Anne M. Eberhardt

Preakness Yields Bountiful Handle Increases

Wagering was up on several segments of the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

Wagering was up on several segments of the Preakness day card, according to data released May 18 by Maryland Jockey Club officials, fueled in part by the showdown between Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) victress Rachel Alexandra.

All-sources handle May 16 jumped 30.7% to $59,726,342 on the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) won by Rachel Alexandra, and 18% to $86,684,470 on the entire 13-race card. Fueling the increase was a 22.9% increase in out-of-state handle on the full card to $78,698,308.

“When I look at the numbers, they are very, very positive, particularly in this economic climate,” Maryland Jockey Club chief operating officer Tom Chuckas said. “Obviously, the filly had a tremendous impact on the Preakness; the battle between the sexes stirred a lot of interest. And it was a great race. You came down to the wire with the filly and the Derby winner.”

While in-state wagering on the Preakness was up 7.4% to $2,961,617, in-state handle, which includes Pimlico on-track wagers, dropped 15.1% to $7,986,162. Breakout on-track handle for Pimlico was not provided by MJC officials.

Much of the perceived on-track decline can be attributed to a 30.6% drop in attendance to 77,850, the lowest crowd since the 1983 Preakness won by Deputed Testamony on a sloppy track, and the first time the event has fielded a gathering under 100,000 since 1996.

Chuckas and other MJC officials heard bountiful criticism from Preakness party-goers who this year weren’t allowed to bring their own beer to the infield. But Chuckas stands firm on his decision to put the ban in effect.

“I believe this is a process that will take about two years,” he said. “And I believe at the end of the two years, it will be a marquee event that people will come to, and they will recognize the quality and the benefit.”

Among those benefitting from the increased wagering was online betting company, which said it handled a Preakness-day record $4.6 million. The total was up 6% from the previous record of $4.4 million wagered 2007, and a 145% increase in handle from 2008, when the company did not carry the Preakness signal. said it was the fifth-highest wagering total in company history.