10/28/2002 12:00AM

Cup betting a record $108M

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NEW YORK - All-sources wagering on the eight Breeders' Cup races at Arlington Park this year established a new record of $108 million, according to Breeders' Cup officials.

The figure ended a one-year decline in Breeders' Cup wagering. Last year, betting on Breeders' Cup's eight-race card at Belmont Park in New York fell to $98.7 million. A year earlier at Churchill Downs in Louisville, handle was $101.3, which set a record for the fifth year in a row.

Total wagering for the 11-race card, which included two stakes race prior to the Breeders' Cup card and one stakes after it, was $115.5 million, also breaking the record set at Churchill Downs in 2000. That year, total handle was $108.6 million.

Television ratings for the event also produced a better showing this year than last. According to officials at NBC, which has broadcast the Breeders' Cup for every year of its existence, the overnight rating for the five-hour broadcast increased 5 percent this year to a 2.2, compared to a 2.1 last year.

The share, which measures the percentage of televisions in use at the time that were tuned to the broadcast, was a 5, identical to the share figure last year.

The overnight rating measures the results in around 50 large U.S. markets. The final ratings, which measure results from rural areas as well as the large urban centers included in the overnight, will be released on Thursday.

"Given the pretty stiff competition from college football on Saturday, it's encouraging not only to maintain our audience but to build on it," said Cameron Blanchard, a spokeswoman for NBC.

The five-hour Breeders' Cup broadcast went up against two major college football match-ups televised on ABC-TV, Notre Dame vs. Florida State and Penn State vs. Ohio State.

Attendance on Saturday on a cold and blustery day was 46,118, the first sell-out in Breeders' Cup history. The Arlington Park Breeders' Cup was also the very first Breeders' Cup to restrict the number of tickets sold to the general public and prohibit walk-up admissions.

The ontrack crowd bet $13.6 million on the 11-race card, the highest on-track betting number in the history of Arlington Park.

Breeders' Cup implemented a series of new bets this year called "head-to-head matchups" that pitted one horse against another in each race. Total handle on the new bets was $768,894. One of the bets had to be cancelled when Sky Mesa, who was matched with another horse in the Juvenile, was scratched the day before the race.

Handle on the pick six was $4,569,515, a 5 percent decline from last year. Handle on the pick six has declined for four straight years.