Updated on 11/05/2014 12:02PM

Breeders’ Cup handle down, but attendance and TV rating up

Susie Raisher
Total attendance for the two Breeders' Cup cards was 98,319, up 3.9 percent compared to total attendance last year.

Preliminary all-sources handle on the 13 Breeders’ Cup races held this year at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday was $127.8 million, according to charts of the races, down 5.7 percent compared with betting last year of $135.5 million on 14 races, when the betting figures were juiced by a carryover in the pick five.

The decline ended up being a decent showing for the Breeders’ Cup card considering there was one fewer Breeders’ Cup race this year and that the carryover last year accounted for $5 million in additional handle on the pick five, a popular 50-cent minimum bet in California. Subtracting out the handle on the discontinued Marathon from last year and the additional carryover money, handle this year would have been up just slightly.

The $127.8 million total also compares favorably with handle of $126.8 million on the 15 races of the 2012 event, also held at Santa Anita. However, that 2012 figure was down 9.5 percent compared with the 2011 handle total. Betting in 2012 was also negatively impacted by the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast.

This year’s event ended a three-year run at Santa Anita, favored by many members of the Breeders’ Cup board for its predictably warm weather. The Breeders’ Cup is scheduled next year to be held for the first time at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., followed again by Santa Anita, and then Del Mar outside San Diego.

Attendance on Saturday, when nine Breeders’ Cup races were held, was 61,114, according to Breeders’ Cup, up 3.9 percent compared to attendance of 58,795 last year. Weather in Southern California on Saturday started out rainy and overcast, though conditions gradually improved throughout the day.

With attendance of 37,205 for the Friday card for four Breeders’ Cup races, total attendance for the two cards was 98,319, up 3.9 percent compared to total attendance last year. It was the highest two-day total for the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, where the event has been held five times since 2008 under the two-day format.

Handle on this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was especially strong, up 15.3 percent, according to the charts, perhaps because of the continuing attraction of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome on his home turf. Though discounted by many serious handicappers, California Chrome was the co-second choice in the Classic at 4-1, driving a 27 percent gain in the win, place, and show pools in the Classic compared with last year. Exacta betting in the race was up 19 percent, trifecta betting was up 29 percent, and superfecta betting was up 33 percent, leading to a 26 percent gain in all pools in the race that were not linked to other races.

The presence of California Chrome, who had raced only one other time since losing the Belmont Stakes in mid-June, also appeared to benefit the television ratings for the prime-time broadcast of the Classic, which began at 8 p.m. Eastern and went 10 minutes over its one-hour time slot in order to sort out an inquiry involving the race winner, Bayern. According to NBC, the overnight rating for the Classic broadcast was a 1.8, up 25 percent compared with the overnight rating last year.

As far as wagering was concerned, the day did not start well, with betting on many of the early races down significantly, some by double digits. Betting picked up later in the afternoon, however, as the Breeders’ Cup event meandered into prime time on a Saturday fouled by poor weather on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Betting on the two races prior to the Classic, the Sprint and the Mile, was up 12.2 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to the charts. Betting on the Mile was helped by the absence of Wise Dan, who had been a heavy favorite in the race for the past two years.

A $2.5 million-guaranteed pick six on Saturday just barely failed to reach the minimum, at approximately $2.42 million, according to the last data displayed on a tote feed. No one had six correct, leading to a $1.3 million carryover into Sunday with a mandatory payout.

A previous version of this atricle incorrectly stated there were 14 Breeders' Cup races held in 2012. There were 15 Breeders' Cup races held in 2012. Also, Zenyatta competed in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, not the 2011 running.