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May 2, Shannon Arvin, President & CEO, Keeneland Association

Posted on Apr 29, 2024

LEXINGTON, KY – The Rotary Club of Lexington held its weekly meeting on Thursday, May 2, at The Mane on Main, Chase Bank building on Main St. The guest speaker was Shannon Arvin, President & CEO, Keeneland Association.

This meeting will also be on Zoom. For the Zoom link please email, [email protected], Executive Director, Surgery on Sunday

If you would like to have lunch, please contact [email protected] to reserve your meal.

The week between the close of Keeneland’s spring meet and the rapidly approaching first Saturday in May is magical in Kentucky as thoughts turn to the Kentucky Derby, America’s greatest horse race, run continuously since 1875.

This week Rotary Club of Lexington continues its own long-standing Derby tradition by welcoming to the podium Keeneland Association President and Chief Executive Officer, Shannon Bishop Arvin.  She is joined today by Jim Goodman, Keeneland’s Director of Wagering Development and, perhaps more importantly for our purposes, a noted handicapper.

Arvin is the eighth president of Keeneland Association and the first woman named to the position. She began practicing law in 2002 at the Lexington firm Stoll Keenon Ogden (SKO), where she represented Thoroughbred owners and industry organizations in Kentucky and around the world. As an SKO partner, in 2008 she began serving as corporate counsel to Keeneland, and she has been secretary and advisory member of Keeneland’s board of directors since 2015.

Arvin serves on the board of directors of the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Foundation and Stock Yards Bancorp, and is the Chairman of the National Thorough-bred Racing Association. She is a trustee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and The Lexington School. She became a member of The Jockey Club in 2019 and a trustee of The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation in 2021.

   Keeneland is unique in the racing industry.  It began operations in 1936 and somehow manages to remain true to its motto of “racing as it was meant to be” while at the same time relentlessly pursuing change and improvement for the betterment of the industry, the horses, and the fans.  Only at Keeneland are world-class racing and industry-leading sales united under one mission-driven entity.  Profits from those endeavors are returned to the industry and the community through initiatives in the areas of racing purses, global market development, safety initiatives and thorough-bred aftercare, fan development and the local community.  Keeneland has donated millions to local charities and to health and educational programs.

Rotary in Review


Spring has arrived, and with it comes the annual spring sale and meet at Keenland and, of course, the Kentucky Derby.

Last week’s guest speaker, Shannon Arvin, the President & CEO of Keeneland, provided an enthusiastic presentation on a few of our favorite equine events in the Bluegrass and, as always, generated some additional excitement in anticipation of this weekend’s 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. This was Arvin’s fifth time speaking to our Club.

Keeneland’s 2024 Spring Meet concluded with all-sources wagering exceeding $218 million, the third-highest handle in track history. Average daily purse money of $1.16 million attracted thoroughbred racing’s top stables and jockeys, delivering sixteen days of quality racing complemented by community and special events that offered family fun with a philanthropic mission.  All-sources wagering (not including whole card simulcasting at Keeneland) for the Spring Meet, held April 5-26, totaled $218,741,501, a decrease of 2.5% from last spring’s record $224,348,745 for 15 days of racing. On-track wagering totaled $15,831,087 compared with $15,844,092 in Spring 2023.

Wagering was boosted by a number of individual handle records. On Toyota Blue Grass Day, April 6, all-sources handle for the 11-race card that featured five graded stakes totaled $29,261,346, eclipsing the previous single-day wagering record of $28,137,728 set in 2022. Single-race win/place/show wagering of $2,576,663 on the Toyota Blue Grass shattered the 2019 record of $2,068,406. The All Stakes Pick 5 ending with the Toyota Blue Grass handled $1,696,981, breaking the 2022 record of $1,539,098.

The Keeneland Turf Pick 3, a wager on the final three turf races daily, set a handle record of $280,308 on April 13 to best last Fall’s mark of $248,094. The wager paid a record $56,593 on April 18.

The Daily Double wager established handle records twice during the Spring Meet: $329,433 on opening April 5 and $470,988 on April 13 to surpass the previous record of $286,255 set April 23, 2022. This Spring, Keeneland reduced the takeout on the Daily Double from 22% to 15%.

Arvin offered “a big thanks to our horsemen and sponsors, the crowds who turned out daily on track and those who watched and wagered on Keeneland across the country,” and noted “we especially appreciate the cooperation of fans as we navigated the adjustments necessary to hold a race meet during construction of our new Paddock Building. We are proud this Spring Meet continued to offer the exceptional race-day experiences and traditions people know and love about Keeneland.”

Finally, Arvin answered the question most of us had been waiting for: “Who are your (Derby) Picks.” She planned to bet on Sierra Leone to win the Derby and Leslie’s Rose to bring home the victory in the Oaks.

[Editor’s Note:  better luck next year, Shannon!].

The equine industry and all of the traditions associated with Keeneland, The Oaks, The Derby, and Breeders Cup are very much part of our culture here in Kentucky. It’s been a great year to date with many exciting events still to come. Hopefully, all of you joined horse racing fans around the world last weekend as the Kentucky Derby’s official bugler, Steve Buttleman, played the call to the post and were enthralled by the photo finish that concluded the greatest two minutes in sports.

  • Dan Koett


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