10/29/2011 6:10PM

Keeneland concludes meet with record attendance, sharp rise in handle


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland’s fall meeting concluded Saturday with record attendance and significant increases in all-sources handle.

 A total of 250,163 fans passed through the gates during the 17-day meet, eclipsing the previous mark of 244,145, which was set during the 15-day 2006 spring meeting. Average daily attendance for the fall meet was 14,715, an increase of 8.8 percent over the 2010 fall meet daily average of 13,524.

 Meanwhile, daily all sources handle was $128,533,933, a 9.3 percent increase over the 2010 fall meet figure of $117,600,498. The average daily handle was $7,560,820, compared with $6,917,676 in 2010.

Total on-track handle was basically even with last year’s fall season at $18,876,288, compared with $18,857,350. Daily average on-track handle was $1,110,370. This marked the 75th anniversary racing season at Keeneland.

 Keeneland officials attributed the increased business to a slight increase in field size. This year’s meet averaged 10.1 starters, compared with 9.9 in 2010.

 “This was a strong meet in so many ways - from attendance, to wagering, to quality of racing,’’ Keeneland president and CEO Nick Nicholson said. “Add the additional coverage with NBC, Versus and TVG and our month-long celebration with the community and the industry, and I think we have much to be thankful for this meet.’’

Julien Leparoux finished as the meet’s leading rider despite missing one day of the meet due to an injured right hand sustained in a spill here on Oct 9 and another to ride at Woodbine. Leparoux won 33 races at the meet, including five on Saturday’s closing day card. He also won five races on the Oct. 21 card. This was Leparoux’s third fall riding title and seventh Keeneland title overall.

Ken McPeek won the trainer title, 10-9, over Rusty Arnold. Both trainers won a race on Saturday and Arnold had a chance to tie McPeek in the last but his runner, Tycoon, finished fourth. It was McPeek’s third consecutive Keeneland trainer title and fourth overall.

 Arnold’s primary owner, G. Watts Humphrey did take the owners’ title, with seven wins capping an amazing 24-hour period for him. Humphrey is part owner of the St. Louis Cardinals, who on Friday night won the World Series over the Texas Rangers. Humphrey was at Keeneland after attending Game 7 of the Series.

 “I think that winning [the Series] with the Cardinals is just a wonderful thrill, but the horses are our first love and running at Keeneland is the place we love to win,’’ he said. “This is a very special year because we’ve won it with most of the horses which we’ve raised.’’