Skip Dickstein

Breeders' Cup Hoping Fields Fuel Wagering

All but four races over the two days have more than 10 horses entered.

When the overnight sheets for Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park were released, Breeders' Cup officials couldn't help but be satisfied. And they're hoping it means strong pari-mutuel wagering on this year's World Championships programs.

Friday's 11 races attracted 123 horses, while 12 races Saturday lured 133. As for the Breeders' Cup races, 13 of 14 have 10 or more horses, but the competitive nature of the Distaff (gr. I) makes up for its short field of six.

"This clearly makes for a lot of potential combinations in all the exotic bets," Breeders' Cup wagering consultant Ken Kirchner, president of FalKirk International, said Oct. 29. "When a huge number of combinations can be covered, it usually bodes well for handle.

"Top to bottom the fields seem to be very well-matched, which will make the potential for some 4-1 favorites in some of these races."

For the first time, if there is a Pick 6 carryover from the Thursday program at Santa Anita, it will be added to the Breeders' Cup Friday Pick 6. And with a carryover of about $450,000 into Thursday, Breeders' Cup could find itself with a nice big carrot Nov. 1.

Kirchner said that in 2010 a Friday carryover in the Pick 6 helped fuel wagering of $5.2 million on the Saturday sequence. If Thursday carries over into Friday this year, he said with a laugh: "I'd be handicapping so hard."

When asked about the impact of minimum betting amounts in single and multi-race exotics, Kirchner said the 50-cent minimum, for example, "does a couple of things: It makes spreading (out) more affordable, and gives players a chance to cash tickets that are under the IRS (withholding) limits.

"We in racing are unfairly taxed; it's onerous and ridiculous," he said. "If we can give players an opportunity to avoid the (tax) penalty, we're going to do it."

There will be a Distaff-Classic (gr. I) double again this year, but other novelty wagers are on hiatus.

"There is value in sometimes trying new bet types," Kirchner said. "We've never been shy about that. We still look at what's working around the world that may be useful to us in the future. But our core wagers are where we need to be right now."

As for simulcast exposure, Kirchner said the Breeders' Cup signal "will be everywhere"racetracks, off-track betting parlors, and advance deposit wagering services–domestically. International exposure remains a challenge, mainly because of protectionist laws and time-of-day issues for the simulcast.

Hong Kong in the past has taken four to six Breeders' Cup races, but this year Breeders' Cup officials opted against the simulcast because of revenue issues

"The financial arrangements are such–let's just say (Hong Kong) offers less than the normal Breeders' Cup simulcast rate," Kirchner said. "In Asia, I think Japan is going to have to step up and be a leader. Progress is being made, it's just slow progress."

Total handle on the two-day World Championships last year was down about $10 million from 2011, though officials said they met expectations given an interruption in service at many East Coast pari-mutuel outlets impacted by Hurricane Sandy.