The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse race in the world each year. That’s why it’s no surprise that the handle for the Kentucky Derby is also the highest of any race. Millions of people from around the world bet on the Kentucky Derby at various live tracks and online sportsbooks.
While it’s not known how much is bet everywhere, I have pulled up some numbers from Churchill Downs and all North American Racetracks in recent years. Let’s take a look at these betting totals, plus the attendance numbers.
Last year was a solid rebound year for the race after 2020 was rescheduled and heavily restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It ended up being the second-most bet Derby since 2003. There was a bit of controversy in 2021 with the on-track winner, Medina Spirit, being disqualified after the race and Mandaloun being named the official winner. The biggest problem with the result is that bets on the race were all paid as if Medina Spirit won since it would be virtually impossible to reverse the wager results with the testing coming well after most tickets had already been cashed.
We have included wagering totals for the entire day of racing (program), as well as the main event (race). On-track numbers show the amount of money wagered at Churchill downs on the day of the race, while the numbers from all source represent money coming in from all over the country at casinos/racetracks that offer simulcast betting on the Derby.
|Year||On-Track (Program)||On-Track (Race)||All Sources (Program)||All Sources (Race)|
|2021||Not Available||Not Available||$233.0m||$155.4m|
Attendance at the track came in at 51,838 in 2021. Most years the Derby attracts around 150,000 fans, however, sales were strictly limited for public health reasons as Covid-19 concerns still loomed large. We’d expect 2022 to be a big bounce back as race fans are no doubt ready to get back to the track for the biggest event of the year.
The record for attendance was set back in 2015 with 170,513 fans packed into Churchill Downs, but it has seen a steady decline from that peak ever since. Until there is a big name running like Bob Baffert’s American Pharaoh in 2015, these numbers are likely to remain near the average for the last 10-15 years.