LEXINGTON, Ky. - A kids club and a betting system called fractional wagering are two of the new offerings at Keeneland Race Course this year. Thousands of fans poured through green gates at the Lexington track today for the opening of spring meet.
Spokeswoman Julie Balog says a big race this weekend is $500,000 Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
“A lot of horses that have prepped in the Ashland have gone on to win the Oaks. What is really exciting about this year’s field is the favorite is a horse named Stephanie’s Kitten. And Stephanie’s Kitten won the Darley Alcibiades last fall. So it’s nice to see a horse that comes here, wins in the fall, stays sounds, continues in training, and comes here prepping for the three-year-old trail.”
Another Keeneland race that features horses hoping to run at Churchill Downs in May is the Toyota Blue Grass, set for April 14. The Grade One race will include a colt named Hansen who was last year’s champion two-year-old colt.
Keeneland generally has little trouble filling its race cards with quality horses, despite the fact that the track does not have slot machines or instant racing games. A chance for state lawmakers to put a constitutional amendment allowing expanded gambling up for a public vote has come and gone during the current legislative session.
Balog says Keeneland is successful because the meets only run 15-17 days and profits from horse sales are funneled back into the race purses.
“When it comes right down to it, the horsemen go where the money is, and Keeneland is able to offer, on average, $600,000 a day in purses. That helps. You can do that when you have a shorter meet and you are fueled by the sales company.”
The atmosphere at Keeneland is not indicative of the health of other Kentucky horse tracks, however. Wagering at Turfway Park’s winter/spring meet was 16 percent lower than last year.