Atto Mile Takes Hit From NFL, But Still Reaches More Fans

Atto Mile Takes Hit From NFL, But Still Reaches More Fans
Photo: Associated Press/ Michael Burns
Riviera, right, ridden by jockey John Velazquez holds off Arkadian Hero ridden by jockey Jamie Spencer to capture the Atto Mile at Woodbine on Sunday.
The $1 million Atto Mile (Can-IT) produced more starters for the Breeder' Cup Mile (gr. I) than any other race last year. For this reason, Breeders' Cup Ltd. asked Woodbine Race Course to accommodate a one-hour slot on NBC's "Racing to the Breeders' Cup" series by running the race a week early with a mid-afternoon post time. The race didn't produce sterling ratings by network standards, but it did reach significantly more people than a year ago.

NBC's Atto Mile coverage earned a 0.8 rating and captured a 2% share of the viewing audience. Competition during the 2-3 p.m. time slot was tough with two NFL games playing on CBS and FOX. Still, the race reached 618,000 more households than last year when the race was packaged with the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) on espn2. An estimated 857,000 households watched the Atto Mile last weekend compared to 1999 when an estimated 239,000 households watched the race on espn2, according to Nielsen's sports marketing service.

Damon Thayer, director of marketing for Breeders' Cup, said the racing industry benefits every time an opportunity is taken to put racing on network television. "We wanted a national presence in September," Thayer said. "If we've got those windows and we have good programming, then we're going to make the effort."

John Sisco, Woodbine's director of communications, said the Atto Mile also faced tough competition in Toronto. The race lost some local media coverage because golfing phenom Tiger Woods was in town playing at the Bell Canadian Open, which ended Sunday.

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