(Keeneland Meet / Photo by Coady Media)

From the Keeneland Media Team / Amy Owens:

Keeneland Closes Successful Spring Meet

Keeneland’s 2024 Spring Meet concluded Friday with all-sources wagering exceeding $218 million, the third-highest handle in track history. Average daily purse money of $1.16 million attracted Thoroughbred racing’s top stables and jockeys, delivering 16 days of quality racing complemented by community and special events that offered family fun with a philanthropic mission.

“A big thanks to our horsemen and sponsors, the crowds who turned out daily on track and those who watched and wagered on Keeneland across the country,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “We especially appreciate the cooperation of fans as we navigated the adjustments necessary to hold a race meet during construction of our new Paddock Building. We are proud this Spring Meet continued to offer the exceptional race-day experiences and traditions people know and love about Keeneland.”

All-sources wagering (not including whole card simulcasting at Keeneland) for the Spring Meet, held April 5-26, totaled $218,741,501, a decrease of 2.5% from last spring’s record $224,348,745 for 15 days of racing.

On-track wagering totaled $15,831,087 compared with $15,844,092 in Spring 2023.

Wagering was boosted by a number of individual handle records. On Toyota Blue Grass Day, April 6, all-sources handle for the 11-race card that featured five graded stakes totaled $29,261,346, eclipsing the previous single-day wagering record of $28,137,728 set in 2022. Single-race win/place/show wagering of $2,576,663 on the Toyota Blue Grass shattered the 2019 record of $2,068,406. The All Stakes Pick 5 ending with the Toyota Blue Grass handled $1,696,981, breaking the 2022 record of $1,539,098.

The Keeneland Turf Pick 3, a wager on the final three turf races daily, set a handle record of $280,308 on April 13 to best last Fall’s mark of $248,094. The wager paid a record $56,593 on April 18.

The Daily Double wager established handle records twice during the Spring Meet: $329,433 on opening April 5 and $470,988 on April 13 to surpass the previous record of $286,255 set April 23, 2022. This Spring, Keeneland reduced the takeout on the Daily Double from 22% to 15%.

Spring Meet Racing Highlights

Keeneland offered a season-record $8.6 million for 19 stakes this Spring, headlined by the 100th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1). Other Grade 1 stakes held during the meet were the Central Bank Ashland, the Resolute Racing Madison, the Maker’s Mark Mile and the Jenny Wiley – each worth $600,000.

The Giant’s Causeway was upgraded this Spring to a Grade 3 event after being a listed stakes since 2006 and the purse was increased to $300,000.

Keeneland also welcomed new sponsors for three Spring Meet stakes. John Stewart’s Resolute Racing sponsored the Madison on opening Saturday, and his MiddleGround Capital, of which Stewart is founder and managing partner, sponsored the Beaumont (G2) on April 7. VisitLEX, the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, became sponsor of the Elkhorn (G2), held April 20.

Among the memorable moments this Spring:

  • Sierra Leone posted a 1½-length victory in the Toyota Blue Grass on April 6 to secure a spot in the field for the 150thrunning of the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run at Churchill Downs on May 4.

  • Leslie’s Rose upset champion Just F Y I in the opening-day Central Bank Ashland to establish herself as a leading contender for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill on May 3.
  • Master of The Seas (IRE), multimillionaire winner of the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Presented by PDJF last November at Santa Anita, made a successful return to the races by winning the Maker’s Mark Mile on April 12.
  • Joel Rosario, among Keeneland’s most successful jockeys, was named a member of the class of 2024 to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.
  • Axel Concepcion, winner of the 2023 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice jockey, recorded his first Keeneland stakes win and first graded stakes win of his career aboard Chop Chop in the closing-day Bewitch (G3) Presented by Keeneland Sales.
  • Godolphin’s homebred Encino led all the way to win the Stonestreet Lexington (G3) on April 13. The victory was Godolphin’s 16th graded stakes win at Keeneland and earned for them the Milestone Pitcher as part of the track’s signature Milestone Trophy Program.

“This was a fun race meet. Having the nation’s best horses, trainers and jockeys on the grounds made every day highly competitive and produced many exciting race finishes,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “The loyalty of our fans and horsemen and the support of our corporate and horse industry partners play a key role in Keeneland’s continued success.”


Spring Meet Leaders

Given the quality of horses and riding talent, the races for leading jockey, trainer and owner were decided on the final day of the meet.

Irad Ortiz Jr. rode three winners on closing day to boost his meet record to 20 wins and clinch his first Keeneland title. Irad further enhanced his total with a four-win day on April 21 and a three-win day on April 5. His stakes wins of the meet came aboard Leslie’s Rose in the Central Bank Ashland, Arzak in the Shakertown (G2) and Roses for Debra in the Giant’s Causeway.

Tyler Gaffalione and Jose Ortiz tied for second with 15 wins each. Gaffalione won three races on opening Saturday, including the Toyota Blue Grass on Sierra Leone and the Resolute Racing Madison on Alva Starr. Jose’s wins were boosted by two three-win race days, with victories in the Commonwealth (G3) on Bo Cruz, the Palisades (L) on Fandom (GB) and the FanDuel Limestone on Hot Beach.

Keeneland featured one of the deepest jockey colonies in the country this Spring. In addition to Gaffalione and the Ortiz brothers, regular riders included Luis Saez, John Velazquez, Junior Alvarado, Joel Rosario, Flavien Prat, Brian Hernandez Jr., Luan Machado, Florent Geroux, Martin Garcia, Axel Concepcion and Frankie Dettori.

Wesley Ward won the first two races on closing day to tally 12 wins for his seventh consecutive and eighth overall Spring Meet leading trainer title. Ward has won a total of 10 Keeneland titles. His Spring Meet was highlighted by a victory in the Palisades with Fandom.

Trainers Chad Brown and Brad Cox tied for second place with eight wins each. Brown recorded wins in the Toyota Blue Grass with Sierra Leone, the Jenny Wiley with Beaute Cache (FR) and the Baird Doubledogdare (G3) with Raging Sea. Cox captured the MiddleGround Capital Beaumont with Denim and Pearls, the Stonestreet Lexington with Encino and the closing-day Bewitch with Chop Chop.

Other trainers to win multiple stakes during the meet were Todd Pletcher (the Central Bank Ashland with Leslie’s Rose and the Ben Ali-G3 with Kingsbarns) and Charlie Appleby (the Maker’s Mark Mile with Master of The Seas and the VisitLEX Elkhorn with Silver Knott ([GB]).

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Godolphin and Fahad bin Khalid’s Juddmonte tied with five wins apiece to each earn their third Spring Meet owner title. Godolphin recorded a fifth Keeneland title overall while earning the aforementioned Milestone Pitcher for having achieved 16 graded stakes wins at Keeneland. Three of Godolphin’s wins came in stakes: the Maker’s Mark Mile with Master of The Seas, the VisitLEX Elkhorn with Silver Knott and the Stonestreet Lexington with Encino.


Keeneland Honors its Philanthropic Mission

Keeneland partnered with corporate and Thoroughbred industry entities this Spring to host special events with philanthropic goals that benefit Central Kentucky community organizations.

  • Keeneland and Maker’s Mark® Kentucky Bourbon announced a new chapter in their longstanding partnership with the launch of “Greats of the Gate,” a 10-year commemorative bottle series celebrating Thoroughbred racing’s most iconic horses – featuring a different horse each year. The first bottles, which feature Man o’ War, will arrive at select Kentucky retailers in October. Proceeds from this year’s bottle sales will benefit Art Center of the Bluegrass, Blue Grass Farms Charities and Kentucky Harvest.

  • Members of the Keeneland jockey colony teamed with retired riders for an autograph session on April 6 that raised $6,072 for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). On April 21, Keeneland partnered with other Thoroughbred industry organizations and FanDuel TV to raise a record $430,000 during the sixth annual PDJF Telethon.

  • Toyota, sponsor of the Toyota Blue Grass, and Keeneland made a $10,000 donation to the Lexington Fisher House, which serves veterans’ families by providing a safe, supportive and loving home at no cost while their loved one is receiving treatment at the Lexington VA Health Care System.
  • A record 5,000 full-time students representing 85 colleges and universities attended the popular College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End, held April 19. Students on-site were eligible to win prizes, one of ten $2,000 scholarships provided by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association or one of two $10,000 scholarships offered by Lane’s End Farm.

  • Keeneland contributed $25,000 to Stable Recovery, a program that combines horsemanship training with a residential recovery program to help men overcome addiction and prosper.

  • Keeneland hosted a record 4,000 members of the military (active duty and veterans), first responders, healthcare workers and their families for Heroes Day on Sunday, April 14. Heroes and their families received free General Admission, reserved Grandstand seating, complimentary lunch from Marriott Griffin Gate and access to special activities throughout the afternoon, highlighted by a flag rollout on the main track. Keeneland presented a check for $3,500 to Surgery on Sunday as part of the day’s festivities.
  • Keeneland and Country Boy Brewing of Lexington again teamed to produce Keeneland  Lager. Country Boy Brewing, Kentucky Eagle and other distributor partners donated $1 per case to Blue Grass Farms Charities to support its Back-to-School Backpack Program, which provides school supplies for nearly 1,000 children whose parents work in Keeneland’s stable area and on Central Kentucky farms.


Spring Meet at a Glance (April 5-26)

  Spring 2024 Spring 2023 %  Change
All-Sources Handle on Keeneland $218,741,501 $224,348,745 -2.5%
Avg. Daily All-Sources Handle on Keeneland $13,671,344 $14,956,583 -8.59%
Total On-Track Handle $15,831,087 $15,844,092 -0.08%
Avg. Daily On-Track Handle $989,443 $1,056,273 -6.33%