11/03/2012 10:30PM

Breeders' Cup: Saturday wagering dips 8.8 percent from a year ago

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Total commingled handle on the nine Breeders’ Cup races Saturday at Santa Anita Park dropped 8.8 percent compared with last year's event at Churchill Downs, according to a chart-by-chart analysis of the races.

Coupled with an 11.7 percent decline in betting on the six Friday races, total commingled betting for the 15 Breeders’ Cup races held at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday was down 9.5 percent, from $140.1 million last year to $126.8 million this year. It was the second year in a row that betting on the Breeders’ Cup has declined on a year-over-year basis.

Though the effects of Hurricane Sandy likely had a significant impact on the wagering, other factors also seemed to be at play. Betting at the start of the day was strong – 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 had fallen off.

Field size, for the most part, was comparable to last year, with 103 runners competing in the nine Saturday races compared with 104 runners last year. Four favorites won in the nine Saturday races. Although prohibitive favorites can depress betting on single races, winning favorites tend to increase churn by distributing winnings among a larger number of players and by keeping bankrolls above water.

Total wagering for the nine Saturday races was $89,270,811, according to the charts, compared with total betting last year on nine Breeders’ Cup races of $97,936,517, a difference of 8.8 percent. Betting on the Classic was down approximately $3.6 million, from $28.1 million last year to $24.5 million this year, a drop of 12.1 percent, according to the charts. The Classic went off at 8:43 p.m. Eastern, the latest the race has ever been run.

Attendance on Saturday on an ideal day in Southern California was 55,123, down 6.3 percent compared with 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.

Officials for Breeders’ Cup had expected wagering to fall this year because of the power outages and transportation problems still plaguing many areas of the Northeast, especially in the major markets of New York and New Jersey. It is likely that a nearly 10 percent drop was within their expectations.

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, in part because of differences between the two cards as to when multi-leg bets started and ended. However, the last three races 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 4 linking the last four races was $3.43 million, slightly better than last year’s late pick 4.

This year’s event was the first in which Breeders’ Cup prohibited the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide before its five 2-year-old races. Fifty horses ran in the five juvenile races this year – including the smallest field ever in a Breeders’ Cup race, the five-horse Juvenile Sprint on Friday – compared with 64 in the five races last year, a drop of 21 percent. 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.

Under a policy Breeders’ Cup adopted two years ago, raceday use of furosemide will be prohibited for all 15 races next year. However, Breeders’ Cup officials have said that they would be monitoring the results from this year’s Breeders’ Cup in case the policy needed to be reviewed.