UPDATED: Breeders’ Cup Losing Betting Race to Kentucky Derby

by | 11.10.2014 | 2:47pm

With $7.3 million in non-commingled international wagers added to previously reported pari-mutuel handle figures on the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 Breeders Cup, a total of $135,542,834 was wagered on the 13 championship day races from Santa Anita Park. That's down from the $139,418,666 wagered on 14 races in 2013 and ranks this year's Breeders' Cup handle fifth in the eight years since the championships were expanded to two days in 2007.

(Note: As the original version of this article stated, the $128,213,400 reported immediately after this year's event did not include non-common pool wagers.)

This year's totals reflect a gain of 16 percent in total handle from 2005, when a one-day Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park handled $116,434,571 on eight races but is 14 percent lower than the all-time record of $158,396,798 bet on 14 races at Churchill Downs in 2010. (Note: The original version of this article incorrectly said reported handle was the lowest since 2005.)

By contrast, annual U.S. wagering on all Thoroughbred racing has fallen by 25 percent over the last decade, from $14.6 billion in 2005 to $10.9 billion in 2013. At least Breeders' Cup is doing better than the national trend.

However, the sport's biggest one-day event, the Kentucky Derby, has shown significant growth in 10 years. The 2014 Derby Day handle of $186.6 million is 20 percent higher than in 2005, when Churchill Downs reported $155.8 million in wagers on the card (wagering on the Derby itself grew from $104 million to $129.2 million).

For most of the 1990s, more money was wagered on the Breeders' Cup than on the Kentucky Derby day card. Both programs hit $100 million in total handle for the first time in 2000 ($101,455,291 for the Derby and $101,283,427 for Breeders' Cup), but since then the springtime classic has steadily pulled ahead of the autumn championship.

Handle is important to the Breeders' Cup. Here's why.

According to the latest Breeders' Cup IRS Form 990 for 2012, $15.3 million of the organization's annual revenue of $40.9 million came from “simulcast fees and host track contributions.” That's more than the $14.3 million in revenue from stallion and foal nominations, and the $8.3 million in entry fees.

It's hard to make the case that stallion and foal nominations are going to grow, and the only way to increase entry fee revenue is to charge more to owners to run their horses.

This year's Breeders' Cup had the largest average field size (12.2 starters per race for 13 races) since 2006, when the average field size for eight races was 13 starters. Weather in Southern California on Oct. 31-Nov. 1 was perfect, there was no storm to blame on the East Coast as there was in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated several states and heavily impacted all kinds of commerce, including pari-mutuel wagering.

This year's Breeders' Cup Classic was a very compelling race with the unbeaten Shared Belief taking on Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome for the first time.

Everything seemed to be in alignment for a huge day.

Yet total wagering (with one less Breeders' Cup race than in 2013) declined, as did the average number of dollars in bets generated by each of the 159 starters. With one fewer race, the average wagered per race rose.

Breeders' Cup Handle_The event itself is becoming more attractive to patrons who desire an upscale experience. Food, fashion and entertainment play a bigger role at the Breeders' Cup than ever before. Ticket prices have gone up to reflect that.

Still, pari-mutuel handle on a two-day, 13-race Breeders' Cup is less than one percent higher than it was in 2006 on a one-day, eight-race event. Something about that doesn't seem right. If the Kentucky Derby can grow by 20 percent over the same time frame, shouldn't we expect the Breeders' Cup to keep pace?

CLARIFICATION: The accompanying table has been updated with figures for 2014 to include international wagers that were not commingled with U.S. pools. The totals rank the 2014 Breeders' Cup the fifth-highest since the event was expanded to two days in 2007. Average amount wagered per Breeders' Cup race increased from 2013. Wagering on the 2014 event was higher by  $1,184,554 than the $134,357,846 wagered in 2006, an increase of less than one percent, not lower, as originally reported.

  • davidinD

    On top of the bad news is the reality that the BC Betting Challenge would have already boosted the handle figures reported in the story. Does anyone know how much of the handle can be attributed to those contest players?

    • Herewego

      $3,929,000 was wagered by BCBC players over both days. Don’t know what the breakdown between Friday and Saturday was.

      • davidinD

        Thanks for the information, do you know how many contestants participated?

        • scrubs

          289 persons participated.

  • kyle

    Easy fix: eliminate breakage and get the win/place/show pools down to 10-12%. Do that and the BC would handle $250-300 million.

    • davidinD

      Do you know if anyone has ever done a formal economic study on the returns related to cutting takeout rates?

      • kyle

        Search and ye shall find. The studies all show the same thing – lowering takeout increases handle/increasing takeout lowers handle. We don’t need studies though, we have a large set of real world examples. Every carryover highlights the dynamic, as does the popularity of low take pick 5s. But takeout isn’t the only factor eroding handle. We are killing churn – and the lack of growth in BC betting numbers is a glowing example. You asked about the BC Challenge and its contribution to handle. It was significant – due in great part to how it creates churn, limiting the betting menu and confining plays to vertical wagers. My suggestion above ( which goes for the pari-mutuel world beyond The BC) is made with three objectives in mind – greasing the wheels of churn, reanimating the dead place and show pools, and keeping players in the game.

        • davidinD

          Thanks for the great answer Kyle. Sorry for my ignorance here but what is technically meant by ‘churn?’

          • Kyle

            Churn is the pari-mutuel equivalent of an economy’s velocity of money and handle is the game’s GDP. In order to increase GDP, i.e. handle, you can either increase the money supply (aggregate money potentially to be bet) or increase the velocity or churn- how frequently dollars are exchanged or re-bet.

          • davidinD

            Thanks Kyle, I assumed as much given the context of your original paragraph, and I’m grateful for the official clarification. Wouldn’t it be great if takeouts were more like 5% and handle was way up because of the increased churn.

            Also, I can’t believe that we still can’t see potential payouts for all the various bets you can make. Usually, at least on my platform, I can only clearly see the payouts for Win, Daily Double, and Exactas. I want to see everything instantaneously because it would assist sharp bettors with good arbitrage opportunities.

          • kyle

            Well, you want to optimize revenue through takeout. Given the universe of potential players and available gambling dollars ( at least things stand currently) my gut tells me straight pool takeouts in the 10-15% range coupled with the elimination of breakage would spur handle enough to increase overall revenue. I do see a place for lower rates in a dynamic system where takeout becomes, at least in part, a function of field size.

          • davidinD

            Just to flag you Kyle (so you see this), I referred Ben to you in the post above.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Maybe, I expressed myself wrong. If your having an winner 30-1 and an couple 160-1, than the total betting turnover will be low, as with these unexpected winners, The total pool will be divided over less people. You can spent any dollar just once.

          • Ben van den Brink

            DavidinD, Do you know btw, whether there have been high pay out on winners, or exacta,s early in the Card, people overhere that when there are high pay out early at the card, the total betting turnover for the whole card will be low.

          • davidinD

            That’s an interesting thought Ben, I don’t know. Kyle, do you know?

        • Concerned Observer

          Gross oversimplification. When the reduced takeout gets to the point that it also reduces the total return to the tracks and the horse owners purses…what is the point? Betting just for bettors sake?

          That is what alley crap games are for…zero takeout.

          • kyle

            I don’t know what you think is oversimplified. Obviously there is an optimal take and menu structure. I will infer from your post you recognize we are currently far from that – and on the low side we are not. With that you do not disagree or do you?

          • davidinD

            Where did Kyle say zero takeout? Your comment is a gross overreaction.

          • togahombre

            when the adw’s and especially the high end rebate shops offer ‘rewards’ and rebates too their better customers, their doing what kyle’s explaining except for the single runner pools, their reducing takeout on their own to encourage churn

  • WATER down the product (translation: grab the money) and guess what happens.
    Restore the BC to ONE day only.

    • Sinking Ship

      Totally agree, Don! The BC has expanded to the point where the races aren’t as meaningful as in years past, and as far as being a user-friendly experience for novices … it can be confusing for even grizzled racetrack veterans!

      • Sal Carcia

        Don, I don’t agree. The racing was outstanding this year. I really didn’t think it was watered down in any way. On the Friday, 2 of the races were Juvy turf races. These races are alway competitive and exciting.

        Royal Ascot is five days. I don’t see why the BC should be cut back.

        • Sal, comparisons are treacherous swamps.
          The BC has been around for a very short time and has nothing to do with an entire country’s cultural heritage.
          The best the BC frogs will ever be able to do down the road is convince Kim Kardashian to be Mare of The Day.

          • Stephanie Morse

            Jeeze Don, don’t give mama K any ideas!!

          • She’d never agree. It would involve a sex change.

          • Sal Carcia

            Fair enough about the analogy. I guess the only thing that makes sense to me is the BC has never appealed to the casual fans or a sports audience. Its appeal has always been among the serious fans. And the BC revenues are either flat or in slight decline as it is for the rest of the game.

          • jazz mania

            Don, sometimes horse racing is in a “treacherous swamp”…

            Why care about the Corporate Overlorded Kentucky Derby or the Superbreeder’s Cup Bowl when you can have a “Delta Jackpot” to celebrate the cultural heritage of at least 22 Louisiana Parishes complete with it’s own Swamp, Frogs, Boudin and Beer? Not to mention the cool million simolians in the pot.

            All this fuss over a quarter billion dollars+ wagered over a couple weekends and the difference in pennies is “bas clas” if you ask me ;)

        • Ben van den Brink

          You cannot compare them. Ascot is about beiing seen and has an long history.

          • Sal Carcia

            I agree. It is different.

    • Concerned Observer

      Last time I looked the Oaks day before the Derby keeps growing (now a 2 day event).

      This is all about horse racing in general. Only the real fans follow the breeders cup, and every year we have less real racing fans (and less overall handle).

      The Derby is a social, media and cultural event…draws a lot of people that do not see a race any other day in the year. Attending a Derby is on many non-fans bucket list.

      My wife hates football of any kind…..but pays attention on Superbowl Sunday. A similar one day annual event.

      Any comparison of racing’s overall situation to the KY Derby is naive marketing.

    • Ben van den Brink

      Maybe the place, is just wrong. Keeneland next yr would be much better for betting interest in the west or far west. Churchill Downs would be much better btw. Big seized track, more european like.

  • peeping tom

    You should increase entry fee revenue by charging owners more to run their horses. They’ll pay it. It’s called ego. And go back to 8 or 9 races held on one day.

    • Anna

      So charge owners more and eliminate the smaller stables and owners? Good idea.

    • idavis

      I wholeheartedly agree. One day event is much better.

  • Bellwether

    Drop the BC to a one day event…Drop the take out on all wagers…Show the entire card on NBC which in turn needs to advertise the event heavy one month ahead of the event…Fix all state lottery machines so they can handle Horse racing bets from coast to coast and then call Brinks!!!…

    • And get rid of all those idiotic undercard, non-BC races. It’s like watching a Triple A-ball club play the first two innings of a World Series game.

      • Bellwether

        Don…Please read my comment below…ty…

        • BW: With 85 comments to date and their elastic (yo-yo) positioning determined by the upvotes, I need a key phrase from your recommended comment to use “find.”

          • Bellwether

            Don…It’s six comments down from this one…

          • Thanks. Somehow, I can’t conceive of “state lottery machines” being programmed competently in this context. Remember NYC-OTB?
            On the other hand, anything can happen. Just look at the uniforms that the “Green” Bay Packers are wearing today (Sunday 11/16/14). They look like hand-held Pez Dispensers!

          • Bellwether

            And people thought the Steelers throwbacks looked bad!!!…”Anything can happen and it probably will”…Some how some way I pray it does for the sake of ‘The Game” and I really don’t pray!!!…ty…

    • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

      “Show the entire card on NBC which in turn needs to advertise the event heavy one month ahead of the event”

      That’s not going to happen. NBC has extended it’s $15M+ per year deal to broadcast Notre Dame football games through 2025.

      • Bellwether

        ND football will never be what it used to be as they just don’t get the top studs anymore…Horse racing has a lot better shot @ getting their tickets punched through the lottery machines than any sport in America…When the day comes one can place a Horse racing bet through the state lottery machines and go home and watch it on their TV sets it will send ‘The Game’ back to the TOP of the sports world where it rightfully belongs!!!…NBC has their foot in that door and one day soon they will have to kick it down…They just haven’t figured that part of it out yet…States like Virginia (took them 125 years to get turn right on red) will jump on this a lot quicker than they will legalizing “The Kush”!!!…

        • Bellwether

          ps…When it does happen the bulk of the gamblers/punters could care less if it’s a $3500 claiming race or the BCC!!!…

        • GAK

          You nailed it!!! Getting the lottery involved!!!

          • Bellwether

            It’s the “ONLY DEAL” that will bring ‘The Game’ into the 21st century!!!…TY…

      • Bellwether

        Northwestern 43 Notre Dame 40…See what I mean!!!…NBC needs to spend more bread on Horse Racing…

        • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

          No, I don’t see what you mean. I wasn’t suggesting that Notre Dame is particularly good but rather that NBC has made a major financial commitment to keep broadcasting Notre Dame games. And that financial commitment will always trump BC coverage whenever there is a time slot conflict. It’s just that simple.

          • Bellwether

            I see your point and you are right on time but they need to invest more on Horse racing as I truly believe the day is coming when we will be able to place a bet through lottery terminals and watch the races on the internet/tv…The money from the ponies will still stay in the states pockets just like the ping pong ball money…I believe this move just up the profits big time for the state and every one involved in ‘The Game’…A state like Va. would go for this a lot faster than legalizing Marijuana and they damn sure could use the $$$ you think???…Last time I saw the numbers on gambling Nation wide 85% of all gambling dollars went to the state lotteries less than 1% to Horse racing…Horse racing creates a hell of lot more jobs than ping pong balls!!!…I do know you care a ton about “The Game’ coming back to the top of the sports world where it belongs…ty…

          • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

            I agree with you that placing bets through lottery terminals is an interesting idea! Love your phrase “ping pong ball money.”

  • Richard C

    It is all about bringing the casual sports fan into the mix….and it starts with May v November…..the former has a lighter roster of sports events, while the Kentucky Derby starts the juicy Triple Crown quest – the latter is wall-to-wall college football and the mishmash of races must be explained to be understood.

    • Scott Goddard

      what he says…CDI has done a good job of growing their flagship product, but they didn’t have to buck the monster college football has become.

      • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

        NCAA football has become a multi-billion-dollar television and wagering juggernaut. It’s all about college football every Saturday in the fall. Racing in May has nothing even remotely close to that level of competition for viewing or wagering attention.

  • David

    The Kentucky Derby has demonstrated growth during an
    otherwise down period for the industry it resides. The reason is simply appeal for one of only a half dozen
    “American Classic” events transcends the industry’s core audience the other 364
    days. Breeders’ Cup patronage fails to
    capture the entire existing thoroughbred racing fan base much less anything
    beyond it. The southerly trend of
    betting in the BC is attributable to product life cycle factors, slippage of
    regular users, diminishing returns from increased number of races. Likely the most significant factor is the
    return to players fortunate enough to survive races where the majority of the
    field is capable of winning each race, is to such a small portion of the total
    amount of players. Hitting doubles is
    tough, and pick-3’s, pick-4’s requires spreads that make ticket costs almost
    prohibitive late in the card; trifectas and supers are nice for those handful
    that hit but how much of that action finds its way back to future pools? IMO returning breakage and lowering the hold
    would only help a bit, with increased handle and the track/BC netting
    down. BC and the industry needs to
    figure out how to distribute the return – regardless of the price – to a
    greater number of players.

  • Http

    Run the turf before 3:30 pm. This will create bigger pools because more Europeans will be able to watch and wager their local horses.

    • Jttf

      Belmont day brought in $150 million this year. The older divisions were healthier and the purses were less than half of the breeders cup. Enjoyed it just as much.

  • togahombre

    if the world series or the super bowl were promoted as a fashion or lifestyle event instead of a championship event you’d most likely see the same declines,they want to develop race fans; give them racing

    • Gaye Goodwin

      Amen. You don’t see Al Michaels and Cris Collisworth cutting away to a segment about how to make the perfect ballpark nacho…

      • They were really tempted to do just that on Monday night when Green Bay was ahead by 40+ points and there was still tons of time left in the 3rd Quarter.

        Albert, by the way, is going to latch onto those hair plug transplant commercials (triggered by the gauge on his bank account dipping below “$50 Million”).

        If they interrupt Gasbag Troy Aikman so that we can listen to one quarter of football without EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING ELSE being explained, I’m all for it.

    • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

      For the record, the popularity of the World Series as measured by the TV viewership numbers is in chaotic free fall, much worse than any declines suffered by the BC. The World Series is off more than 20% since 2005 and down more than 40% since 1999.

  • secondlife

    I can almost guarantee that the BC (and the other major horse races as well) get better TV ratings than your average college football game. Look up the Nielsen ratings and compare. If horse racing was marketed to death and discussed to infinity and beyond on ESPN like football is, maybe more people would know it exists and bet on it.

    And the BC almost always has better longshot bets than the KY Derby. I’d bet the BC juvenile fillies race over the Derby any day!

    • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

      I think you’re missing part of the point related to the competition with NCAA football. The BC is not competing with a single game on a single competing network but rather with multiple games on multiple networks being broadcast at the same time as the BCC on NBC. In total, the viewership for all of those NCAA games literally dwarfs the viewership for the BCC and that isn’t going to change. This year, on November 1st the BCC had to compete (in the same time slot) with the Oregon/Stanford game on Fox, Auburn/Mississippi on ESPN, Notre Dame/Navy on CBS, Arkansas/Mississippi State on ESPN2, Illinois/Ohio State or Oklahoma St./Kansas St. on ABC and several others on additional networks. It’s literally no contest and football wins out decisively.

      • secondlife

        When comparing TV ratings, you have to compare one time slot or TV show with another of the same time slot or similar category. It’s not really fair to count ALL football games as a group since most games have only regional and not national interest anyway. That would be like saying all the prime time shows on ABC for a whole week got better ratings than the KY Derby. Well maybe, but you can’t compare it that way.

        What I was trying to say is that it seems like the hype surrounding college football is totally out of proportion to how many people actually watch most games, when you look at TV ratings.

        • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

          I was indeed comparing the viewership of all games that ran in the same time slot as the BCC. That is the only comparison that is relevant IMO, not the comparison of only a single game that ran in the same time slot as the BCC. And by the way, each one of the games I listed individually outranked the BCC except for the Oregon/Stanford game. Collectively they crushed the ratings for the BCC.

          The point is that the BC is actually competing with the the audience for all NCAA football games running in the same time slot. It doesn’t matter which network, whether it’s of national or regional interest etc. Either way it’s competition for viewers that might otherwise tune in to the BC and it’s a battle the BC can never win.

  • It’s hard to compare apples to oranges. The Kentucky Derby is a wholly different experience. It is the All American horse racing experience about which everyone in America knows something. During Derby weekend, CDI also manages to typically get 225,000 – 300,000 people through their turnstiles every year, too. The Breeders’ Cup gets approximately half that. The Derby also is an event that has 140 years of history whereas the Breeders’ Cup has only been around since 1984. Nevertheless, for most horse players and industry insiders (at least those I know), the Breeders’ Cup is a far better experience. It’s better racing; is more elegant and more global.

    • jazz mania

      I totally agree. The KD markets itself through tradition etc. I know of at least three “Derby” parties in New Orleans where betting is picking numbers out of a hat. I’ve made “party favor” bets on the entire field for one of these.

      The OTBs here were jammed for the derby and were relatively quiet for the cup days this year.

      I don’t know of any “Breeders” parties. Most non racing regulars are unaware of its existence. Maybe they could put a cocktail in the cup.

  • Barbara Bowen

    Derby gets the infield party animals as well as the upscale. Breeders’ Cup catering only to the latter now. Good luck with that.

  • Alan Boyd

    I think it’s because it has been in fickle California for the past three years. Look at the Churchill Downs numbers. Kentucky loves horse racing and always will. I expect Keeneland to have a huge total handle despite a lower attendance number. Send it back to Churchill where it belongs and watch the money roll in. The average Joe can get a ticket to see the BC at Churchill. A ticket to the BC at Keeneland will be dicey for the average Joe.

    • Bob C

      Agreed. Check Breeders Cup attendance figures and the biggest ones have been at Churchill.

    • Bman

      Spot on. As beautiful as S.A. is, the BC needed venue change. The 6 1/2 downhill turf is incredible but not the fairest of courses. Please bring this amazing event back to NY. BTW, can you imagine if NBC had a chance to promote Rosie retiring on BC weekend, then she let’s the cat out of the bag as to why. Great story missed opportunity.

      • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

        The NYRA tracks have not even made a token bid for the BC over the last three years. Unless and until they do there is no chance of a BC in NY. If you want the BC back in NY then it’s time to complain to the NYRA to get off their butts and start competing with the other tracks who are bidding for the event.

  • glimmerglass

    This years’ BC Saturday could’ve brought in a much larger handle – and media focus – had horses like Wise Dan and euro star Magician both made the start. With both out well before Saturday (and many others dropping out) it deflated media focus which pumps up the public.

    Consider the BC unlucky this year in that regards but as others have said it has stumbled with watering itself down. I do think they are perhaps turning a corner with reviving the brand with more of a lifestyle vibe than it had in in the last decade. Yet for all the pretty young race fans churning out selfies and tweets it all comes down to the money pumped in.

    • Barbara Bowen

      Actually the absence of marquee horses made for more wide open betting races and full fields for the Mile. The lifestyle brand has excluded fans, not encouraged them to participate or bet. Breeders’ Cup made a wrong turn a few years ago (or certain board members were allowed to do so) and has foregone the concept of making product accessible.

      • WelbourneStud

        I agree that it shouldn’t be all glitz and glamour. There needs to be a balance to ensure the event is accessible to “Every-fan” and still make it a marquee social and racing event.

  • Michael Castellano

    After that outrageous Classic non call, expect money wagered to drop some more. With virtually no steward’s supervision, the races are becoming chariot/dart board races. The Derby has not sullied its reputation lately, but that’s another chariot race that almost guarantees that the winner will not be a 3 year old champion. A pox on both their houses, err. . . tracks.

    • Gaye Goodwin

      Ben Hur – exactly!

  • Karl Bittner

    It’s become a regional event out on the West Coast with all the beautiful people who show up and do not wager. A place to be seen if you live in that area. Return it to what it should be rotating to different tracks to increase it’s viability in different regions of the country. That’s just one simple proposal I have. The Product is outstanding you just need some vision to go along with it. I could come up with a plan in a few minutes that would work. But, as soon as you moved away from it’s original format you lost a large share of audience.

    • Waquoit

      You nailed it, Karl. It’s just plain unfair to the East Coast and Midwest fans to have the BC in CA all the time. It the racing fans that make the BC what it is, not the big stars like Bo Derek and Richie Sambora.

  • Miss The Magic

    The California Cup just isn’t as interesting as the BC once was. I guess the folks who actually bet the races aren,t that interested in the glitz and glamour, they just want good racing.

    • Rachel

      You have earned Comment of the Day

    • What “glitz & glamor” the BC has attracted to date mostly reminds me of the comment made by a trainer, about having to make a living by claiming horses (and then running them): “It’s like making a living going through garbage cans.”

      The BC is a Celebrity “C” List Magnet.

  • Austin Powers

    Breeders’ Cup’s decision to expand to two days was based on several factors, including wanting to create more opportunities for nominators to win BC races (and, in turn,hopefully creating more opportunity in the sales and breeding markets). In addition, so many people travel to the event on an annual basis, running it over two days instead of one helps to accommodate demand and allows the BC to reap two days of ticket revenue instead of one, which is important as nominations revenue has declined, as Ray points out here. It also helps create a similar big-event atmosphere as other international racing carnivals, something the BC board has felt was important to compete for major international stables. And, finally, it gives the BC additional sponsor benefits (e.g., this year’s Longines’ deal included entitlements both Friday and Saturday).

    While nominations revenue has declined (and as the BC board regrettably voted a year or so ago to reduce entry fees) and wagering revenue has held, Breeders’ Cup has been able to increase purses and benefits to nominators via the growth in ticket revenue.

    Churchill should be commended for the growth of Derby handle. Fortunately for Churchill Downs, that event is held at a time of the year when it is far easier to get casual fans and bettors interested in wagering — without the competition from college and professional football. Comparing the Breeders’ Cup to the Derby is the one sure way to diminish what Breeders’ Cup has done. Compare it to the other 363 days of racing in the US, and it looks pretty good.

    • togahombre

      the points you raise all seem to be directed at the business of the event rather than the racing, which i believe is where the handle gets its push from, unless the sponsors are international racing outfits and they bring some of their big guns, sponsorship branding, i don’t believe will affect handle, handle is affected by the participation of horseplayers as opposed to casual fans,horseplayers will follow and bet if it’s early,(royal ascot, dubai world cup, the arc) or if it’s late(melbourne cup, japan cup), casual fans need it to be presented at a suitable time, in an attractive place and under favorable circumstances, i don’t know what the handle figures were, but 1988 at churchill downs, the racing was more than memorable, some of the performances were legendary, more than just a few hall of fame runners won or competed that day,but lost on all that was the fact that it was conducted on a cold,wet,miserable day that concluded in the dark, it couldn’t have been scripted any better

      • Austin Powers

        I felt like Ray’s article was business/revenue focused. Thus the thoughts above. There are 4-5 ways Breeders’ Cup gets revenue: 1) nominations and entry fees; 2) wagering; 3) ticket sales; 4) sponsorships; 5) other (e.g., merchandise sales). As a not-for-profit, BC generates revenue to sustain itself, to create opportunities for people to race at the highest level and, in doing so, to promote the game. My point is that faced with declining foal and stallion nominations, part of a larger industry trend with a massive decline in the domestic foal population, Breeders’ Cup expanded from 1 day to 2 and from eight races to (now) 13. All this was consistent with its mission and, IMHO, a pretty nimble reaction to the change in the market. Its ticket revenue is about $8 million annually now. That money gets pumped back into purses and promotion. The event doesn’t demand a rights fee from network TV (hardly Breeders’ Cup’s fault), but Breeders’ Cup uses TV as a sponsorship platform and gets revenue that way.

        The Derby is a wagering tsunami — more than $100 million bet on the race. Ray’s basic argument here is somewhat specious. None of the other races Churchill cards on Oaks and Derby day are close to competitive with BC races. It’s really an apples to oranges comparison and not terribly fair to the Breeders’ Cup.

      • Kathleen Austin

        Very well thought out. Thank you.

  • Steven Tyre CPA

    If they oil sto robbing the fans with crazy high takeout things would improve.

  • Luke Vaughan

    One day BC is the way to go…Mr Reed is spot on !

  • Gaye Goodwin

    The ONLY race a non-racing civilian knows about is the Kentucky Derby(ugh!), or maybe, maybe, even those “other two” races that make up the Triple Crown.They recognize “Triple Crown”. It is unfortunate that ONE entity has the premier representation of the sport, and I think several people would debate that it has certainly gone to their heads. Perhaps the media, on “Derby Day” could talk more about the end of the year American Championship day of racing, in front of the audience that tunes in for 15 minutes. Yes, it could be done in place of having some celebrity chef showing off the food of the day, in place of the 15 minutes of air time spent discussing how to make a mint julep, and certainly in place of what celebrity is wearing what hat this year. Perhaps a discussion of how many three year olds are compromised for a further racing career in the quest to be in the starting gate, and how silly it is to make one race for young horses the benchmark for the industry might be brought up, in order to educate the audience about the joys of other types of racing and the usual superiority of the older handicap horses.

    • bryan e

      Brilliant. The broadcasters should talk about how bad for the horses the Derby is and how silly it is? That will really get people interested in horse racing. Why bother wasting your time with a comment like that? and who are these superior older handicap horses? 3 year olds finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the Classic.

  • Bellwether

    Let’s hope the powers that be on the Breeders Cup Board come on here and take a peak @ the comments from the “Old Timers” that damn sure know what’s going on and will help ‘The Game’/BC Thrive and Prosper!!!…

  • Noelle

    In my experience, people who don’t already go to the races haven’t a clue what the Breeders Cup is. When I mention going to the races, they invariably assume that I’m talking about NASCAR.

    IMO this is due to racing’s lack of any centralized management, and the sort of public relations and marketing efforts a powerful national organization could mount. Sure, the BC markets nationally, but their focus is on the BC, not on horseracing as a national pastime.

  • ron knox

    the 5 years at SA all show the lowest per race average

  • ptemple

    I’ve been a lover of horse racing since 1985. I loved the one-day BC program, and used to watch it from start to finish it (or tape it if a wedding or other obligation got in the way). Two days make it quite literally “too much of a good thing.” I have seen my own interest wane with the expansion. I didn’t even watch this year, except for the Classic, and even that was through DVR. I agree with those saying it should go back to fewer races and one day.

    • ptemple

      *start to finish

  • rhdelp

    The Kentucky Derby is a historical event embedded in the minds of people who really don’t watch racing in many cases but are familiar with the legacy through literature, movies, periodicals, parents or grandparents and assorted media. In many cases local papers in obscure towns cover pre race and the results in detail. Stepping out to bet on that race is a tradition or the the desire to be part of it, despite those very same people viewing the sport with skepticism throughout the year due to the perception of drugs and race fixing.

    California Chrome’s win in the Derby hit a cord with that demographic, great story surrounding the connections and people love underdogs. That same sentiment is a gift to every Derby winner which propels interest and anticipation throughout the Triple Crown due to it’s historical significance, like Mom and Apple Pie.

    Attending, despite the soaring expense, and/or betting on those races is also related to history and tradition that spans a century. Financial resources due to the state of the economy may not allow that tradition to continue in the future.

    Not to be disrespectful in any way to the Breeders Cup but that event can be viewed more along the lines as Teflon Racing to the loyal Derby demographic.

    It lacks history, is confusing, the Derby demographic is lost by June and marketing the event towards patrons who desire an upscale experience, reflected in ticket prices, contributes to the stagnation of the handle. Exclusion is a message sent rather than creating tradition. Food, fashion and entertainment playing a larger roll also projects an atmosphere of E News which is no way to cultivate tradition which propels the interest throughout the Triple Crown.

    Actually the way this event is marketed, to a narrow percentage of the population, can be related to the Derby demographics and what they experience: income inequality. This creates resentment and financial stress which leaves no room for gambling.

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