Breeders' Cup Bucks Trend With Handle Growth

Breeders' Cup business gave the horse racing industry a needed boost.

Total handle—including money wagered through a non-pari-mutuel betting exchange—on the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships approached $200 million, according to figures released by Breeders’ Cup.

Officials said Nov. 9 that total pari-mutuel handle from commingled and separate pools was $173,339,131 for the two-day event held Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs. Another $23 million-plus was wagered on the betting exchange operated by Great Britain-based Betfair for a grand total of $196,354,072.

FalKirk International’s Ken Kirchner, a Breeders’ Cup wagering consultant, said separate-pool handle was about $9.5 million, up 13% from 2009. Some or all of the races were imported by about 15 countries.

The World Championships set a common-pool handle record this year. After the last race was run Nov. 6, Breeders’ Cup officials reported two-day common-pool pari-mutuel handle of $163,619,784, up 13% from $144,599,205 for two days at Santa Anita Park in 2009.

Total pari-mutuel handle for the 11-race program Nov. 6 was $118,631,943, up 23% from $96,159,747 for the 2009 Saturday World Championships. Total handle for the 10-race program Nov. 5 was $54,707,188, up 8% from $50,662,945 for the 2009 Friday World Championships.

Wagering on the 14 Breeders' Cup races alone totaled $157,878,232, up more than $21 million from last year, Cup officials said.

The growth came despite continued economic drags on pari-mutuel wagering. Through October of this year, total United States handle is down more than 7%.

“The preliminary business results—handle, attendance, and (television) ratings—are all very positive and speak to the power of the Zenyatta story and our ability to tell it to the public,” Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive officer Greg Avioli said. “While her story undoubtedly motivated a large audience, it’s gratifying to me that we had the resources and infrastructure in place to promote it well and produce overall benefits for the sport as a whole.”

For the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, field size averaged 11.64 horses per race, a figure that contributed to handle growth. Kirchner said lower minimums on exotic wagers—50-cent pick fours and triples, for example—proved popular and fueled wagering.

On Friday’s card, the late pick four attracted a pool of about $2 million; on Saturday, the pool for the same wager was about $3 million. Both pools were up at least $500,000 from last year, he said.

“It was a combination of factors,” Kirchner said. “When there is quality with large fields, I think people feel confident going forward with their bankrolls. There’s no doubt people save up looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup and the value they find on those days.”

Breeders' Cup said it sold more than $11 million in tickets over the two days. Total attendance of 114,353 was up 18.5% from 96,496 in 2009.