Churchill Downs, FanDuel Report Large Increases In Horse Racing Bets This Spring

Churchill Downs, FanDuel Report Large Increases In Horse Racing Bets This Spring
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

Churchill Downs wrapped up a historic Spring Meet on Sunday, with the Louisville track announcing bettors smashed the previous record for the handle across Kentucky sports betting.

Over the 43 days of the meet, bettors put down $708.3 million, breaking the previous high-water mark of $614.8 million set two years ago by more than 15%. That works out to an average of nearly $1.7 million wagered on each of the 418 races. Fans and handicappers had a lot of options from which to choose, as Churchill’s races had an average field of more than eight horses.

The record handle comes one year after Churchill Downs officials voluntarily stopped racing during the middle of last year’s Spring Meet after 12 horses suffered fatal injuries at the track. Thanks to proceeds from historical horse racing, Churchill Downs was also able to offer its largest purses ever. 

In all, horsemen competed for $58 million in prizes, with the average race offering $139,000.

“From record prize money to large fields, high-quality participants, robust wagering and large payouts, this year’s record-breaking Spring Meet delivered all-around positive results,” Track President Mike Anderson said in a statement.

More than half of the handle came during the meet’s first week, which included the Kentucky Derby and Oaks cards. Most of that occurred on Kentucky Derby Day, when a total of $320.5 million, also a record, was wagered. The Derby itself also made history as its $210.7 million handle broke $200 million for the first time and grew by 11.7% from last year’s $188.7 million, which itself was a record total.

FanDuel Sees Growth In Handle, Bettors

Speaking of the Derby, it ended up being a big Triple Crown season for FanDuel Kentucky, too. The sports betting operator told BetKentucky last week that it saw double-digit growth in the use of the parimutuel racing app that shares a wallet with its sports betting site.

FanDuel reported that its share of the handle for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes races rose by more than 10% compared to last year. The number of users placing bets on the racing app for three of racing’s marquee events grew by more than 15% from the 2023 Triple Crown races.

The FanDuel racing app is the only app that shares funds with a fixed-odds sportsbook site, meaning users do not need to deposit money into a new account to place wagers. More than 800,000 FanDuel accountholders now make wagers on horse racing, which the Flutter Entertainment flagship brand said represented double-digit growth from 2023.

How FanDuel Helps Racing’s Big Events

All three Triple Crown races likely benefitted from the FanDuel racing app as each event saw increases in the handle for races. Besides Churchill’s record Derby Day, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore reported more than $57.9 million was bet on the Preakness Stakes, which took place on May 18. That total represented a 7% increase from last year’s running.

Three weeks later, officials with the New York Racing Association revealed wagering on the Belmont Stakes rose to $60.9 million this year, up 7.7% over last year. 

Wagering went up even though there was no Triple Crown at stake this year and the final leg of the series was run at Saratoga Race Course instead of Belmont Park, which is undergoing a massive restructuring. Moving the race also forced NYRA officials to shorten the race from its traditional 1-1/2-mile length to 1-1/4 miles to accommodate for the upstate New York track. 

Where FanDuel’s influence on the race is most likely felt is through wagers on horses to win the race. The handle for those wagers outpaced the growth of the total handle for the races, which include betting on exactas, trifectas, daily doubles and multi-race jackpot pools. That’s because FanDuel’s racing app promotes the bets to win on the home screen, similar to how the sports betting app promotes the operator’s same game parlay wagers.

At Churchill Downs, bets to win on Kentucky Derby 150 accounted for $72.5 million, up 19% from the 2023 edition of the race. Preakness bets to win increased by 12.3% from last year to $17.3 million this year, and Belmont’s win pool grew by 12.2% to $16.7 million.

USA Today photo by Salgu Wissmath.

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Author

Steve Bittenbender

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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