Keeneland wraps up fall meet with lower handle, smaller fields

Keeneland wraps up fall meet with lower handle, smaller fields
Photo: Coady Photography

Keeneland wrapped up its Fall Meet on Saturday by reporting lower totals for on-track and all-sources handles and smaller field sizes.

The Lexington, Ky., track said in a news release that although the Fall Meet was closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all-source wagering totaled $148.2 million for the 17 days of racing from Oct. 2 to 24. That was down from a Keeneland record of $160.2 million for last year's 17-day Fall Meet.

The average daily handle was $8.7 million, compared with $9.4 million a year earlier.

Keeneland established a record Fall Meet Pick 5 handle of $868,303 on Fall Stars Saturday, Oct. 3, besting the previous record of $794,689 set on opening Saturday in 2019. 

With only a limited number of participants and essential personnel in attendance, total on-track handle for the meet fell to $2,477,890 from a year earlier, for average daily on-track handle of $145,758. On-track handle for the 2019 Fall Meet was $17,320,852, for average daily on-track handle of $1,018,873.

“Historically, 
Keeneland ranks among the top tracks in North America in terms of average daily attendance and enjoys some of the highest on-track handle figures,” 

Keeneland Vice President of Racing Bob Elliston said in the release. “The difference in all-sources wagering this fall versus last comes down to the loss in on-track wagering.”

Keeneland next will host the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 6 and 7.

Fall Meet racing highlights

Purses for the meet averaged $682,324 per day. Average starters per race was 8.1, down from 9.5 during the 2019 Fall Meet. Field size was impacted this fall by pandemic-related travel restrictions and limitations on horses shipping in from other major racing jurisdictions, according to the news release.

Ten horses secured berths in the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland with victories in win-and-you're-in stakes this fall. Among the Grade 1 victors were Alcibiades winner Simply Ravishing (Juvenile Fillies-G1); Turf Mile winner I
var (Mile-G1); First Lady winner Uni (Filly and Mare Turf-G1); Breeders’ Futurity winner Essential Quality (Juvenile-G1) and Spinster winner Valiance (Distaff-G1).

Meet leaders

The Fall Meet featured a battle for the title of leading trainer and leading owner, while Tyler Gaffalione was the clear winner for leading jockey honors. 

The race for leading trainer among Brad Cox, Mike Maker and Steve Asmussen was decided on the final day.

Cox won two races on closing day to increase his total to 15 and earn his second title, joining Spring 2018. His wins during the season included the Breeders’ Futurity with Essential Quality and Jessamine with Aunt Pearl, two horses expected to return in the Breeders’ Cup. Cox also had a three-win day on Oct. 18.

Maker ranked second in the trainer standings with 12 wins, while Asmussen recorded 11 victories to finish third.

Among jockeys, Tyler Gaffalione won 24 races to secure his third leading rider title following fall 2018 and summer 2020. Gaffalione’s victories included the Franklin County (G3) on Got Stormy, another Breeders’ Cup hopeful.

Finishing second and third, respectively, in the standings were Florent Geroux (16 wins) and Ricardo Santana Jr. (13 wins). The two riders each recorded three-win days: Geroux on Oct. 18 and Santana on Oct. 16 and Oct. 22.

Luis Saez won five of the 10 Fall Stars Weekend stakes: the opening-day Alcibiades with Simply Ravishing; Saturday’s Breeders’ Futurity on Essential Quality and Woodford (G2) with Leinster; and Sunday’s Juddmonte Spinster with Valiance and Bourbon (G3) with Mutasaabeq.

Earning its first title as leading owner was Mike Sisk’s M and M Racing, which won five races with eight starters. Robertino Diodoro trained the M and M horses, and David Cohen was aboard every winner. Together, the trio won three races on Oct. 9.

Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton’s Silverton Hill won four races during the meet. Five owners notched three wins apiece: Asmussen, Mohammed Al Maktoum et al’s Godolphin, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Kirk Wycoff’s Three Diamonds Farm and Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm.

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