By Dick Downey
The "big day" at Kentucky Downs lived up to its promise as a large crowd watched four stakes races on a 10-race card under sunny skies.
All-sources handle was $8,489,323, a new single-day record. The figure compares to $5,769,505 on this day in 2016, which was the previous single-day record, and it represents a 47% increase year over year.
To put the number in more perspective, it is just over 37 percent more than last year's total meet handle, which was a record at the time.
Ted Nicholson, who's senior vice-president and general manager of Kentucky Downs couldn't contain his excitement.
"After the overnight came out I was hoping for a big day," he said, "but I never could have imagined us handling nearly $8.5 million today. Wow!"
On-track handle was $347,002, up 62% from this day last year, and you could see it in the size of the crowd here today. The meet draws fans from all over the United States.
Sharing in the wealth were Florent Geroux with three riding wins on the day, and Mike Maker with two training wins.
Geroux, who won the Kentucky Downs riding title in 2015 and 2016, had only one win going into the day. With four victories now, he's a contender to repeat again. Julien Leparoux, who won once today, now has five in the win column.
Maker is also seeking a third straight meet title and leads all trainers with five wins.after Hogy won the Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint with Hogy and the Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup with Oscar Nominated. It was the third straight year Maker has won Kentucky Downs' flagship race after taking it with Da Big Hoss in 2015 and 2016.
It was the second straight day Maker won the final two races on the card.
We like to keep track of where the top horses came from. Today, the last track at which winners competed were Saratoga (four), Ellis Park (2), Del Mar, Monmouth Park and Arlington Park. One winner, Brielle's Appeal, was made her debut today.
The unique turf course was finally pretty well dried out from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey that fell a little over a week ago, and the rail that had been moved out in the far turn and in the stretch was back to zero.
As a result of those circumstances, times were significantly faster today, with the best clocking going to Hogy in the Turf Sprint, 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.88. That's only 17/100 of a second off the track record set by Richies Party Girl in 2014.
The Jockey7 Wager ended with the field on top. Here are the payoffs.
14 Field 7.20, 3.00, 2.20
3 Florent Geroux 14.00, 8.40
6 Brian Hernandez, Jr. 4.00
$1 Exacta 51.60
$1 trifecta 273.10
Marty McGee of Daily Racing Form, who is often here covering live racing, said as he left, "Do we get to do this again tomorrow?" He was joking, but he wasn't. This is a fun meet. Racing resumes on Sunday, and the five-day meet is set to conclude on Thursday.