11/17/2010 3:28PM

Getting a Handle on Breeders' Cup Handle

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Common-pool wagering on Breeders' Cup Saturday was $110 million, a resounding $14.3 million increase over last year and due largely to a $12.1 million increase in wagers on, or ending with, the Breeders' Cup Classic. Combined with a $2.7 million increase on BC Friday wagering over last year, the two-day total was up $16.9 million, or 11.75 percent from last year: 

(A full pool-by-pool comparison appears at the bottom of this post. Note that $2.1 million of the year-over-year increase came from the Saturday pick-6, where an $817k carryover fueled $5.2 million in additional pick-6 bets, up from $3.3 million and $2.8 million the last two years. Also, note that the race order was slightly different, which may explain some of the minor dips and gains on individual races.)

Obviously, the huge jump in general public interest in this year's Classic played a large factor, but it's hard to tell how much of the increased activity at the windows came from existing fans as opposed to newly-recruited ones. How many of the millions of people who heard about Zenyatta for the first time on the "60 Minutes" broadcast about her really opened betting accounts or visited a track or OTB for the first time six days later?

The wagering gains on the Friday and early Saturday races is itself an encouraging sign that may well reflect the larger fields and change of venue for this year's event. The surge of betting on the Classic was all the more remarkable because it followed two years -- the first two years of full Friday AND Saturday BC cards -- where betting had sharply dropped off midway through the Saturday card.

The addition of Friday races makes long-term comparisons difficult, but just to keep this year's Saturday totals in perspective: The last time the BC was held at Churchill Downs, in 2006, attendance was slightly higher (75,132 vs. 72,739) and total commingled handle was $136 million vs. this year's $110 million. (Monmouth's 2007 Saturday handle of $112.3 million was also higher than this year's Saturday betting.)

There's no way of telling how many customers availed themselves of the new 50-cent minimums this year on trifectas, pick-3's and pick-4's. Total handle showed only a slight shift away from straight wagers (34.55 to 32.37 percent of total handle) while multiple and exotic wagers grew from 65.45 percent last year to 67.63 percent this year. Other than the carryover-driven Pick-Six gains, the largest percentage increase by bet-type was in trifectas, where betting jumped from $16.6 million to $20.2 million this year.

C More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, One thing I've noticed about Formulator's sibling summary... the "Totals for all other foals" section is a total for the foals already listed and does not seem to include the stats for foals outside the years examined in rest of the summary. [The sibling summary includes all foals, not just those from some subset of years, so the total should match the sum of the individual siblings listed. -SC]
Diana More than 1 year ago
***Regarding "Media tending to get Hancock all wrong" It wasn't what he said - it was the way he said it! Locally (Lexington) it was plastered on TV news and pissed everyone off. Such arrogance and entitlement....I wanted to smack him through the screen, as did everyone I know! Claiborne, a farm that notoriously turns down mares to their stallions. And then in the sale catalogues you see offspring by their stallions out of many lesser mares than yours. Good luck to them filling their stallion books - there is no shortage of stallions. They don't get it. I am speaking for the "middle masses", people that really care and work hard on matings to get good racehorses to sell and more often to breed and race themselves. The backbone of the industry.
Barry More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve : I was reading the Jockey club rules for acceptable names for a horse and it said a name cannot have any "Commercial significance". Wouldnt it help the horse race industry if they could allow people the right to name horses after their business as a form of advertising? I'm sure there are plenty of businesses out there that would love to have a Thoroughbred as a mascot. There could be match races between Coke and Pepsi or GM against Ford!
tracksloppy More than 1 year ago
Memo to all----DRF has put the CD called Exotic Tickets on sale at 50% off for the sum of $19.98. It solves the question of the A, B, C and X tickets. This no doubt is the best buy of the year and should not be overlooked. I have bought already, as there could be a run on this disc of horse info and we hope you don't get shut out. I have Santa all ready to get a leg up on my Volponi. Alas, he is 158 pounds over. He feels he can win for me by giving the other jocks gifts to open as they hit the 16th pole.!!
george More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve, Calvin Borel got a broken Jaw at Delta Downs on Saturday. Looks like God took care of what Javier Castellano couldn't. George in Tampa
Tony More than 1 year ago
Regarding the column defending Seth Hancock, it was well-written, but I just worry that between the ignorance of the Zenyatta fangirls coming way late to the party and the firebrands fanning the flames, it's hurting Blame's legitimate chances at winning HotY. ...It's great that Zenyatta boosted handle and may have given a little spark to a new fanbase in racing. But spark and hype never trumps facts, and Blame and his connections, including Mr. Hancock, not only deserve better treatment for winning fair and square, they actually deserve HotY for winning the big races wherever they occured, and not just staying in one place, beating the dregs of racing by noses, and riding a wave of sympathetic but synthetic hype. Let the Zenyatta fangirls strike me down for it, but I'm opting not to let a good story get in the way of the facts.
SamG More than 1 year ago
"rotating Breeder's Cup that also includes international locations" is such a horrible idea it will probably happen.As soon as they run the Dubai World Cup or Japan Cup at Churchill or have Arc day at Belmont I'll be all for it.
spectacularbid More than 1 year ago
steve, i bought the champions book as a christmas present for a friend who is also a lifelong racing fan. it is fabulous. i'm debating whether to send it to him or keep it. i think i will send it and put it on my wish list and hope someone gets it for me. a long time fan
Donna More than 1 year ago
I will never understand the lack of appreciation for Zenyatta here in the East, and that includes you Steve. Your article before the BC that she had to win it to get HOTY was surprisingly condescending towards Zenyatta. Quality Road, Blame and Looking at Lucky are all great horses and I respect that differences of opinion exist... In the meantime the industry is on the skids, races are not filling, purses being reduced, tracks going bankrupt.....on and on. A great filly enters the scene and proceeds to win 19 straight times bringing excitement and national attention to a dying sport...and what do she and her connections get for their efforts? Oh yes, Zenyatta is great but it is a shame she can't run on dirt (oh really?) ; or she is good but she has only run against other fillies ; or she really did not beat anyone good in last years Classic. One knock after another... the handling of Zenyatta by some of the east coast turf writers has further diminished horseracing. Oh well, at least Zenyatta is headed for greener pastures. She deserves it. I am happy to admit I am old enough to have witnessed Secretariat and Zenyatta and all the great ones in between.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Donna: The lack of appreciation for Zenyatta in the east is mainly because John Shireffs refused to ship Zenyatta to New York to race at Belmont and/or Saratoga, and I believe that turned out to the be the difference last year in Rachel winning HOY. If Zenyatta had previously beaten Blame either at Churchill in the Stephen Foster or at Saratoga in the Whitney and/or at Belmont in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, even losing the Classic she likely would still be HOY without any questions at all. In fact, if I had Zenyatta, I would have now shut the New York critics up once and for all by having Zenyatta make one more start, this Saturday at Aqueduct in the Cigar Mile in a race that might not be her best distance (and racing in some very chilly weather at the Big A), but one to appease New York sportswriters by having Z make the final start of her career in New York.
conni richmond More than 1 year ago
I clearly recall the year after Zenyatta won BC and Goldikova the Mile and then we all know what Rachel did. That month leading up to the Eclipse and HOTY divisions, I posted to Facebook that we should all be honored by the fact those three great mares were still in training and how we will never see the likes of those mares again in our lifetime. I was lucky enough to see Secretariats last race in Canada, but never have I seen three such terrific mares and all anyone wanted to do was knock one or the other. Regarding Blame Vs Zenyatta, I think other than the Euro's, no one even mentioned Goldikova as a candidate should Zen lose HOTY, everyone was ready to hand the hardware to Blame, yet his record didnt compare to Goldikova! I think anymore, the HOTY award should just be chucked at the BC Classic winner and rename the darn race. Or, better yet, lets not compare apples to oranges. Zenyatta was beaten by Rachel, who did what no other 3 year old filly ever has, and she beat Blame for HOTY since only HE beat her on track, Blame did lose to far lesser animals. I pray Goldikova gets her record four. She's earned it. And, no, I am NOT a Blame it on Blame person.
dale tillotson More than 1 year ago
Steve your column on Hancock nailed it. Nuff said.