Breeders' Cup Wagering History
We already know that the Breeders’ Cup World Championships have a rich and progressive history, and while the event has grown over the years so has the interest shown in it by bettors right across the country and beyond.
Betting on horses is as old as the sport itself and betting on the Breeders’ Cup in particular is becoming as popular as wagering on the Triple Crown.
The Early Years
When the Breeders’ Cup began back in 1984, the handle at Hollywood Park was reported as $19.4million, the day Wild Again won the first ever Classic. Back then the only possible way to play was to be at the California track or to be in a legal off-track betting location.
Despite much of the horse racing public not fully understanding the Breeders’ Cup at first, they soon got to grips with it and became encapsulated. The handle grew steadily as the began to spread, the handle growing from $28.3million at Aqueduct in 1985 to $57.5million at Gulfstream in 1989.
Things had settled as we hit the 90’s, the handle at Belmont Park being $56.7million but when the roadshow moved on to Churchill Downs in 1991 things exploded. The amount bet at the meet had now jumped to over $70.5million as people truly got the grips with the idea of betting on horses from all around the country as well as Europe and beyond.
Pros Learning to Handicap the Championships
Up to this point, most horseplayers had been used to betting on horses running within their own state or challenging for the now very well-established Triple Crown races. Betting on the Breeders’ Cup though is very different than betting on the Kentucky Derby for instance, as handicappers are given the task of checking out top contenders for races ranging from six furlongs to 1½ miles and of all ages.
The Championships began to present a host of different angles for bettors to look at, given that as a year-end meet a lot of horses show different form to what they did in the spring. A player looking to bet the bet the Preakness Stakes for example is looking for a speedy horse who has been showing great form since around March, but it’s highly unlikely the same horse will end up being one of the top Breeders’ Cup contenders in say, the Classic.
The Rise and Rise of Wagering at the Breeders’ Cup
The Breeders’ Cup had made a big impression on the wagering community from its inception until the mid-90’s, but it had nowhere near reached its peak that’s for sure. In ’97 at Hollywood Park, favorites won FIVE of the 7 Championship races meaning many happy bettors. The following year, the previous success of the betting community and the biggest single day Breeders’ Cup crowd of over 80,000 at Churchill Downs meant the handle jumped significantly to $91.3million, topping $100million for the first time the following season at Gulfstream which debuted a new 8-race card.
The handle, along with the global popularity of the Championships, grew steadily. In the UK, there were no areas where online betting was illegal or restricted and after the advent of betting exchange Betfair in 2000, interest in the Breeders’ Cup form overseas was reaching new heights.
The handle continued to rise steadily as Santa Anita, Lone Star Park and Belmont all did their bit in the early part of the millennium with every year being a little different. The Championships moving from track to track of course means that handicappers are kept on their toes.
Those who bet the Belmont Stakes will tell you that it takes a certain type to win around the Big Sandy, something that bettors had to factor in when the New York track hosted in 2005 but it was the following year that saw another key moment in the history of this event.
In 2006 at Churchill Downs, purses suddenly jumped from $14million to $20million and the handle grew significantly with it as yet again the Breeders’ Cup took another jump forward. One year later we had the first two-day meet at Monmouth Park and despite the financial crash, the end of the decade saw handles rising continuously as the Championships’ confirmed their place worldwide as one of the biggest betting events in the world of horse racing alongside the Melbourne Cup, the Grand National and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Modern Betting at the Breeders’ Cup
Even after all these years you can still come to the track, walk up to the teller and simply vocalize your bet. Things have sure moved on off the track though. Legal online betting is a huge contributor to the sport and in 2019, more money than ever before was bet on the internet on these Championships. TVG’s Breeders’ Cup pages will have information on contenders, odds, history and so much more making them they key destination for those looking to handicap and bet on the Breeders’ Cup.