The overall pari-mutuel results from the 2017 Breeders’ Cup were routine.  Handle from all-sources wagering (on-track plus off-track) on the two-day event was $166.1 million, which was an increase of 5.5% over the total handle in 2016 at Santa Anita and an increase of 6.8% over the aggregate handle in 2015 at Keeneland.

However, obscured in the all-sources figures, is a truly amazing statistic having to do with on-track wagering.  I took the two-day on-track betting on the Breeders’ Cup in each of the last three years and divided it by the corresponding two-day attendance to derive a per-capita betting statistic.  Following are the numbers:

Per-Capita Betting

2017 Del Mar $375.59 (on-track handle $25,181,317, attendance 70,420)

2016 Santa Anita $175.07 (on-track handle $20,742,847, attendance 118,484)

2015 Keeneland $218.31 (on-track handle $20,663,054, attendance 94,652)

Thus the Del Mar per-capita wagering was a multiple of 2.15 over Santa Anita per-capita wagering in 2016 and 1.72 times greater than the per-capita betting at Keeneland in 2015.

In the 34-year history of the Breeders’ Cup, nothing has approached the magnitude of per-capita handle that occurred at Del Mar in 2017 and the size of the year-over-year increase.

The weather would not be a factor because Santa Anita had the approximate conditions in 2016.  The quality of the card was also unlikely the cause in that American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah ran his last race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2015.

Whatever the reason, it is safe to say that the attendees at the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup were unrivaled in Breeders’ Cup history in terms of their willingness to open their wallets to bet.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


  1. Bill Shanklin says

    I don’t have data to indicate why the per-capita handle at Del Mar was so high compared to previous Breeders’ Cups. My intuition is that when Del Mar limited ticket sales to 37,500 people on Friday and the same on Saturday, they attracted a large percentage of true horse racing fans and not so many people who are casual fans or just came for a good time…like the infield crowd at the Kentucky Derby. The true fans bet more.

  2. The 2016 SA attendance numbers were horribly inflated vs actual attendance. Not one person believed the attendance numbers they publicized. So those per capita #’s are totally false.

  3. Totally false is your statement, ITP. The attendance figures at all of the previous BCs were not inflated. I was at Keeneland two years ago and the crowd was packed in.

  4. Bill Shanklin says

    Thank you for your take, ITP. In order for the 2016 Santa Anita per-capita betting figure to equal the 2017 Del Mar per-capita betting figure, the actual attendance at Santa Anita would have to have been 55,227 people for the two-day event: $20,742,847/x = $375.59 and x = 55,227. In other words, the reported figures would have been inflated by 63,257 people (118,484-55,227).

    In addition, as Randy points out in his comment, no Breeders’ Cup ever rivaled the per-capita betting at Del Mar.

  5. Randy…you can ask any SA journalist or anybody who is familiar with the plant and they will tell you almost unanimously that the numbers were horribly inflated. There was even an entire article on Paulick Report written by Ray saying the numbers were a complete farce. I said nothing about KEE being inflated and believe those numbers to be accurate. I was at both by the way.