While the rain and coldest Oaks Day temperatures since 1940 combined to keep some at home, 105,100 fans attended the 143rd running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Friday at Churchill Downs. The record attendance of 124,589 was set last year.
Despite the expected drop in attendance, wagering from all-sources on the full Kentucky Oaks Day card nearly reached the 2016 record of $49 million. Friday’s Oaks Day extravaganza saw all-sources total $48.9 million, the second highest all-sources wagering on Oaks Day.
All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks itself also showed a small dip when compared to 2016, declining from $15 million last year to $14.9 million on Friday.
With the lower attendance, on-track wagering decreased for both the entire card and the Kentucky Oaks race. On-track wagering for the race card dropped 22 percent from last year to $9.3 million, while the race itself saw a decline of 21 percent, from $3 million in 2016 to $2.3 million on Friday.
“Congratulations to the connections of Abel Tasman and special thanks to all of our amazing guests who braved record cold and rainy conditions,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack.
“Today’s near-record handle numbers, despite the dismal weather conditions, shows that the Kentucky Oaks continues to grow and has established itself as one of the world’s most popular events. Our guests were able to benefit from the most recent improvements we made inside the facility which focused on improving the guest experience, especially in light of the less than desirable weather conditions.
“Special thanks to the team that worked all day to ensure the track was fair and safe for everyone.”
Kentucky Oaks Day has taken on special significance since Churchill Downs introduced the Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade, which saw 143 cancer survivors march down the homestretch prior to the running of the feature event.
The track’s ninth annual “Pink Out” supported two cancer-related charities – the Breast Health Program at Norton Cancer Institute in partnership with the Derby Divas and Horses & Hope. The Churchill Downs Incorporated Foundation donated $50,000 and helped raise an additional $27,580 through on-line donations to benefit the Breast Health Program at Norton Cancer Institute.
The track also donated $1 from each Friday sale of the Grey Goose Oaks Lily, the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, to Horses & Hope.