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Breeders' Cup Handle Totaled $159.1 Million

Wagering in 2014 was fourth highest in Cup history, but down 2.7% from last year.

The Breeders' Cup reported Nov. 12 that all-sources wagering for the World Championships at Santa Anita Park totaled $159.1 million, fourth highest in Cup history but down 2.7% from 2013.

The numbers for the two-day event Oct. 31-Nov. 1 are higher than those initially reported immediately following the Breeders' Cup, after wagering from international pools was tallied.

Total wagering on the 13 Breeders' Cup races was $135.5 million, up 1.1% compared to the corresponding 13 Breeders' Cup races from last year at Santa Anita. Wagering on this year's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) was $28,776,535, a 15% increase over the 2013 Classic betting of $25,116,192.

There were 13 Breeders' Cup races this year after officials discontinued the Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) as a Championship race due to concerns that the overall quality of the race was not consistent with the event's standards. In addition to one less Breeders' Cup race in 2014, two turf races on the Saturday undercard were moved to the main track due to heavy overnight rain. That resulted in 15 scratches and an approximate $3 million loss in handle compared to the same races in 2013, according to a Breeders' Cup release.

There were at total of 159 starters in the 13 Breeders' Cup races for an average of 12.2 per race. The total, including 26 horses from overseas, was the second highest in the event's history. It ranks behind only the 173 horses at Churchill Downs in 2012 when 15 Breeders' Cup races were carded. 

As previously reported, total attendance of 98,319 for two days this year was 2% higher than the 94,628 figure in 2013. The Breeders' Cup hour in primetime on NBC (8-9 p.m. ET) that included a nose victory by Bayern  over Toast of New York in the Classic, averaged 2.6 million viewers, a 24% increase over 2013.

Combined 2014 Breeders' Cup coverage on NBC/NBCSN averaged 599,000 viewers, up 33% year over year. The event reached a total audience of 5.8 million through its three telecasts on Friday and Saturday, up 37% from 2013.

"Based on a range of positive metrics for the event including strong field sizes, increased participation by horsemen on an international scale, increased television ratings and sponsorship revenue, we feel good about the 31st running of the Breeders' Cup and look forward to what's next," Breeders' Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel said in a statement.

"As we move forward on our three-year host site plan with our first visit to the iconic grounds of Keeneland next year, we will continue to focus on world-class championship horse racing and creating the best possible experience for our guests, our sponsors, our participants and people watching and wagering from home and other locations around the world." 

Keeneland, in Lexington, will host the World Championships for the first time in 2015. The event will return to Santa Anita in 2016 and then travel to Del Mar for the first time in 2017.

The 2014 Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge also experienced a record-breaking year, with the live money tournament including participation from satellite wagering sites at Keeneland and Aqueduct Racetrack. Of the 287 players, 252 played at Santa Anita, 19 at Keeneland and 16 from Aqueduct.

The total wagering by betting challenge players was an all-time record of $3,929,000 in the contest. The figure does not include non-contest wagering by participants. A total of $3.425 million was from 252 tournament players at Santa Anita, which comprised 17% of the on-track handle at the racetrack over the two days of the Championships. The Santa Anita participants wagered an average of nearly $13,600 per player.

The tournament winner, Robert Traynor of Oceanside, Calif., collected a first place prize of $301,000.

The official Breeders' Cup website also made gains over the prior year, with a 20% increase in visitor sessions, a 19% increase in unique visitors, and a 28% rise in total  page views over 2013 during Breeders' Cup week (Oct 27-Nov.2).