Large Fields, Race Order Expected to Help Handle

Breeders' Cup officials hope large fields and a revised race order contribute to fuel solid wagering for the Oct. 29 World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park.

The fields will be announced when entries are taken Oct. 26, but as of Oct. 25 it appeared the smallest field would be 11, in the Alberto VO5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).

"Certainly the fields should make the entire day full of betting value with (11 to 14) horses in every race," said Ken Kirchner, senior vice president of product development for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "The pick six is still the biggest bet in the country, and hopefully with the addition of Canadians into the pick six pool, we can see an increase in handle."

Last year, the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 generated $4.6 million in handle. With the Canadian common pool, Kirchner said another $300,000 could be added and perhaps push the total to about $5 million.

The order of the eight Cup races this year wasn't set until pre-entries were announced Oct. 19.

"We worked backward from the Classic," Kirchner said. "We wanted to put the most formful races in the pick six. It was important to add the Distaff, with a strong favorite, into the pick six. The way that race came up, it made sense to slot it late in the card."

The Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) had been carded as the first race since 1999, but this year it will be the sixth event, just before the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) and the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).

The two races for 2-year-olds will kick off the program. Kirchner said with First Samurai a strong favorite in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), he said it's quite possible players would cash early in the card.

"You never know, of course, but hopefully if forms holds, the two juvenile races will be able to generate some churn early in the day. On paper, they both have solid top choices."

The program will feature two pick fours--the first four races (Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint), and the last four races (NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile, Distaff, Turf, and Classic).

Head2Head betting will be offered on all eight Cup races, and Kirchner said three or four of the events could have three-way head-to-head match-ups, which require a bettor to pick which horse will finish ahead of the other. Parlay wagering will be available on six of the eight races; bettors can choose which races they'd like to parlay in the Head2Head.

"Last year, a $2 parlay would have yielded $190," Kirchner said. "If that had been a $10 bet, you would have turned it into $900 and only had to beat six or eight other horses."

The Head2Head match-ups will be announced Oct. 26 at the post-draw breakfast. The wager has a 10% takeout rate, with breakage to a nickel, Kirchner said.

Tote-wise, Kirchner said security safeguards put into place in the wake of the Ultra Pick 6 fraud of 2002 are in effect this year--progressive scans of "pick" wagers, enhanced tote room security, and restricted access to the tote system. Common pooling with Canada requires "net pool pricing"--each jurisdiction sets its own takeout rates, so final payoffs vary. Additionally, some foreign countries are wagering directly into the Breeders' Cup pools.

"United Tote has done a lot of testing with all of the partners in the common pool," Kirchner said. "Hopefully, it will all work together. Any time you're dealing with multiple tote systems around the world and merging money into one pool, you cross your fingers."