10/27/2003 12:00AM

Handle sets BC full-card record

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Preliminary all-sources handle on the 12-race Breeders' Cup card at Santa Anita was $120.8 million, a record for an entire Breeders' Cup card, according to figures released by the Breeders' Cup on Monday.

The previous record for a Breeders' Cup card was set last year at Arlington Park, when all-sources handle was $115.5 million on an 11-race card.

The $120.8 million figure for this year is expected to rise when foreign totals are included. The Breeders' Cup was expected to release those totals on Thursday. Much of the foreign betting on the Breeders' Cup in parts of South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa is conducted in separate pools, not added into the commingled pools.

According to handle figures on the charts of the eight Breeders' Cup races, total handle for those races was about $100.5 million, which would be a 6.9 percent decline compared to the $108 million handle on the eight Breeders' Cup races last year. This year's $100.5 million figure does not include the separate-pool totals, nor does it include handle on several pick three and pick four bets that linked non-Breeders' Cup races with the Breeders' Cup events.

Betting on Breeders' Cup races has declined one time in the event's 20-year history. In 2001, total betting fell slightly, from $101.3 million to $98.7 million.

A total of 90 horses raced this year in the eight Breeders' Cup races, the same number as last year.

Ontrack betting was $17,171,465, a record for the Breeders' Cup. The previous record was set at Santa Anita in 1986, when $15,410,409 was wagered.

Attendance this year was 51,648. Ten of the 20 Breeders' Cups have drawn more people, including both times the event was held at Santa Anita. In 1993, attendance at Santa Anita was 55,130, and in 1986, attendance was 69,155. Breeders' Cup officials were hoping that attendance would be at least equal to the 1993 figure.

Temperatures on Saturday in Southern California reached into the high 90's, far above the typical readings for the area in late October. A thick layer of haze could be seen over the track on Saturday, in part because of wildfires 20 miles to the east of the track.

Many of the top horses in training did not compete in this year's Breeders' Cup, including top handicap horse Mineshaft, 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, 2003 Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride, and 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. A number of top juvenile runners also were not entered.

The overnight rating for NBC-TV's five-hour broadcast of the eight Breeders' Cup races was 2.2, identical to last year's overnight rating. Overnight ratings are derived by surveying the top 55 markets in the United States, and each point represents about 740,000 households.

Share for the broadcast was 5, representing 5 percent of the televisions in use at the time. Share last year was also a 5. Final ratings will be available on Thursday, according to Kathy Connors, an NBC spokeswoman.

Wagering for the Breeders' Cup pick six, which had a guaranteed pool of $3 million, was $4,489,454, a decline of 1.8 percent compared to last year. Handle on the pick six has declined for five straight years.

There was one winning pick six ticket worth $2,687,611.20, sold to an offtrack betting customer in South Dakota. Forty-eight tickets had five of six winners, and each of those tickets was worth $18,663.

Total wagering on eight head-to-head matchups was $346,739, a decline of 54.9 percent compared to total handle of $768,894 on seven races last year. Head-to-head wagering allows bettors to select one horse to finish ahead of another horse regardless of whether the horses finish in the money.