11/08/2009 1:00AM

Cup proves popular attraction

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Ontrack attendance rose during the two-day Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday, but common pool handle fell slightly compared to the corresponding days in 2008, when the event also was held at Santa Anita.

According to figures released on Saturday evening by the Breeders' Cup, Saturday's program drew an ontrack crowd of 58,845, an increase of 6 percent over 2008. Friday's attendance was 37,651, a 20 percent increase, leading to a two-day ontrack attendance of 96,496, a gain of 11 percent over 2008.

Ontrack handle showed gains both days despite one fewer race carded per day compared to 2008. Saturday's ontrack handle reached $12,177,982, a gain of 3 percent.

The common-pool handle on Saturday reached $96,159,747, a loss of 6 percent from last year's corresponding day. Friday's common-pool handle of $48,439,458 was a decrease of 1 percent.

Officials blamed a slow economy for the drop in common-pool betting.

The highlight of the Breeders' Cup races was Zenyatta's popular win in Saturday's Classic.

"It was an electric atmosphere for two days and Zenyatta delivered what is arguably the greatest performance in the 26-year history of the event," Breeders' president and chief executive Greg Avioli said in a statement.

Breeders' Cup officials said more thorough handle figures, including separate pools and exchange betting, would be available in coming days.