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 an outlier due to not having fans in attendance with the COVID-19 pandemic. It also didn’t help that the race took place in September instead of early May. But things are mostly back to normal for the 2021 Kentucky Derby and handle should be way up again with this race taking place in the first weekend of May. There will be fans in attendance, but it won’t be full capacity.
Betting on the Kentucky Derby in 2019 set records across the board, including the simulcast at all North American racetracks. These wagers totaled $165.5 million last year, up 10% from $149.9 million in 2018. There really is nothing quite like it in the world of horse racing.
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)|
Attendance at the track came in at 150,729 in 2019, the fourth straight year the race had seen a drop in ticket sales. More and more people are opting to watch the race at a local casino or at home as ticket prices continue to rise. It’s still an experience that any fan should try at least once, but the quality of coverage on the race has gotten so good that it’s not as big of a draw as it had been in the past.
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.