11/05/2016 10:16PM

Total Breeders' Cup handle rises slightly

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Betting on the 13 Breeders’ Cup races held Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., was up 1.7 percent over the same 13 races held last year despite steep drops in betting on the $6 million Classic, according to charts.

Total betting on the 13 races, including all horizontal bets ending in a Breeders’ Cup race, was $128.1 million, compared with $125.9 million bet last year, when the event was held at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., according to the charts. There were 148 total runners in the 13 races this year, compared with 159 horses last year.

Betting was up through the first 12 races, but wagering on the Classic was especially weak as bettors failed to find much value in a race in which the favorite, California Chrome, was 4-5 and the second choice, Arrogate, was 8-5. With the exception of 8-1 on Frosted, the other six horses in the race were all double-digit odds.

Betting on win, place, and show in the Classic was down 7 percent; betting in the exacta pool was down 17.3 percent; betting on the trifecta was down 20.9 percent; and betting on the superfecta was down 19.7 percent. However, betting on the horizontal wagers ending in the Classic was well above last year’s betting on the same wagers, with the pick three up 35 percent, the pick four up 20.5 percent, and the pick six up 32.3 percent. The Saturday pick six had a $511,000 two-day carryover.

In total, handle on the Classic, including all the horizontal bets ending in the race, was $28.21 million, down 1.2 percent from $28.56 million last year, when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah made his final appearance. American Pharoah won at 7-10.

Wagering was strong early on the Saturday card, but that was likely due to a later start this year than last year. The first Breeders’ Cup race on Saturday went off at 3:07 p.m. Eastern, or just after noon at Santa Anita, giving West Coast fans plenty of time to finish up their handicapping in the morning. Last year, first post was three hours earlier at 12:06 p.m. Eastern.

But betting weakened substantially after the early races, with betting down on a race-to-race basis for the last five Breeders’ Cup races held on Saturday.

Betting may have tailed off later in the day because of a string of longshots and medium-priced horses, which can have the effect of reducing churn, a term that refers to the wagering of winnings on later races. Most racing officials believe that churn is higher when favorites or lower-priced horses win because winnings are spread out among more players.

Starting with the 33-1 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the winners of the first eight Saturday Breeders’ Cup races paid $69.20, $18, $9.80, $9.60, $11, $9.60, $19.40, and $26.80. Arrogate, competing in the last race on the card, paid $5.40. Obviously, who paid $9.60 after winning the Turf Sprint in a 14-horse field, was the only favorite to win on Saturday.

Handle on the pick six was $4.05 million, well above last year’s handle of $3.06 million, when there was no carryover. The minimum bet on the pick six this year was restored to $2 after being lowered to $1 last year. The late pick four, with a somewhat meaningless guaranteed pool of $3 million, had handle of $4.6 million, up 21 percent over the same bet last year.

Santa Anita announced attendance of 72,811 on a clear day with high temperatures in the low 80s. The reported attendance was well above the figure of 50,155 at Keeneland on last year’s Saturday card, but Keeneland limited attendance at an event designed to be sold out. In addition, the Keeneland figure included approximately 10,000 people in the track’s tailgate area who did not have access to the facility.

Combined with Friday, reported attendance for the two days was 118,574, a Breeders’ Cup record. The event expanded to two days in 2007.

All-sources handle for the 12-race card on Saturday was $109.06 million, up 3.3 percent over total handle for the 12-race Saturday card at Keeneland last year. Ontrack handle on Saturday was $13.85 million, Santa Anita said.

All-sources handle for both days was $157.5 million, the Breeders’ Cup said. The record for handle for the two-day event is $173.9 million, set in 2010.