track renovation and the installation of a Polytrack surface in 2006.

“It has been a wonderful tenure for me here at Keeneland, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of an organization that is so well respected in the community and in the industry,” said Nicholson, 64.

Nicholson will be succeeded by Bill Thomason, the current vice president and chief financial officer.