Churchill Downs Spring Meet Concludes on a High

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Coady

All-sources wagering on Churchill Downs’ abbreviated 27-date Spring Meet totaled $240.5 million, which was a 53.3% increase from the 32 days of racing that followed last year’s Kentucky Derby. Additionally, the average daily handle was up 81.7% from $4.9 million one year ago to $8.9 million this season.

Shortened to seven weeks from May 16-June 28, the 2020 meet was staged under strict government-sanctioned protocols and without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season, Churchill Downs experienced four of the track’s six largest non-Derby, Oaks or Breeders’ Cup betting days in track history, led by a record $19.3 million May 23 (Stephen Foster Preview Day). Other big days: $16.8 million was wagered May 30 (Winning Colors/Old Forester Mint Julep); $14.3 million May 16 (Opening Day); and $13.8 million June 27 (Stephen Foster Day).

A total of 2,536 horses made starts in the 268 races for a substantial average of 9.5 horses per race–up from 8.4 horses in 2019. Purses paid to horsemen totaled $15.6 million and averaged $576,000 per day compared to last year’s $601,000 daily average. The average purse per race was $58,000 compared to last season’s $63,000.

This season, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen extended his Churchill Downs training title record to 23 with 17 wins, one better than Brad Cox (16), and he overtook south Louisville native Dale Romans as the track’s all-time leading trainer. Asmussen has won 747 career races at Churchill Downs, three more than Romans, who surpassed Bill Mott Nov. 12, 2017 after 31 years in the top spot. Mott, who has 728 career wins at Churchill Downs, became only the seventh trainer in history to record 5,000 career wins when Moon Over Miami won at the Louisville track June 20.

In the jockey’s standings, Tyler Gaffalione easily defeated 19-time local riding champion Corey Lanerie by capturing 31 wins through the meet, seven more than Lanerie who collected 24. In the owner’s race, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey earned their record 33rd title as the leading owners at Churchill Downs. On May 24, Ramsey’s registered their 500th win beneath the Twin Spires, and finished the season with a total of 504 career Churchill Downs wins. Gayle Benson’s G M B Racing, who campaigns GII Stephen Foster S. winner Tom’s d’Etat (Smart Strike), was the meet’s leading money-earning owner with $368,532.
Racing returns to Churchill Downs in nine weeks for the rescheduled Kentucky Derby Week (Sept. 1-5). The 146th running of the Longines GI Kentucky Oaks and GI Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will be held with spectators under strict guidelines Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, respectively.

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