11/04/2007 12:47PM

BC Handle, Sunday Stakes


Below, and in full-page mode if you click here, are the pool-by-pool handle totals for the last three Breeders' Cups -- Belmont in 2005, Churchill in 2006 and Monmouth last Saturday. While the big story this year was the 18 percent drop in total handle on the eight Saturday races, there are some other interesting nuggets about our betting behavior buried in the figures. Perhaps you'll find and share some others.

*If you share my theory that the overall decline was due mostly to bettors' trepidation about the rainy weather and sodden track conditions, you might think that players started out especially cautiously and picked up the tempo as the day proceeded. Instead, the day got off to a relatively strong start: The Juvenile Fillies showed the day's only year-over-year increase in exacta handle, and total handle on the race was down only 6 percent, while it was down 16 to 24 percent on each of the other seven races. It seems as if after watching the JF, even though favored Indian Blessing won, bettors were spooked by the track conditions and perhaps the performances of a few well-regarded rivals who floundered in it.

*The 31 percent decline in pick-six handle, from $4.7 to $3.2 million, was the day's most severe dropoff and consistent with the above thinking. Clearly, pick-six players either scaled down their intended plays or decided to take a pass on the basis of the early races and track conditions.

*The division of handle among straight, intrarace and multirace betting appears to have stablized after a long gradual shift away from the straight pools. In each of the last three years, the percentages have been 34 for straight, 51 for intrarace multiples and exotics and 14 percent for multirace multiples and exotics.

*The one obvious growth area on the betting menu is superfectas. Total eight-race super handle was virtually identical to last year's in the face of the 18 percent decline, and supers rose from 7.4 percent to 9.1 percent of total handle, a 22 percent gain. Trifecta betting, meanwhile, was down 27 percent year over year, suggesting a migration from tris to supers that can be largely attributed to 10-cent minimums on supers in most markets (Florida remains a sore-thumb exception.)

*The great unknown is what, if any, effect having three new BC races on Friday might have had on Saturday's handle. My entirely personal feeling is that this is an irrelevant factor. There has always been a stakes-rich Friday card preceding the main event, and I just can't see people saying, "Gee I'm going to bet less on Saturday so I can play those new Friday races." Also, Friday's weather was at least as bad as Saturday's, so if anything you would think people would have laid low on Friday hoping for improved conditions a day later.

--After Aqueduct cancelled Saturday, I turned my attention elsewhere and did a pretty good job of lousing up the day's exotics, going 3-for-4 in the Churchill and Oak Tree late pick-fours and 5-for-6 on the Greyhound Night of Stars pick-six. But I did get most of the way out thanks to a "superfecta saver" I tried out on the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill, a very cheap hedge you might want to consider.

After Istan walloped Sun King in the Ack Ack, I was alive only to my two contrary picks in the Chilukki, High Heels (#3) and Change Up (#4), both at 7-1. I thought both of them would run well, I had no idea why Windy was being pounded down to 8-5, and I didn't want to walk away empty-handed if both of my horses hit the board without winning. For a mere $18 per 10-cent super unit, I was able to buy some "insanity insurance" against such an outcome with the following play:

10-cent super: all/34/34/all = 60 combos = $6
10-cent super: all/34/all/34 = 60 combos = $6
10-cent super: all/all/34/34 = 60 combos = $6

Even though the race was won by ML favorite Rolling Sea ($10.00), 22-1 My Chickadee snuck in for third, splitting High Heels (2nd) and Change Up (4th). The $2 super paid $4,073, a return of $203.65 for every $18 invested.

It was a little sad watching both Lava Man and Sun King run so far below their glory days yesterday. Sun King was retired after his distant second in the Ack Ack and it's unclear what's next for Lava Man after a no-excuse sixth to Cal-breds in the Cal Cup Classic.

--As for Sunday's fare, there's a $599k carryover and a mandatory payout on closing day at Oak Tree, and the $34k carryover at Aqueduct is back in play after Saturday's scratch. Those are the sites of the day's only two graded stakes:

3:44 pm ESDT: Aqueduct race 8, $100k G3 Turnback the Alarm H., 3+F, 1 1/8m
Sugar Shake is the 9-5 ML favorite off five straight G1/G2 appearances and is the lone graded-stakes winner in a field of six. She's better than these on her best day, but she'll face a tricky pace scenario because both Folk and Peak Maria's Way usually want the early lead as well. The logical alternative is Altesse, who should get a dream trip from the rail just behind the speed. If you want to play the race for a meltdown, Victory Pool at 6-1 should be flying late.

6:36 pm ESDT: Santa Anita race 8, $150k G2 Las Palmas H., 3+F, 1m-T
Christophe Clement's pair of eastern invaders, Naissance Royale and Meribel, have both been facing slightly stronger fields than most of these but will need to get lucky working their way through a field of 12 while shortening up to a mile. The best of the locals, and probably the most likely winner of the race, is Black Mamba (7-2), second to Precious Kitten two back and a close third to Nashoba's Key and Citronnade in the Yellow Ribbon last time out. Trick's Pic is better than her local debut and is dangerous if she runs back to her Matchmaker, where she split Roshani and Humoristic to be second rallying into a slow pace.

Notice how those post times say EST? If you somehow missed the news that you were supposed to set your clocks back an hour last night, do it now. I remembered that part but still missed the opener at Aqueduct, where I forgot that first post has been moved from 1 p.m. to 12:30 starting today.