11/04/2011 8:43PM

Breeders' Cup handle dips slightly for Friday card at Churchill Downs


Weakened by several races with heavy favorites and two late scratches of horses during warm-ups, the six Breeders’ Cup races held on Friday at Churchill Downs attracted total commingled wagering of $42,490,444, down 6.3 percent from last year’s total of $45,393,976, according to figures released late on Friday.

Comparisons between the two Friday cards is complicated somewhat because Breeders’ Cup moved one of its Friday races last year, the Marathon, to the Saturday card, following the creation earlier this year of a 15th Breeders’ Cup race, the Juvenile Sprint. The Juvenile Sprint kicked off the six Breeders’ Cup races on Friday, with the Marathon scheduled as the first of nine Breeders’ Cup races on the Saturday card.

But the numbers were down nonetheless, in part because of a slight decline in the number of horses that ran on this year’s Friday card. This year, a total of 69 horses ran in the six Friday races, compared to 73 in the six Friday races last year.

The total could have been 71 if not for the veterinary scratches of Shotgun Gulch just prior to post of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and a similar scratch of Announce in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. According to Breeders’ Cup, $2,195,465 was refunded on bets involving the horses.
Attendance on what turned out to be a perfect fall day at Churchill after a morning of blustery winds and overcast skies was 40,677, a 2.3 percent decline from the Friday attendance last year. Still, the figure is the second-highest for a Breeders’ Cup Friday card since the event went to two days in 2007.

Total ontrack handle for the 10 races on Friday was down as well, from $8,109,443 last year to $7,765,183, a difference of 4 percent. Total commingled handle for the 10 races held at Churchill on Friday was $50,053,505, a 5.6 percent decline compared to the commingled handle of $53,010,625 for a 10-race card last year.

In other bad news for Breeders’ Cup, there will be no pick six carryover going into the Saturday card this year. Last year, no one hit the pick six on Friday, leading to the first-ever carryover during the two-day era. The $817,642 carryover last year attracted an additional $5,240,640 bets for the pick six on Saturday, a figure that Breeders’ Cup is highly unlikely to approach this year.

Handle on the pick six on Friday was $1,463,910, an increase of 8.7 percent over last year’s Friday pick six. Two tickets had all six winners in the sequence, with each ticket paying $444,571.20.

The results of four of the six Friday Breeders’ Cup races this year were formful, but bombs in the Filly and Mare Sprint and the Filly and Mare Turf juiced exotic and multi-leg prices.

In the Juvenile Sprint, Secret Circle won as the odds-on favorite, paying $2.80 to win. In the next race, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Stephanie’s Kitten won at $14.20 in a 14-horse field, and then Musical Romance sprang an upset at $42.40 to win the Filly and Mare Sprint.

Musical Romance was followed by favored My Miss Aurelia in the Juvenile Fillies, who paid $6.20 in extending her unbeaten streak to four. Longshot Perfect Shirl then beat a pack of Europeans home to win the Filly and Mare Turf at $57.60, and she was followed by Royal Delta, the $6.20 favorite, in the next and final race, the Ladies’ Classic. 

Handle on the late pick four was $2,129,651, an increase of 4.1 percent over the late pick four handle of $2,045,401 for the Friday card last year. The pick four has rapidly become the most popular bet during the Breeders’ Cup, with handle increasing 49 percent last year compared to the 2009 Friday pick four.

Even with the addition of a 15th race this year, the Friday results will make it difficult for Breeders’ Cup to match last year’s two-day handle totals. Last year, largely because of the pick six carryover and the presence of the highly popular mare Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, total commingled handle for the 14 Breeders’ Cup races shot up 13 percent to $163.6 million, a record for the event.