04/29/2017 8:14AM

Keeneland closes spring meet with steady business figures

Barbara D. Livingston
Wesley Ward won the Keeneland spring-meet training title with 11 victories.

Keeneland concluded its spring meet on Friday with relatively steady overall attendance and handle figures despite running one fewer day, and with a strong performance on the day of the track’s signature Kentucky Derby prep. 

With increased average daily purses of $709,861 helping to attract fields averaging 8.6 horses, total ontrack handle for the 15-day meet was $17,668,979, down 1.7 percent from $17,974,896 during the 16-day spring meet in 2016. This year's meet was one day shorter because the track was dark on Easter Sunday, which fell outside the meet in 2016. 

All-sources handle was $137,399,556, down 5.6 percent from $145,592,372 last spring. Average daily all-sources handle was $9,159,970, an uptick of 0.7 percent, and average daily ontrack handle climbed 4.8 percent to $1,177,932 from $1,123,431. 

With good weather throughout the meet – no races were taken off the turf – average daily attendance was 16,816, up 2.6 percent from 16,387. Total meet attendance was 252,247, down 3.7 percent from 262,197.

The meet was topped by a reported crowd of 32,610 on April 8, when Keeneland ran its signature Kentucky Derby prep, the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes, and four other graded events. On that day, the all-stakes pick five handled $633,000 to eclipse all previous non-carryover pick-five pools. An all-stakes pick four handled a Keeneland-record $733,000, while a late pick four handled $546,000. Taken together, the three multileg wagers handled $1.91 million, a 32 percent increase from that card in 2016.

Wesley Ward and Joel Rosario won the meet's training and riding titles, with 11 and 17 winners. Ward, keyed by his success with early-starting 2-year-olds, also saddled champion Lady Aurelia to win the Giant's Causeway Stakes, intending to once again use Keeneland as a springboard to the renowned Royal Ascot meeting. It was the third meet title at Keeneland for Ward but his first since sweeping the spring and fall meets in 2012. Rosario, who also took the 2013 spring meet with a record 38 wins, won a pair of graded stakes here this spring. 

Godolphin was the meet's leading owner with five victories, powered by a 4-for-4 day on April 15 that included victories in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes with Dickinson and the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes with Watershed, both homebreds. Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who have won a record 18 meet titles at Keeneland, including the last five straight, won 2 of 20 starts.