Next month’s 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, sold out months ago, and demand for tickets on the secondary market continues to heat up. Demand for tickets was immediately evident when tickets first became available to the general public in March, as This is Horse Racing reported that 60,000 of the 77,000 tickets for the two-day event were sold within a single day.
At the time of publishing, ticket re-seller Stubhub showed the cheapest available general admission tickets for the sold-out Breeders’ Cup Saturday to be $220 per ticket, a price point that is rapidly approaching four times the original face value of $60. However, it’s not just the Breeders’ Cup and the Keeneland track that are experiencing unprecedented demand and sold-out grandstands from horse racing fans this year. Horse racing in the United States received a much-needed shot in the arm this summer as American Pharoah galloped to victory at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes, becoming America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Higher wagering totals, better TV ratings, sellout crowds, and more media coverage are all part of what some have labeled as the “American Pharoah Effect”.
The impact has been staggering, as sold-out crowds have been reported at virtually every major horse race in the country since the Belmont Stakes. In the immediate aftermath of the Triple Crown win, reserved seats for the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park sold out seven weeks before the August 2 event based on mere rumors of American Pharoah’s participation in the race according to App.com.
Less than a week later, ratings for the NBC telecast of the Whitney Handicap, a race in which American Pharoah did not even participate, were reportedly up by over 40 percent compared to 2014, leading many observers to suggest that the American Pharoah effect was indeed very real.
Rising tide lifts all boats – the American Pharoah effect is real. https://t.co/MXq9MhKT8s
— Sean O'Leary (@stholeary) August 12, 2015
NBC's Sunday telecast of the Whitney Handicap as part of the @BreedersCup Challenge Series averaged 994,000 viewers – up 40% from '14
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) August 12, 2015
The Albany Business Review reported that attendance was capped at 50,000 as tickets easily sold out for the August 29 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, NY, where American Pharoah was ultimately upset by fellow thoroughbred Keen Ice. Despite the shocking loss being described by some as one of the top five upsets of a Triple Crown winner all-time, the setback has done little or nothing to temper enthusiasm about horse racing’s newest phenomenon taking part in the sport’s final (and arguably biggest) race of the year in October at the Breeders’ Cup.
With record attendance figures at sold-out tracks around the country, sharply higher TV ratings, and staggering volumes of money being wagered on races, horse racing is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the interest spurred by American Pharoah’s journey. However, the long-term impact is less certain, as Keith Chamblin, the NTRA’s chief operating officer, suggested to Sports Illustrated.
“American Pharoah gives us a shot at all sports fans, not just the core group. It’s up to us to figure out how to hang onto as many as we can.”
If sold-out grandstands remain commonplace when the 2016 Kentucky Derby rolls around next May, the longevity of the American Pharoah effect will be unmistakable.
[Image Credit: Al Bello / Getty Images Sport]