Kentucky Derby 150 Produces Record Handle And Thrilling Finish

Kentucky Derby 150 Produces Record Handle And Thrilling Finish
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

Churchill Downs could not have asked for anything more for Kentucky Derby 150. The annual race held at the Louisville track celebrated a milestone occasion with spectacular weather, a historic win in one of the closest finishes ever and yet another record handle for thoroughbred racing’s premier event.

As forecasted last week, wagering on the 2024 edition of the Run for the Roses did indeed break $200 million. Churchill Downs reported late Saturday the Derby handle reached $210.7 million, breaking the record of $188.7 million set last year by 11.7%. 

For the entire card Saturday, bettors wagered $320.5 million, eclipsing the record of $288.7 million last year by 11%. Not a bad showing for Kentucky sports betting.

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Bets To Win Boost Kentucky Derby Handle Again

Fueling the Kentucky Derby handle growth over the past two years has been the amount of money wagered on horses to win the race. This year, bettors put down nearly $72.5 million across the 20 horses entered in the race. That was up 19% from last year’s total of $60.9 million and an increase of 45.1% over the total win pool of nearly $50 million from the 2022 race.

In fact, the amount wagered on just bets to win this year nearly equaled the $75.6 million wagered on win, place and show bets in 2022.

The sharp increase in the win pool comes after FanDuel integrated its racing app with its sports betting app. That move has enabled customers of the Flutter Entertainment brand in 15 states to use money from their sports betting account to place horse racing wagers. 

FanDuel Kentucky offered a Derby promo to new and existing customers that allowed them to receive a credit of up to $20 if their first Derby wager to win did not cash.

A spokesperson from FanDuel told BetKentucky on Monday that the Derby was a banner day for the operator as well. More than 700,000 customers bet on the race this year – that’s more people than the population of Louisville. FanDuel estimates more than 200,000 bettors were using the racing tie-in for the first time this past weekend.

“Peak bets were at Super Bowl levels and platform performed without interruption,” the spokesperson said. “Kentucky FanDuel Sportsbook customers over-indexed other states with very high rates of play.”

Given that FanDuel, like DraftKings and other sportsbooks, has emphasized parlay products for its sports betting app, the question becomes when it will promote racing’s exotic wagers. Bets like exactas, trifectas, daily doubles and Pick 3s are racing’s parlay markets.

Milestone Derby Proved To Be Historic, Too

Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby 150 in thrilling fashion. The 3-year-old colt took the lead coming out of the final turn and then held off a hard-charging duo of Sierra Leone and Forever Young to claim the garland of roses by a nose at the wire. It was the first time since the 1947 Derby that the top three horses finished within a nose of each other.

The photo finish also gave trainer Kenny McPeek and jockey Brian Hernandez their first wins in the Derby. That duo also got in the winner’s circle for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks with Thorpedo Anna. It marked the first time a trainer won both races in the same year since Ben Jones had done it in 1952. Hernandez became the first jockey to ride both winners in the same year since Calvin Borel accomplished that in 2009.
McPeek on Sunday credited Hernandez for a stellar ride as Mystik Dan broke strong and took the rail. Track Phantom took the early lead, but Hernandez kept Mystik Dan along the rail and within striking distance.

Going off at 18-1, Mystik Dan paid $39.22, $16.32 to place and $10 to show. Sierra Leone bettors earned $6.54 to place and $4.64, while Forever Young rewarded place bettors with $5.58 to show. All payouts are based on $2 wagers.

Will Mystik Dan Vie For The Preakness?

The Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, takes place on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. McPeek, though, told reporters Sunday he’s not 100% certain about running his Derby winner again in two weeks. He tried a similar turnaround last November after Mystik Dan broke his maiden at Churchill Downs, but the colt labored to a fifth-place showing in the next race.

McPeek factored that into Mystik Dan’s Derby prep schedule. After they won the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas on Feb. 3, McPeek opted to keep his horse out of Oaklawn’s next Derby Prep, the Rebel Stakes, because it was just three weeks later.

“When I ran him back in two weeks, it completely backfired… So we’ll watch him over the next week and probably decide then. It will be a last-minute decision,” the trainer said. “We’ll let him tell us.” is your go-to source for the latest sports betting and racing news, plus the best Kentucky sportsbook promos.

USA Today photo by Jeff Faughender.



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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