Wagering at Kentucky Downs set new record in 2017, increasing 34 percent to over $30 million

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Kentucky Downs concluded a record-shattering five-date session up 34 percent in wagering on the all-grass meet that has stamped itself among the most unique experiences in American races.

Even with having to move its opening card from Saturday of Labor Day weekend to the following Wednesday following a 6-inch deluge of rain, Kentucky Downs shattered last year’s betting record.

Wagering from all sources on Kentucky Downs’ 2017 meet that ended Thursday totaled $30,246,887.68. That’s an average of $6,049,377.52 a day and reflects an increase of 34.19 percent over the $22,540,761.22 bet in 2016. Off-track betting on the meet was $29,217,935.98, up 35.2 percent from the $21,611,352.02 wagered last year.

Snapper Sinclair (chestnut in middle with white blaze under Ricardo Santana Jr.) earned a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after winning the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile. (Reed Palmer Photography)

Kentucky Downs registered its top two single-day betting totals at $8,487,323.27 (this past Saturday) and $6,044,717.15 (this past Sunday). That not only smothered the old single-day mark of $5,769,505.23 last year on the track’s marquee card, but consider that five years ago, the entire five-date meet totaled $7.57 million. Thursday’s closing-day handle was $5,679,416.31, up 55 percent over last year’s finale.

“What’s amazing about our meet is that the biggest day we had last year — and it was an all-time record — was Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Day,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager. “And we handled $5.7 million. This year, for five days, we averaged $6 million. Even with the rain-out day, to go over $30 million is unbelievable. It just shows that horseplayers and casual fans alike love the Kentucky Downs product. And our enthusiastic crowds show they love the entire experience of being at the track in a fun, festive family atmosphere that combines full fields of horses, low takeout rates on wagers, top-class horses and no hassle.”

Kentucky Downs doesn’t charge admission so there is no attendance count. However, the eyeball test and large crowds lining the rail and grassy racetrack apron suggested more people than ever came to watch Kentucky Downs racing in person, many from out of state

“I came last year by myself, and I was just blown away by the beauty, the whole atmosphere,” said Bruce Micklus of Missoula, Montana. “I made a promise to myself that I would never miss this race meet ever again.”

Overall on-track wagering was up, even with two days taking hits from he change from a weekend opener to a Wednesday and with several days of rainy weather leading into the finale. On-track wagering totaled $1,028,951.70 for the meet, compared with $929,409.20 last year, for a jump of 11 percent.

A total of 522 horses ran at the meet for an average field size of 10.44, down from last year’s 10.96, a figure that still quite possibly will lead the nation for 2017.

Kentucky Downs launched the most innovative new wager in years with the Jockey 7 — allowing horseplayers to bet on individual jockeys and their mounts as a collective group over each card’s last seven races. Wagering totaled $47,460.50, with part of the track’s commission going to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

“We are honored to work with the Permanently Disabled Jockeys and introduce the Jockey7,” said Kentucky Downs president and part-owner Corey Johnsen. “Our goal at Kentucky Downs is to be an innovator for the industry. I am optimistic this wager will continue to grow.

“Like most new endeavors in our industry, it takes time to iron out some of the operational issues. But it has to start somewhere, and we were glad to be that track.”

Among the meet highlights:

The Graham Motion-trained international traveller Miss Temple City, a triple Grade 1 winner who twice beat males in Keeneland’s signature turf races last year, made a claim to being the most-accomplished horse to race at Kentucky Downs. Miss Temple City, ridden by Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, captured the newly graded $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) to set her up for another Grade 1 appearance at Keeneland.

The Kenny McPeek-trained Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling, half of a two-horse stable for owner-breeder Nancy Polk, got back in the winner’s circle with a dominating performance in the $200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, setting a course record for 1 5/16 miles of 2:10.97, clipping the track record of 2:11.30 set by the 5-year-old Mystical Star in 2013.

Mike Maker became the first trainer to win the signature $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup three straight years: in 2015 and ’16 with Da Big Hoss and this year with Oscar Nominated. That was one of his four stakes victories, the others being Kitten’s Roar in Thursday’s $350,000 Ramsey Farm, Hogy ($400,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint), Sir Dudley Digges ($150,000 Old Friends), Maker also won his third straight training title with eight wins, bringing his career number of victories at the track to a record 42.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey won a record fifth-straight owner’s title. Their four wins included Kitten’s Roar in the stakes renamed for their farm, Oscar Nominated and Sir Dudley Digges. The Ramseys now have an all-time record-42 victories at the track.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Snapper Sinclair earned a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after going to 2 for 2 on grass with his snappy victory in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile over promising John Tippmann.

Wesley Ward didn’t mess around trying to win a $130,000 maiden race with Ultima D, instead taking the $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies over favored Best Performance. Ward and jockey Julio Garcia also won Thursday’s $250,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes with Master Merion.

Applicator came off a five-furlong sprint 13 days earlier — which came 12 days after he lost the 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger by more than 50 lengths while bolting — to capture the $400,000 Tourist Mile by a length over 2016 Old Friends winner Flatlined. It was the Tourist Mile’s first running since being renamed to honor WinStar Farm’s 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, who captured the 2015 running of the Kentucky Downs stakes when it was called the More Than Ready Mile.

Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lull joined Oscar Nominated (last year’s Dueling Grounds Derby winner) as repeat stakes-winners at the track. The winner of last year’s Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, Lull replicated that performance to win the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint.

The 8-year-old Hogy — making amends for last year’s narrow defeat in the race — won his second graded stakes and first since he was 4 in taking the $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, which became a Grade 3 this year. It was Hogy’s 17th win, including seven in stakes, coming in his first start since being claimed for $80,000 by Maker and owner Michael Hui.

From Kentucky Downs

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