Updated on 05/19/2014 11:13AM

Preakness handle up 8.3 percent


Business figures for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course were all up compared to last year, with reported attendance at the track a record and handle on the race shooting up 8.3 percent, an indication that this year’s winner, California Chrome, will be heading to the Belmont Stakes as one of the more popular horses in recent history.

Betting on the Preakness shot up to $58.6 million compared to $54.15 million last year, with wagering gains strongest in the more traditional pools, according to charts of both races. Win betting was up 6.9 percent, exacta betting was up 6.8 percent, trifecta betting was up 11.4 percent, and superfecta betting was up 10.2 percent.

The 2013 Preakness and 2014 Preakness had several notable similarities. In both races, the favored winner of the Kentucky Derby went off the odds-on favorite. California Chrome was 1-2 in the win pool in this year’s Preakness, while Orb went off at 7-10 in last year’s Preakness. California Chrome had nine rivals, while Orb had eight.

The handle number benefited slightly with the addition of a new wager this year, a pick 3 linking the Pimlico Special on Friday’s card and the Dixie and Preakness on the Saturday card. Betting on the special pick 3 was $339,158.

Attendance, according to Pimlico, was a record 123,469, an increase of 5.3 percent over the announced attendance last year. Temperatures were in the high 60s this year under mostly sunny skies, while last year’s Preakness was run under rainy skies. The previous record of 121,309 was set in 2012.

Management at Pimlico has been aggressively promoting the Preakness Stakes over the past several years by hiring popular musical acts for the infield festival. This year’s headliners were the hip-hop artist Nas and the Grammy Award winner Lorde.

Buoyed by the strong wagering on the Preakness, handle on the entire 13-race card on Saturday was $83.5 million, up 2.7 percent compared to handle of $81.4 million last year, according to charts. A total of 116 horses ran in the 13 races this year, slightly down from the 120 who ran on the card last year.

Most of the races on the card were down in betting this year compared to last year, but the Preakness number – 70 percent of the entire day’s wagering total – was more than enough to make up for the declines.