05/01/2005 11:00PM

Keeneland handle declines


Ontrack business at the Keeneland spring meet was the second-highest in track history, behind only last year's record average, while the track's all-sources handle dipped 9.3 percent, primarily because Keeneland refused to accept bets from some high-volume wagering outlets.

The average attendance at the 16-day meet that ended Friday was 14,701, second in track history to the 15,522 from the corresponding 15-day meet in 2004, while average ontrack handle dropped 7.5 percent to $1,727,233, also second behind last spring's record of $1,867,399. Ontrack betting includes imported simulcasts.

All-sources handle averaged $8,075,527, down sharply from the nearly $9.5 million the track averaged last spring. The track's president Nick Nicholson, said the dropped sites were accountable for the discrepancy. Keeneland announced before the meet began April 8 that they were cutting off the sites because of uncertainty about their business practices.

"We believe the short-term losses from this decision will result in positives for Keeneland and the industry in the future," said Nicholson.

Several records were set at the meet: single-day attendance, 33,621 (Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Day, April 16); single-day ontrack handle, $3,599,648 (Blue Grass Day); and cumulative attendance, 235,220.

Per-day purses grossed $10,227,276, or $639,205 per program. That average will likely be the highest for any North American track this year.

On the racetrack, jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher won their first Keeneland titles with 21 and 19 wins, respectively. Pletcher, who recently won the Gulfstream training title and is widely considered a heavy favorite to lead the upcoming Belmont and Saratoga meets, won both major Kentucky Derby preps at Keeneland: the Blue Grass with Bandini, and the April 23 Coolmore Lexington Stakes with Coin Silver.

Augustin Stable tied with Will Farish and partners for leading owner with four wins each.