Kentucky Derby wagering easily set a new handle record Saturday with the $179 million total up 8% over the previous mark of $165.5 million set in 2019, according to figures released by Churchill Downs.
One can only imagine how big legal Kentucky sports betting on sports other than horse racing would be. Unfortunately, it has not been approved by the state. The latest bill fell short in this year’s legislative session.
Saturday’s announced Derby crowd of 147,000 was far from the record of more than 170,000 set in 2015, but they saw Rich Strike win a thrilling race at 80-1 odds, the second longest odds for a winner after Donerail (91-1) in 1913.
The handle figure of this year’s race was up 15% over last year’s race. The event seemed more normal after dealing with COVID restrictions the last two years, including 2020, when the race was run on Sept 5, not the traditional first Saturday in May.
Churchill Downs also announced that wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Derby Day card was a record $273.8 million, up 17% over 2021 and an increase of 9% from the previous record in 2019 of $250.9 million. All-sources handle for Derby Week also set a new record at $391.8 million, an increase of 25% from 2021 and up 14% from the previous record of $343.0 million set in 2019.
“We are deeply grateful to all of the fans of the Kentucky Derby around the world who once again made this an amazing and memorable experience,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs, said in the release. “We expect the Kentucky Derby Week Adjusted EBITDA to reflect another record with $7 to $9 million of growth over the prior record in 2019.”
A Big Day for the Oaks, Too
It was also a record-setting day for handle in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race was $24.3 million, an increase of 40% from 2021 and up 25% from the previous record set in 2019, according to a Churchill Downs release. The race was won by Secret Oath.
“The 148th Kentucky Oaks will be remembered as a triumphant return to a full-capacity crowd. We thank the fans, sponsors, horsemen, horseplayers and all participants who contributed to today’s record-breaking success,” Churchill Downs President Mike Anderson said in a release.
Derby Proves Memorable
Those hoping for a normal Derby race saw a stunning finish from a horse that didn’t even get into the field until the day before the race. But Rich Strike rallied from far back in the field to win by 3/4 of a length. Rich Strike covered the mile and a quarter in 2:02.61 on a fast track.
It was a memorable race. And at least there wasn’t a disqualification.
In two of the last three Derbies (2109 and 2021), the winning horses were eventually disqualified for different reasons.
In 2020, Authentic won the race at 8-1, but that was the race held in September with no paying spectators in attendance at Churchill Downs.
So at least Saturday’s race ended without controversy and with a decent crowd in attendance.
On to Baltimore for Preakness?
Rich Strike will likely head to Baltimore and the Preakness Stakes on May 21, although trainer Eric Reed and owner Rick Dawson wanted to see how Rich Strike looked after a few days. The invitation has been extended by Preakness officials.
The second- and third-place finishers in the Derby — Epicenter and Zandon — could join the Preakness field also. The race usually has a smaller field and sees a few horses that didn’t run the Derby.
Cloud Computing won the 2017 Preakness after not running in the Derby two weeks before. At 12-1 odds, Cloud Computing looked like a fresher horse in beating Classic Empire. Derby winner Always Dreaming finished eighth in the 10-horse field.