Championship-Caliber Racing, Strong Fan Support Drive Record Wagering as Keeneland Closes Successful Fall Race Meet

October 31, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland concluded its 2021 Fall Meet, which celebrated the 85th anniversary of racing at the iconic track, on Saturday with quality racing, wagering options for handicappers of all levels, idyllic fall weather and family-friendly special events that combined to generate a track record all-sources wagering total of $181 million for the season. 

Keeneland offered a race meet record $6 million in stakes purses and an expanded stakes schedule of 22 races this fall to further elevate its racing program throughout the meet. Fans responded enthusiastically.

All-sources wagering (not including whole-card simulcasting at Keeneland) for the 17-day Fall Meet, held Oct. 8-30, totaled $181,009,626, smashing the record of $164,680,229 set during the 2021 Spring Meet and the previous Fall Meet record of $160,207,916 set in 2019. The total represents a 22 percent increase over last fall’s $148,229,708. 

“We are so appreciative of the tremendous support from our fans, our horsemen, the Central Kentucky community, our horseplayers and our corporate partners,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Welcoming fans back to Keeneland this fall, along with the return of our special events and tailgating on The Hill, felt like a breath of fresh air after the restrictions of the past year and a half. It was a terrific way to mark our 85th year of racing and to celebrate the important role Keeneland plays in our community and the horse industry.”

Wagering was boosted when on Fall Stars Saturday, Oct. 9, Keeneland established records for Fall Meet single-day all-sources and Pick 5 wagering, besting previous records set on Fall Stars Saturday in 2019 and 2020, respectively. All-sources handle totaled $20,926,640, surpassing the $18,392,756 set in 2019. Wagering on the All-Stakes Pick 5 totaled $1,255,080 to shatter the former Fall Meet record of $868,303 from 2020. 

Keeneland introduced a new wager, the Keeneland Turf Pick 3, with a $3 minimum and 15 percent takeout, tying together the final three turf races of each day. The wager was well received by the public, netting a total handle of $1,683,502, or an average of $112,233 per day. The average payout was over $1,300 for a $3 wager.

On-track wagering for the Fall Meet totaled $15,162,221, for an average of $2,477,890.

Memorable Racing Moments and Milestones

Purses at Keeneland this fall remained among the richest in North America, averaging $880,511 per day, up 29 percent over the 2020 Fall Meet. Average starters per race was 8.7.  

To enhance the final days of the season, Keeneland scheduled two new $150,000 juvenile stakes, the Myrtlewood and Bowman Mill; revived the Perryville and Bryan Station, both fixtures for 3-year-olds, and scheduled the Rubicon Valley View (G3) and Hagyard Fayette (G2) to create multiple stakes cards.

Keeneland featured a deep turf schedule with 12 of its 22 stakes held on the grass, headlined by three Grade 1 events:  $750,000 Keeneland Turf Mile, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Dixiana and $400,000 First Lady Presented by UK HealthCare.

Rattle N Roll winning The Clairborne Breeders’ Futurity – 108th Running G1 at Keeneland Race Course Oct. 9, 2021. (Keeneland Photo)

The Fall Meet showcased a number of Breeders’ Cup-bound horses in 10 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races. Among those winners pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup are Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Rattle N Roll (TVG Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance); Darley Alcibiades (G1) winner Juju’s Map (NetJets Juvenile Fillies); First Lady Presented by UK HealthCare winner Blowout (GB) (FanDuel Mile Presented by PDJF); Indian Summer (L) Presented by Keeneland Select winner Averly Jane (Juvenile Turf Sprint); JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G2) winner California Angel (Juvenile Fillies Turf); Juddmonte Spinster (G1) winner Letruska (Distaff); Keeneland Turf Mile (G1) winner In Love (BRZ) (Mile) and Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) winner Special Reserve (Qatar Racing Sprint).

Another Fall Meet stakes winner pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup is Woodford (G2) Presented by TVG winner Golden Pal (Turf Sprint).

“Fans enjoyed a spectacular fall season of racing, and we say a sincere ‘thank you’ to our owners, trainers and jockeys for their loyalty and support,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “We are proud of the lucrative purse money and expanded racing opportunities offered during the Fall Meet, and look forward to continuing to strengthen the quality of our program.”   

This fall, Keeneland also welcomed two new race sponsors. Castle & Key Distillery, one of Central Kentucky’s most popular distillery destinations, sponsored the Bourbon (G2), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event won by Tiz the Bomb, who is pre-entered in the Juvenile Turf (G1). Rubicon, a Lexington-based software company known as “America’s technology company” that provides smart waste and recycling solutions to businesses and governments worldwide, became the new sponsor of the Valley View (G3), won by Navratilova.

Among the racing highlights, two owners – Godolphin and G. Watts Humphrey Jr. – achieved their eighth graded stakes win at Keeneland to each earn a Keeneland Tray as part of the track’s Milestone Trophy Program. Both were accomplished with homebreds – Godolphin with Caramel Swirl in the Lexus Raven Run (G2) and Humphrey with Navratilova in the Rubicon Valley View.

Fall Meet Leaders 

Averly Jane with Tyler Gaffalione up wins the Indian Summer for trainer Wesley Ward and owner Hat Creek Racing (Gatewood Bell) on Oct. 10, 2021. (Keeneland Photo)

The nation’s top owners, trainers and jockeys competed at Keeneland this fall, and their participation heightened the excitement surrounding the title races.

Eclipse Award-winning rider Tyler Gaffalione dominated a deep jockey colony with 29 wins to earn his second consecutive, and third overall, Fall Meet title. He was also leading rider during Keeneland’s 2020 Summer Meet. Gaffalione’s record was enhanced by five days on which he rode three or more winners, and he notched a win aboard Averly Jane in the Indian Summer Presented by Keeneland Select. 

Florent Geroux finished second in the standings with 16 wins, highlighted by the Darley Alcibiades with Juju’s Map and the Perryville with He’smyhoneybadger. 

Among the jockeys to notch stakes wins during the Fall Meet were brothers Brian Hernandez Jr. and  Colby Hernandez, Corey Lanerie, Flavien Prat, Joel Rosario, John Velazquez, Irad Ortiz Jr., Julien Leparoux, Rafael Bejarano and Javier Castellano.

The battle for leading trainer honors between Brad Cox and Wesley Ward was decided in the final race on closing day. Cox prevailed with 14 victories to secure his second consecutive Fall Meet Keeneland title. Cox also earned the title in the 2018 Spring Meet. Cox’s stakes wins were the Darley Alcibiades with Juju’s Map and the Perryville with He’smyhoneybadger.

Ward, a seven-time leading trainer at Keeneland, won 13 races, including the Woodford Presented by TVG with Golden Pal and Indian Summer Presented by Keeneland Select with Averly Jane, to rank second in the standings.

Chad Brown and Kenny McPeek were among the other trainers to win two graded stakes this fall. Brown took the First Lady Presented by UK HealthCare with Blowout and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Dixiana with Shantisara (IRE). McPeek scored with Rattle N Roll in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and with Tiz the Bomb in the Castle & Key Bourbon.

Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm and Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Godolphin tied for leading owner with four wins each. It is the first Keeneland owner title for Calumet under Kelley’s ownership and the second for Godolphin, who also won in the 2017 Spring Meet.

Fall Meet Special Events Offer Fun and Philanthropy

Keeneland welcomed the on-site return of its popular special events calendar, which exemplified philanthropic goals in keeping with the track’s mission to support the Central Kentucky community and horse industry.

Keeneland partnered with valued race sponsors to support community initiatives. Juddmonte and Keeneland donated $10,000 to the Kentucky Equine Management Internship Program. Lexus and Keeneland contributed $5,000 to The MAP Foundation to benefit the Woodhill Community Center.

Current members of the Keeneland jockey colony joined retired riders for an autograph session on Oct. 9 that raised $6,372 for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. 

Make-A-Wish Day (Keeneland Photo)

On Make-A-Wish Day, Oct. 14, Keeneland teamed with local Thoroughbred farms and organizations to grant wishes for 10 deserving children, who, along with their families, enjoyed a VIP day at the races. More than $8,000 was raised from fans who placed donations into the “Wishing Well” near the Keeneland Paddock. 

The following day, Keeneland hosted College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End.Full-time college students were eligible to win one of 10 $2,000 scholarships provided by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and one of two $10,000 scholarships provided by Lane’s End.

Heroes Day Presented by Rubicon on Oct. 24 honored members of the military and first responders (law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs and health care workers) and their families with free general admission and access to reserved Grandstand seats. The afternoon featured lunch provided by City BBQ, children’s activities, a spectacular flag unfurling on the main track and special recognitions and remembrances throughout the day. Keeneland and Rubicon donated $5,000 to the Fraternal Order of Firefighters.

2021 Fall Meet at a Glance (Oct. 8-30)

For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE.

Keeneland Press Release

All photos courtesy of Keeneland

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