Updated on 11/06/2012 11:23AM

Breeders’ Cup handle down from 2011


Total commingled handle on the 15 Breeders’ Cup races held on Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Southern California dropped 9.5 percent compared with betting on the races last year, according to a chart-by-chart analysis of the race’s pools.

The total handle of $126.8 million on the six Friday races and nine Saturday races was down from handle of $140.1 million on the races last year at Churchill Downs in the Eastern time zone, according to the analysis. Betting on the six Friday races was $37.5 million, down 11.7 percent from the Friday total last year, while betting on the nine Saturday races was $89.3 million, down 8.8 percent from the Saturday races last year.

The analysis includes commingled handle figures for each pool offered in the Breeders’ Cup races, including wagering totals for any multi-leg bets that ended with a Breeders’ Cup race.

It was the second year in a row that betting on the Breeders’ Cup has declined on a year-over-year basis. Attendance also declined for the second year in a row.

Though the effects of Hurricane Sandy likely had a significant impact on the wagering, other factors seemed to be at play, including a large drop in field sizes for the five races restricted to 2-year-olds. In addition, betting on the Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races started off strongly – stronger, in fact, than betting last year – but by the time the day’s last race, the Classic, had rolled around for its first prime-time appearance, wagering on the races had fallen off precipitously compared to last year’s final slate of races.

Ken Kirchner, Breeders’ Cup’s simulcasting consultant, declined on Monday to comment on the figures in the analysis, citing his need to collect and analyze figures from Breeders’ Cup simulcasting sites. He said those figures would likely be available by Tuesday.

“It’s too early to say until we get those site-by-site numbers,” Kirchner said. “That will probably tell the story.”

In total, 162 horses ran in the 15 Breeders’ Cup races this year, compared with 173 last year, a difference of 6.3 percent. For the five juvenile races, 50 horses ran this year, compared with 64 horses last year, a difference of 22 percent. Horses competing in the juvenile races were prohibited from receiving raceday administrations of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide for the first time this year, under a policy that will be expanded to all 15 races next year pending a review of the impact of the ban on this year’s races.

Betting on the Classic was down approximately $3.6 million, from $28.1 million last year to $24.5 million this year, or 12.8 percent, according to the charts. Both races had 12-horse fields. The Classic this year went off at 8:43 p.m. Eastern, the latest the race has ever been run.

Officials for Breeders’ Cup had expected wagering to fall this year because of the vast power outages and transportation problems still plaguing many areas of the East Coast, especially in the major markets of New York and New Jersey.

Through the first two Saturday Breeders’ Cup races, the Juvenile Turf and the Filly and Mare Sprint, betting was up 12 percent compared with last year. Handle bobbed on a race-by-race basis for the next four races. The last three races, however, suffered significant declines, with 25-percent drops in betting for both the Sprint and Mile compared with the races in similar positions last year.

Handle on the $2 million pick six was $3.14 million, down slightly compared with handle of $3.37 million last year. Handle on the $2 million guaranteed pick four linking the last four races was $3.43 million, slightly better than last year’s late pick four.

Handle in the five juvenile races this year was $27.65 million, down 23 percent from the $35.89 million in betting for the five juvenile races last year. The $8.25 million decline in betting on the juvenile races was approximately 62 percent of the total decline in betting on the 15 races.

Attendance on Saturday on an ideal day in Southern California was 55,123, down 6.3 percent compared with attendance of 58,845 the last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita, in 2009. Attendance on Friday was 34,619, for total attendance of 89,742, down 6.9 percent compared with total attendance of 96,496 in 2009.

Last year, combined attendance for the Friday and Saturday cards at Churchill was 105,820.

The overnight rating for an NBC broadcast of the Classic running from 8 p.m. Eastern to 9 p.m. was a 2.2, according to Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for NBC, up 83 percent compared with the overnight rating for an earlier broadcast of the race last year on ESPN. The broadcast had a strong lead-in when undefeated Notre Dame staged a late comeback to tie its game with Pitt and win in overtime.