Kentucky Derby Festival Smashes All Kinds of Betting Records

  • Mystik Dan won the big race after a photo finish with two other horses
  • The total handle for the race on Saturday beat the previous record
  • Many celebrities gathered in Louisville to watch the action unfold
Horse and jockey
The 2024 Kentucky Derby festival smashed all sorts of previous betting records. [Image:]

Small margins

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races on the planet, attracting huge interest every May. The latest edition marked the 150th running of the event and saw an +1800 outsider taking home the $3.1m top prize.

the photo finish creating an agonizing wait for bettors

Mystik Dan scraped home to victory by the narrowest of margins at the Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville after three horses crossed the finish line neck and neck. The photo finish created an agonizing delay for bettors as they waited to see which horse came out on top.

Bettors certainly put their money where their mouths were, with betting figures for the race and entire festival smashing previous records.

Hitting new levels

Early reports indicate that the handle for the big race across all sportsbooks was $210.7m, which is almost 12% higher than the record set last year. Betting over the 14 races on Saturday also set a new high of $320.5m, while the total wagers for the two days of racing hit $446.6m.

One record not broken was the race day attendance. About 156,710 people were at the track on Saturday, which is significantly below the 170,513 record crowd from 2015.

One of the most popular horse racing betting operators in the US is TwinSpires. This brand is an official partner of the Kentucky Derby as it is under the ownership of Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the same company that owns the racetrack. Its handle for the day’s racing reached $92.1m in comparison to the previous record of $75.5m from 2023.

Plenty of attention

The Kentucky Derby continues to go from strength to strength, with many celebrities flocking to the track to see which horse will win the Garland of Roses. Some of those in attendance on Saturday included Jimmy Fallon, Martha Stewart, Kid Rock, and Travis Kelce.

two Japanese horses finished in the first five places

Each rendition brings more attention from overseas too. Demonstrating the international nature of the competition, two Japanese horses finished in the first five places of the Kentucky Derby.

Commenting on the event, CDI’s CEO Bill Carstanjen said that the strong interest reflects “the enduring spirit of sportsmanship, unity and the power of tradition.” He remarked how the introduction of a new paddock added to the overall experience for patrons and said that the company will continue looking at ways to innovate to enhance the viewing experience.

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