11/04/2013 3:38PM

Breeders' Cup: Handle bounces back up 11 percent off sluggish 2012 numbers

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Handle on the Breeders’ Cup rebounded from a sharp downturn at the event last year, with all-sources wagering on the 14 races on the Breeders’ Cup slate jumping seven percent and total handle on the two Breeders’ Cup cards at Santa Anita surging 11 percent.

The gains reversed two straight years of decline on the two-day event, even though this year’s Breeders’ Cup cards included 14 races, rather than 15. Last year’s decline, 9.5 percent, was generally attributed to the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy, with the highest declines occurring at sites on the Northeastern seaboard, where the storm’s impact on power and transportation networks was most pronounced.

Total commingled handle on the 14 Breeders’ Cup races this year was $136.5 million, according to the organization. Five Breeders’ Cup races were run on Friday, with the remaining nine run on Saturday. Total handle on the 11-race Friday and Saturday cards at Santa Anita was $160.7 million, $16.5 million above last year’s total and nearly equaling the total on the two cards held at Churchill Downs in 2011, when handle was $161.5 million.

“That’s very positive news,” said Ken Kirchner, Breeders’ Cup’s simulcasting consultant. “Those are very good numbers.”

Kirchner said separate-pool handle would likely total an additional $3 million, meaning this year’s wagering numbers will exceed the 2011 total at Churchill.

The overall results were boosted by a carryover in the Friday pick 5 that resulted in a $6.4 million pool for the wager on Saturday, a record for the bet, which carries a 50-cent minimum and a 14 percent takeout. Handle totals also benefited from a jump in field size for the 14 Breeders’ Cup races from 10.8 horses per race last year to 11.3 horses this year.

Attendance for the two days totaled 94,628, according to Breeders’ Cup, an increase of 5 percent over the total last year, when the event also was held at Santa Anita. Attendance was 35,833 on Friday and 58,795 on Saturday. Both days were sunny with temperatures in the low 80s.

Growth in handle and attendance did not translate into additional viewers for a one-hour broadcast on NBC featuring the Classic. The overnight rating for the broadcast was a 1.4, down 36 percent compared to the overnight for the Classic broadcast last year, according to NBC. The network said the rating last year was boosted by a stronger lead-in, a college-football matchup between Notre Dame and Pitt that went into triple overtime.

On-track handle for both days was $21.0 million, up two percent over the on-track handle last year, according to Breeders’ Cup.

Wagering on the Friday Breeders’ Cup slate was flat compared to wagering last year, when omitting the handle numbers from 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, a race that was discontinued for 2013. But wagering on the Saturday card was well over the Saturday slate last year, with most of the gains being concentrated on the early Breeders’ Cup races.

Betting on the marquee race of the event, the 11-horse Classic, was up 4.5 percent compared to handle on last year’s 12-horse field, to $25.5 million, according to betting information included in the charts of the races. Betting on two of the four races restricted to juveniles – which were run with a rule in place banning the raceday administration of the legal anti-bleeding medication Lasix – was down compared to last year, when handle on the five races restricted to juveniles was down a total of 23 percent in the first year of the Lasix policy. The rule has been suspended for next year.

One of the few soft spots in the betting results was the Friday pick six, which drew $891,012 in wagers, short of the $1 million guarantee for the bet. Because of the guarantee, Breeders’ Cup was required to seed the pool to hit the $1 million mark. As a result of dropping the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, the pick six on Friday included an overnight stakes instead of a full slate of Breeders’ Cup races, which could have dampened interest in the bet.

Kirchner said the Friday pick six may have been negatively impact by a $2 million carryover in the pick six at Santa Anita on Thursday by depleting some national players’ bankrolls.

The Saturday pick six, which had a $2.5 million guarantee, drew $3.27 million in bets, up 4.4 percent compared to handle on the Saturday pick six of $3.14 million last year. Both pick 6 bets had a minimum wager of $2. Over the past several years, many tracks have cut the minimums in many multi-leg bets to $1 or 50-cents in order to attract more players into pools that usually generate the sport’s highest payoffs.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Friday's BC is a joke, it's all about money wagered now, it's not about who is the champion horse at a certain distance or surface. S.A. is the BEST place in the country weather wise, who wants another MUDDY BC day ???
michael More than 1 year ago
Because horses run in the mud sometimes. Get it out of socal, boring.
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
They should run the BC at Stronach tracks; Gulfstream one year, Santa Anita the next and repeat. That way I'll break this habit of wagering on thoroughbreds a lot quicker.
Joaquin Sanson More than 1 year ago
The Breeders Cup become a JOKE, as long they insist to host at SANTA ANITA, not a single dollar I will bet, on FRIDAY was a displayed how the track play, the maintenance crew did a GOOD JOB FOR THE CALIFORNIA TRAINERS AND HORSES.
702Raycing More than 1 year ago
Stop whining...raicing has much bigger problems that where theBC races are run. We won't miss your $2 .unreal.
michael More than 1 year ago
You are right. All the writers love their cali vacations, theyre in lock step now with the bc establishment. Objective opinions are out the window.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
As a person who attended the first BC and 5 others, I find it very sad that the event is not moving around anymore. In my mind, this years results show why. First off, we have the most repeat winners and if you add the Classic winner who was second last year it really show that there are "horses for courses". The BC should move each year to eliminate this, I feel this would increase handle and add more excitement to the days.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
this is an absolute no brainer,the reason why it was up in 13 over 12 NO SANDY,the east coast was crushed by sandy,myself included,and i did not bet a nickel on the 12 bc. microcosm im sure. i lived in nassau county and nassau and suffolk otb was devastated.
jusonemoretweet More than 1 year ago
Bet all the winners back next year. Horse for course angle worked quite nicely. That is a fundamental problem with keeping the Cup at the same track year over year. New York horses shouldn't ship at all anymore. Moving the Cup annually will increase interest and handle nationally. Nice work by Kathy Ritvo to acclimate Mucho Macho Man to California.
Anthony Guererro More than 1 year ago
I totally agree with those words you will have a different Winner each and every time these races are being run at each track across the nation. Who ever said that there is no such meaning of Horses for courses that is so so true!!!!!!'!!!!......
Harvey Hochberg More than 1 year ago
Viewership was the big negative because Television refuses to televise to the Horse Racing fans.They seem to be interested in an audience that is watching the Kardashians-too many women in hats,and no odds or RACING information.We want to look at the HORSES,the JOCKEYS and the ODDS(in a crawl,non- stop.).We do not want Joan Rivers' pick,or interviews with people who attend once a year.Get a production crew who knows Horse Racing!!!
Eric Mitchell More than 1 year ago
Well said Harvey!
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Handle up 11% What happen to all those people who said they were boycotting the Breeders Cup because it was at Santa Anita.LOL.Smh. it will be Up.next Year as well