05/21/2016 8:54PM

Handle on Preakness rises sharply


Betting on the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday was up sharply and set a record, buoyed by a larger field and a comparison with depressed figures from last year’s edition of the race.

Betting on the 11-horse Preakness, won by the second choice, Exaggerator, was $61.3 million, up 16.2 percent from $52.7 million on an eight-horse field last year, according to a chart-by-chart comparison of the races. Betting on the entire 14-race card was strong as well, rising 10.5 percent to a record $94.9 million, according to the charts.

While betting on the Preakness undercard was strong last year, betting on the Preakness itself was down 10.2 percent from 2014 due to the composition of the field and a violent downpour at Pimlico just prior to the race. When comparing betting on the Preakness this year with betting of $58.6 million on a 10-horse field in 2014, wagering was up 4.6 percent.

Exacta betting was especially strong on the Preakness this year, up 27.2 percent, while trifecta betting was up 20.0 percent, according to the charts. Win, place, and show betting was up 11.5 percent, with early win betting juiced by an $80,000 bet placed on Stradivari, the eventual third choice and fourth-place finisher, by a single bettor at Laurel Park, Pimlico’s sister track, seven hours prior to the Preakness.

However, betting was down on the major linked bets ending in the Preakness, with the pick three down less than 1 percent, the pick four down 5.8 percent, and the pick five down 4.3 percent. The declines were likely related to the addition of a pick four and a pick five to the card this year, spreading bettors’ dollars over more opportunities for horizontal wagers.

For the first time this year on the Preakness, Pimlico offered a Super Hi-5, which requires a bettor to pick the first five horses in order. Handle on the wager was $640,945, according to the chart, or 1.2 percent of the total pool. Pimlico also offered a Super Hi-5 on every race on the card this year, but numbers for those pools were rarely significant.

Pimlico reported record attendance of 135,256 on a day when rain, as forecast, fell steadily on the track. The reported attendance broke the record set last year, when Pimlico reported attendance of 131,680.

This year’s 14-race card had 133 runners, compared with 138 runners on last year’s card.