Wagering on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby odds set a new record, even though the 149th edition of the race featured fewer horses and saw the late scratch of the presumed favorite.
According to Churchill Downs, wagering from all sources on the Derby totaled $188.7 million, exceeding the $179 million bet last year.
Mage, a 15-1 shot, surged past Two Phil’s in the final furlong to win the Derby in 2:01.57. He paid $32.42 on a $2 bet to win, $14.58 to place and $9.08 to show. Two Phil’s, the Jeff Ruby Steaks winner, paid $10.44 and $6.52. Angel of Empire, the 4-1 post-time favorite, finished third with a late charge and paid $4.70.
Even though this year’s Derby featured only 18 horses compared to a full 20-horse field last year, wagering was likely boosted by the presence of FanDuel Kentucky sportsbook. It marked the first major race where Flutter Entertainment brand’s single wallet, with the parimutuel racebook integrated into FanDuel’s fixed-odds online platform. That was expected to allow a larger audience, which may not utilize traditional online racing platforms, to wager on racing’s biggest event.
For the day, wagering on Churchill’s 14-race card also set a record with $288.7 million bet, breaking the former high-water mark of $273.8 million set last year. Those races also likely benefitted from FanDuel users having access to them.
Even with the Derby having its smallest non-COVID-related field since 18 horses also started in 2015, Churchill Downs had larger fields for its slate of races compared to last year. The conventional wisdom is that more horses in races lead to increased betting interest and an increase in handle.
The track also reported a record $74.9 million wagered on Friday’s card, which was highlighted by the Kentucky Oaks.
Kentucky sportsbooks will love to have a dominant presence in the races in the near future.
Plenty Of Unexpected Surprises Before Races
Derby Day started with some stunning news. Forte, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt who was expected to be the post-time favorite in the race, was scratched after a veterinarian watched the colt jog in the stable area and determined his bruised right front foot was hindering him enough to keep him off the track.
Forte had stumbled slightly in a workout earlier in the week, but Pletcher had insisted his horse was OK to run.
Besides Forte, other horses scratched from the race were Skinner, Practical Move, Lord Miles and Continuar.
With Forte out, the betting public made Angel of Empire the 4-1 favorite at post time, but it was Mage, who finished second to Forte in last month’s Florida Derby, who ended up earning the win.
Mage’s connections were noncommittal after the win about sending their champion to the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore in two weeks.
“I prefer it’s good to wait,” trainer Gustavo Delgado told reporters after the race. You can keep up with the latest Preakness Stakes odds with BetKentucky.com
It remains to be seen if Forte will be cleared for the race or if his connections may opt to point him to the Belmont Stakes on June 10. If both horses were to run at Pimlico on May 20, betting interest in the race would likely increase. Last after, after Rich Strike bypassed the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the handle for the Preakness was $65.3 million. That was down 5% from the record $68.3 million wagered in 2021.
Track everything you need to know about Belmont Stakes odds right here on BetKentucky.com.
Sadness Clouds Over Churchill Downs
Saturday was also marred by fatalities, with two more horses euthanized after they sustained injuries in Derby undercard races. The incidents involving Chloe’s Hope and Freezing Point, the number of horses who have died at the track at seven in the past week and a half.
Derby contender Wild on Ice died on April 27 after suffering an injury after completing a workout. Two horses by trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. died in races on April 30 and last Tuesday, which prompted the track to suspend the trainer. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission also pulled all of Joseph’s horses, including Lord Miles, from races at the track indefinitely.
In a six-paragraph statement issued late Saturday night, Churchill Downs corporate office said, “No discernable pattern detected in the injuries sustained.” The company will work with the KHRC and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to review each fatality to determine if any health or environmental causes need to be addressed.
“Together, we all want what is best for the horses,” the company said.
Racing is not set to resume at Churchill until Thursday.
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