05/16/2010 11:00PM

Betting on Preakness down 11.6 percent


All-sources wagering on Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore fell 11.6 percent from the near-record number posted on the race last year, according to figures released by Pimlico.

The decline in Preakness betting accompanied similar drops in total betting on the 13-race Saturday card and in the preliminary television rating for a two-hour broadcast on NBC. However, the attendance figure for the day rebounded sharply after a dramatic decline last year that was triggered by Pimlico's decision to prohibit infield attendees from bringing in alcoholic beverages.

According to the figures, betting this year on the 12-horse Preakness was $52,766,815, down almost $7 million from the wagering figure of $59,726,342 on last year's 13-horse field, a lineup that included the eventual Horse of the Year, the filly Rachel Alexandra. Betting on last year's race was up 30 percent compared to the 2008 running, which was won by the heavy favorite Big Brown, and was the second-highest total of all time.

The sharp decline on the Preakness contributed to an 8.5 percent drop in all-sources betting on the entire 13-race card. Total wagering this year was $79,248,002, compared to $86,684,470 last year. However, last year's betting figure was up 14 percent from the all-sources handle total of $71.5 million in 2008.

The decline in Preakness betting almost exactly matched the decline in betting on the entire card, indicating that horseplayers bet nearly the same amount on the 12 undercard races as they did last year. On the Preakness itself, the wagering pools for win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta bets were all down significantly compared to last year.

This year's Preakness was won by Lookin At Lucky, who finished off the board as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby after a rough trip. Lookin At Lucky was a clear second choice in the Preakness betting, at 2.40-1, behind Derby winner Super Saver, who was 1.90-1. The third choice, Paddy O'Prado, was 7-1.

The close grouping of the two favorites probably dampened interest in the mutuel pools by offering a short price on the first two likely finishers and few plausible options to spread beyond the two horses. Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky were identified as the most likely first- and second-place finishers by many public handicappers.

First Dude, a 23-1 shot, finished second, triggering a $188.60 exacta payoff. Jackson Bend finished third at 11-1, filling out a $2,771 trifecta.

Attendance on Saturday under ideal weather conditions was 95,760, according to Pimlico, a jump of 23 percent compared to attendance of 77,850 last year. The attendance figure last year was a 30.6 percent drop from the figure for 2008.

Although Pimlico did not rescind the ban on bringing in alcoholic beverages, the track sold beer mugs for $20 in the infield that could be refilled as many times as a customer wanted.

The overnight rating for the broadcast on NBC was a 6.4, down 16.4 percent compared to last year's overnight rating of 7.9. The 2009 edition attracted far more media attention than this year's Preakness due to the presence of Rachel Alexandra. In 2008, the overnight rating for the Preakness broadcast was a 6.2, and in 2007, the overnight was a 6.4.