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Horse racing bets hit 16 year low; Keeneland a different story

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

Horse racing, it's as much a part of the Kentucky culture as anything else, which is why Keeneland may have been spared from some losses in 2011. Nationwide, it was a different story, heavy hits were taken in the thoroughbred bets.

"Nationwide, handle on racing is down slightly and purses are up a little bit," Julie Balog, a spokesperson for Keeneland, said.

According to Equibase, only $10.77 billion was placed on the ponies. While that may sound like a large number, it's the lowest total since 1995 ($10.4 billion). Also, the betting total dropped 5.5 percent compared to 2010.

"That was reflected probably in people's discretionary income. They weren't wagering as much, because maybe they didn't have as much," estimated Balog.

Though the nationwide numbers may be low, Keeneland bucked the trend. One race fan says it's likely because of the atmosphere the Lexington track provides.

"Keeneland has been around for a long time, they have [it] together and they know how to draw a crowd," said Joey Carr, a horse racing fan.

"We try to make people into lifelong fans," added Balog of Keeneland's goal when it comes to treating the fans.

Which is what Keeneland prides itself on providing for race fans.

This fall, Keeneland also posted record setting numbers for attendance.

"It was our 75th anniversary, we had a lot of interest," answered Balog of Keeneland's rise above the stats. "Keeneland continues to put on racing at the highest level, and I think people really respond to that."

The track also says they hope to keep the interest high by focusing on new ways to engage fans and make the sport easy to get active in.

"We introduced in 2011, for instance, was a mobile wagering application," said Balog, "we try to make it less intimidating, and a little easier to come out to the races."

While the numbers may be down, the focus at Keeneland isn't. Instead, they want to stay ahead of the pack as they look ahead to 2012.

Keeneland officials say they also saw higher marks in horse sales, as well.

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