SBD/November 4, 2013/Events and Attractions

Handle At Breeders' Cup Rises For First Time In Three Years; Attendance Sees Jump

Santa Anita next year will host its fifth Breeders' Cup in seven seasons
Handle at this weekend's Breeders’ Cup "rose for the first time in three years this year, despite the event having one fewer race," according to Matt Hegarty of DAILY RACING FORM. Handle on the 14 races this weekend was $135.5M, up 6.8% "compared to preliminary reported handle" of $126.8M on 15 races last year. Handle on last year's races was down 9.5% compared to '11, when the event was held at Churchill Downs, a "decline that was blamed in part on the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy." Wagering this year "was bolstered by a record pick five pool" that drew $5.5M in Saturday bets "following a carryover of almost $900,000 when no one hit the bet on Friday." Wagering was "especially strong early on in the Breeders’ Cup slate of Saturday races, but betting began to soften at the midpoint, a phenomenon that occurred on last year’s Saturday card as well." Overall, "betting was up on the Classic." The event "reported a crowd of 58,795 on Saturday, a gain of 6.6 percent over the Saturday crowd last year." The Breeders’ Cup "put together a lineup of pop-music stars to perform in the infield on Saturday, a first for that type of promotion, and attendance in the infield appeared to be sparse all day despite the entertainment." On Friday, when five races were held, attendance was 35,833, up 3.5% over last year’s Friday crowd (DRF.com, 11/3).

I LOVE L.A.: In L.A., Bill Dwyre wrote the announced attendance and November sunshine in Southern California "may continue to nudge Breeders' Cup officials toward making Santa Anita a semi-permanent home" (L.A. TIMES, 11/3). In N.Y., Tom Pedulla wrote the Breeders’ Cup is "set to return here next year, the fifth time in seven seasons the event will be held at Santa Anita." The setting "is grand and the weather ideal, but the focus on the West Coast has its critics." Horse owner Ed Stanco "is among the most outspoken owners in believing the event should visit a larger number of venues." He said, “If it’s a Breeders’ Cup championship, it should move around. If you don’t move it around, all it becomes is the California championships.” Stanco also "believes thoroughbred racing will miss opportunities if the trend continues." Stanco: “The biggest problem we have is fan interest. The best way to develop fan interest is to bring the game to them" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/3).

UNENVIABLE POSITION: ESPN.com's Jay Cronley noted horse Secret Compass broke a leg in the first race Saturday and had to be put down "just before network coverage clicked on." Cronley asked, "What's to be done about a Breeder's Cup horse that dies on the racetrack on one of the industry's biggest days?" Fans are "probably not going to hear announced over the public-address system to all those late arrivals that a Breeders' Cup horse died." Cronley: "You're not going to hear anybody talking about the dead horse on the prime-time coverage" (ESPN.com, 11/2).

WRAPPING UP: In Louisville, Jennie Rees noted the Breeders’ Cup’s “The Best Is Yet To Come” theme song "seems to run counter to Jockey Club efforts to introduce more twenty-somethings to the sport." Last year it was Tony Bennett "singing the old Frank Sinatra song." This year it was Kristin Chenoweth "belting it out." Meanwhile, though attendance Saturday was announced at 58,795, there were "lots of empty parking spaces." The weather "was perfect, but that number still lags far behind any of the eight Breeders’ Cup Saturday programs held at Churchill Downs" (COURIER-JOURNAL.com, 11/3).
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