LEXINGTON, Ky. (November 17, 2015) – Super horse American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and the first horse to capture horse racing’s Grand Slam by also winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, record attendance and rave reviews for first-time host Keeneland Race Course powered the 32nd edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Although some had voiced concerns about Keeneland’s size, the track easily accommodated Breeders’ Cup guests from around the world over the two days with 50,155 on hand Saturday, October 31, a record attendance for Keeneland, on top of 44,947 on Friday, October 30, both a Keeneland record that stood for one day and a record attendance for a Breeders’ Cup Friday. With the high demand in North American racing’s home base in Central Kentucky and special high-end hospitality created specifically for the event, Breeders’ Cup more than doubled its ticketing revenue over the prior year.
“The 2015 Breeders’ Cup proved to be a resounding success in so many ways, but it starts with the remarkable work from the management and staff at Keeneland, whose attention to detail and superb execution created a spectacular racing event for all,” said Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup President and CEO. “We also thank the Lexington business community and to the KentuckyOne Health Breeders’ Cup Festival for their dedication and commitment in support of the worldwide guests attending the Championships.”
In addition to the popularity of the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, ratings for NBC’s live broadcast of the Classic were the highest for a Breeders’ Cup in 20 years, since Cigar’s 1995 Classic at Belmont Park. The one-hour Classic window (5-6 p.m. ET) earned a 2.6/6 household rating, up 53% from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic hour (1.7/3) which was run in primetime.
The NBC Sports Group and Breeders’ Cup completed the first year of a 10-year extension that will keep the Championships on NBC and NBCSN through 2025.
Beyond American Pharoah’s tour de force in the Classic, this was one of the deepest editions of the Breeders’ Cup. The 161 total starters in the 13 Breeders’ Cup races, including 25 from overseas, had a total of 120 Grade/Group 1 wins among them, 288 total graded wins and 659 placements in Graded stakes. The average starters per race for the 2015 event increased to 12.4 over 12.2 from 2014 event with two late defections from the Classic. Seven of the races had full fields of 14. With the expansion of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge racing program to 78 races in 13 countries in 2015, 39 Challenge winners competed in the World Championships with six winning their respective divisions (American Pharaoh, Stephanie’s Kitten, Nyquist, Songbird, Runhappy and Catch a Glimpse ) and 25 earning first through fifth-place purse money.
“This year’s World Championships ranks at the highest level of international competition,” Fravel added. “We salute the owners, trainers and jockeys who participated and attended to the extraordinarily talented horses that ran in this year’s World Championships.”
In total, all-sources wagering including separate pools was also down slightly. The 2015 figure of $155.5 million was down 2.4% from the $159.4 in 2014, due in part to no Breeders’ Cup wagering in Hong Kong this year. Common-pool wagering on Saturday's 12-race Breeders' Cup card was $105,625,491, a slight decrease (.3%) from the 2014 handle of $105,979,062. The on-track handle for the two days at Keeneland was $20,663,054, up slightly (2.5%) over the $20,117,488 2014 on-track handle at Santa Anita.
With ticket sales capped at 45,000 for each day to ensure an optimal guest experience, the two-day total attendance of 95,102 was a slight decrease over the prior year at Santa Anita. (Total reported attendance at Keeneland included tickets sold as well as credentials issued.)
The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge was the largest to date, as the live-money handicapping event continued its steady growth. The total wagering by the record 322 players at Keeneland and the satellite locations of Belmont Park, Del Mar, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita was a record of $4,225,000 in contest wagers. A total of $3,096,223 million was wagered by 222 tournament players at Keeneland, which comprised 15% of the on-track handle over the two days of the Championships.
Driven both by American Pharaoh and an appearance in the post-race winner’s circle by supermodel, equestrienne and racing fan Kate Upton, Breeders’ Cup social media platforms experienced triple-digit growth year-over-year, with Breeders’ Cup official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audience reach the week of the event growing 148%, 150% and 420%, respectively. The official Breeders’ Cup website, www.breederscup.com, also made gains over the prior year with a 23% increase in unique visitors and a 13% increase in visitor sessions over 2014 during Breeders’ Cup week (Oct 26-Nov.1).
A record 52 corporate partners supported the World Championships at Keeneland in 2015 with new top-tier partners E*Trade, Maker’s Mark, TwinSpires.com, Sovaro Coolers and Adequan joining established partners Longines, Sentient Jet, 14 Hands Winery, John Deere, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held on Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.