10/10/2016 11:56AM

Keeneland sets handle, attendance marks for opening weekend

Barbara D. Livingston
Catch a Glimpse will probably be favored in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Saturday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – With perfect weather and outstanding racing as catalysts, Keeneland established records for attendance and all-sources handle during the three days that opened the 17-day fall meet.

Total attendance for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was 66,437, surpassing the previous record of 62,454 set in 2006. All-sources handle for the three days was $34,038,462.

“Suffice it to say, an extraordinary start to the race meet,” said Bob Elliston, in his first meet as vice president of racing and sales for Keeneland.

The Saturday handle of $15.9 million was a single-day record for a fall meet, but it doesn’t threaten the track’s all-time record, which was set April 9, when more than $21.7 million was bet on the Blue Grass Stakes card. In fact, the top 10 single-day marks at Keeneland for both handle and attendance all have come at spring meets.

◗ Three probable starters in the biggest race of the coming weekend at Keeneland, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, were out for final pre-race drills over the turf course Sunday.

Likely favorite Catch a Glimpse, the 2015 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, went a half-mile in 49 seconds over firm going. Other breezes toward the 1 1/8-mile QE II were turned in by Harmonize (five furlongs in 1:02.60) and Mokat (half-mile in 49.80).

The $500,000 QE II will have its 33rd running Saturday as the sixth and last Grade 1 of this front-loaded meet. Entries are to be drawn Wednesday.

The full list of QE II invitees: Catch a Glimpse, Harmonize, Hawksmoor, Mokat, On Leave, Outsider Art, Queen Caroline, Stays in Vegas, Time and Motion, and Try Your Luck.

◗ Jockey Julien Leparoux enjoyed an outstanding start to the fall meet, surging to the top of the standings with six wins through the first three days. Although he was disappointed not to win the First Lady on heavily favored Tepin, Leparoux did win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on Classic Empire and the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America on Irish Jasper.

Leparoux, 33, has won or tied for 10 Keeneland riding titles, the latest at the 2014 spring meet.

◗ Irish Jasper and Stonetastic, the first two finishers in the TCA, are headed to the Nov. 5 BC Filly and Mare Sprint, but third-place finisher Bendable is wheeling back in the Grade 2 Raven Run on Oct. 22 at Keeneland. Bred and owned by Claiborne Farm, Bendable was the only 3-year-old in the TCA field. Other 3-year-olds likely for the seven-furlong Raven Run include Lewis Bay and Lucy N Ethel.

◗ Keeneland sales graduates swept all 10 Grade 1 stakes run in North America last weekend. They were Lady Eli, Hoppertunity, Miss Temple City, Classic Empire, Practical Joke, I’m a Chatterbox, Photo Call, Dancing Rags, Yellow Agate, and Lord Nelson.