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The Curlin factor lifts ratings to new level

October 31, 2008 |  4:45 pm

From left, Henry the Navigator, Curlin, Student Council and eventual winner Raven's Pass compete in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

While the numbers aren't NFL-esque or even Phillies-Rays World Series-esque and not even Skate America-esque, last week's two-day, three-network coverage of the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita did bring more eyeballs to the sport, 62% more than in 2007 which was an 11% increase according to ESPN.

Two days of coverage was offered on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.

The increased viewing shows me how much star-power matters. Curlin has a name, and non-horse racing junkies were interested in seeing a star. Not that it's a new idea, but until racing figures out how to keep its best horses healthy and racing for more than one Triple Crown cycle, it will be hard to keep ratings on the rise.

In a totally unscientific survey of folks who gather at a local Tustin park every night with their dogs (so they're already inclined to love animals and therefore be more inclined to watch horse racing; I get that), two-thirds of them said they watched the Breeders' Cup because they wanted to see Curlin. Half of them said they hadn't paid attention to the Breeders' Cup last year but had read about Curlin this year (thanks Bill Dwyre).

So Curlin deserves a gourmet gift basket of oats/apples/hay or whatever else he loves shipped courtesy of ESPN.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: From left, Henry the Navigator, Curlin, Student Council and eventual winner Raven's Pass compete in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images

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