Keeneland concludes spring racing season with record wagering

The 2022 fall meet will kick off in October

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/PRESS RELEASE) – Keeneland successfully closed its 2022 Spring Meet on Friday with all-sources handle topping $219 million to establish an all-time wagering record for the historic Thoroughbred track. Fans at Keeneland and across the country enjoyed an exceptionally strong racing season with record average daily purses of $1.147 million attracting the nation’s top horses and jockeys and resulting in full fields that averaged 9.1 starters per race. Complementing the quality racing was a slate of special events that offered family fun while benefiting the local community.

The 15-day Spring Meet, held April 8-29, marks the third consecutive season of record handle at Keeneland, reflecting the tremendous quality of racing.

“This Spring Meet was unmatched in many measures, most of all the fact that everyone seemed to revel in the energy of having fans back in full force on race days,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Keeneland is a special place because of the support we receive from the Central Kentucky community, our horsemen, handicappers, sponsors, fans and employees. This spring season sets the stage for a huge racing year that continues with the Fall Meet in October and the return of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 4-5.”

All-sources wagering (not including whole-card simulcasting at Keeneland) for the Spring Meet totaled $219,284,979, eclipsing the previous record of $181,009,626 set during last year’s 17-day Fall Meet. The total represents a 33.16 percent increase over last spring’s record $164,680,229. Average daily all-sources handle was $14,618,999.

Wagering totals were boosted by several individual handle records during the meet. Record single-day all-sources handle of $28,137,728 was set on Toyota Blue Grass Day, Saturday, April 9, which featured 11 races, five of which were graded stakes.

Wagering on the 11-race card the following Saturday, April 16, totaled $27,304,001 to be the second-highest single-day handle in Keeneland history.

Record Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagering also was realized on April 16. The Pick 4 handled a record $1,357,298, exceeding the previous mark of $1,065,002 set on Toyota Blue Grass Day in 2018. The Pick 5 handled a record $1,539,098 to surpass the $1,485,090 established on Toyota Blue Grass Day in 2021.

On-track wagering this spring totaled $16,190,832, up 75.52 percent from last spring’s $9,224,273 when COVID-19 limited attendance for the meet. Average daily on-track wagering this spring was $1,079,389.

The Keeneland Turf Pick 3, a wager on the final three turf races each day that was inaugurated last fall, remained popular with handicappers with total handle of $1,543,399, for an average of $128,617 per day (12 days of the wager).

Racing Highlights

Daily purses at Keeneland this spring averaged a record $1,147,834, an increase of 55.13 percent over last spring’s $739,902.

Keeneland awarded a record $7.7 million for 19 stakes held this spring. The schedule featured increased purses for all stakes and significant changes to the season’s two historic classic preps: The Toyota Blue Grass (G1), a key 3-year-old prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and held the first Saturday of the Spring Meet, was elevated to Grade 1 status and the purse was restored to $1 million. The Central Bank Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies was worth a record $600,000 and moved to opening day to provide a showcase for this major Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep.

Purses for some stakes doubled for 2022, most prominently the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) increased from $300,000 to $600,000, Stonestreet Lexington (G3) from $200,000 to $400,000 and Ben Ali (G3) from $150,000 to $300,000. Others, such as the Shakertown (G2), Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select and Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3), received significant boosts.

“The racing at Keeneland this spring was just sensational,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “All credit and thanks should start with the owners and trainers who sent us such a talented and deep group of horses to fill our race cards. Those connections and horses in turn attracted the deepest jockey colony in the country, who together put on an amazing show all meet long for our dedicated fans and horseplayers.”

Other memorable moments from the Spring Meet include:

  • Zandon cruised to victory in the Toyota Blue Grass, earning for him 100 points and second place on the Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve leaderboard.
  • Nest romped to an 8¼-length victory in the Central Bank Ashland to earn 100 points and move into third position with 120 points on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) leaderboard.
  • Tawny Port captured the Stonestreet Lexington to earn 20 points to boost his total to 60, securing a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
  • Malathaat, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2021, made a stylish season debut in winning the $300,000 Baird Doubledogdare (G3).
  • Two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Golden Pal dominated his rivals in winning the 5½-furlong Shakertown on turf by 4¾ lengths.
  • Shirl’s Speight prevailed by a nose in an exciting Maker’s Mark Mile finish.
  • Two turf stakes records: champion Channel Maker won the $350,000 Elkhorn (G2), getting the 1½ miles in 2:27.10, and Campanelle (IRE) won the $200,000 Giant’s Causeway (L) at 5½ furlongs on turf in 1:01.98.

Spring Meet Leaders 

The Spring Meet showcased outstanding competition thanks to horses representing the sport’s leading trainers, jockeys and owners. As a result, races for leading horsemen were decided on the final day of the season.

Trainer Wesley Ward won 13 races to secure his sixth Spring Meet title and eighth title overall. Ward took the aforementioned Shakertown with Golden Pal and Giant’s Causeway along with the TVG Limestone (L) with Ruthin (GB).

Finishing second with 11 victories was Brad Cox, who won the Madison (G1) with Just One Time, Stonestreet Lexington and Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select with Matareya.

In third with nine wins was Chad Brown, who won Toyota Blue Grass with Zandon and Jenny Wiley (G1) with Regal Glory.

Among jockeys, Tyler Gaffalione earned his first Spring Meet title and fifth title overall. He led riders with 19 wins, including the Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association on Spendarella and Commonwealth (G3) on Prevalence. Gaffalione’s success included winning four races April 9 and three races April 15.

Irad Ortiz Jr. finished second in the standings with 18 victories. Ortiz rode three winners twice, on opening day and closing day. On opening day, his wins included the Central Bank Ashland and Kentucky Utilities Transylvania on Sy Dog. Ortiz also won the Shakertown and Giant’s Causeway.

Finishing third with 15 wins was Flavien Prat, who won the Toyota Blue Grass aboard Zandon along with the Madison and Beaumont Presented by Keeneland Select.

Luis Saez finished fourth with 14 wins. He won the Maker’s Mark Mile on Shirl’s Speight and the Elkhorn on Channel Maker.

Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables was the meet’s leading owner with five wins, including the TVG Limestone. This is the first title for Stonestreet.

Grade 1 Gamble Draws Record 279 Entries

Christian Hellmers of Rancho Santa Fe, California, topped a record field of 279 players who participated in the Grade 1 Gamble, the signature handicapping contest of Keeneland’s Spring Meet, held April 23. Players competed on track and through XpressBet, TVG, NYRABets, 4NJ Bets and HPi in Canada.

Hellmers took home a record $67,500 for first place. Prize money was awarded to the top 20 finishers. The top six finishers each received an entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and the 10 leading finishers all earned an entry to the National Horseplayers Championship.

 Keeneland Honors its Philanthropic Mission

Keeneland teamed with sponsors and horse industry partners during the meet on special events that appealed to fans of all ages and fulfilled the track’s mission of giving back to the Central Kentucky community.

Among the community-oriented and philanthropic initiatives at Keeneland this spring were:

  • More than 3,100 full-time students representing more than 125 colleges and universities participated in the popular College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End, held on April 8. Students registered to win one of ten $2,000 scholarships provided by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Those at Keeneland were eligible to win one of two $10,000 scholarships provided by Lane’s End. Thirty-seven prize packages from Lexington businesses also were awarded.
  • Proceeds from sales of the 2022 commemorative Maker’s Mark Bourbon® bottle in partnership with Keeneland supported Horse Mania, a LexArts initiative. Bottle labels, which depicted the beauty of Thoroughbred racing, were signed by one of the three winningest female riders in Keeneland history: Julie Krone, Rosie Napravnik and Donna Barton Brothers. Sales of the bottle and a contribution from Maker’s Mark resulted in a $60,000 donation to LexArts and Horse Mania.
  • Current members of the Keeneland jockey colony joined retired riders for an autograph session on April 15 that raised $5,955 for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).
  • Maker’s Mark also made a $10,000 contribution to the PDJF.
  • Toyota, sponsor of the Toyota Blue Grass, and Keeneland made a $10,000 donation to Jobs for America’s Graduates Kentucky, which aims to support middle and high school students in becoming successful, contributing citizens post-graduation.
  • Kentucky Utilities and Keeneland teamed to contribute $5,000 to the YMCA of Central Kentucky Black Achievers program.
  • Keeneland and Country Boy Brewing of Lexington again collaborated to create the Keeneland Spring Lager, with sales of the beer generating more than $4,000 to benefit Blue Grass Farms Charities. The organization provides health and human services to people working in Central Kentucky’s Thoroughbred industry.
  • Keeneland hosted Military Day at the Races on Sunday, April 24, to recognize the men and women who serve our country. All active duty, reserve, veterans and military families received free general admission and reserved Grandstand seating with a military I.D. Keeneland presented a check for $5,000 to the Veterans Club as part of the day’s festivities.

 2022 Spring Meet at a Glance (April 8-29)

  Spring 2022 Spring 2021 %  Change
All-Sources Handle on Keeneland $219,284,979 $164,680,229 +33.16%
Avg. Daily All-Sources Handle on Keeneland $14,618,999 $10,978,682 +33.16%
Total On-Track Handle $16,190,832 $9,224,273* +75.52%
Avg. Daily On-Track Handle $1,079,389 $614,952* +75.52%
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