Not only did the 2022 Kentucky Derby produce a stunning finish, but it also produced a record betting day according to information from Churchill Downs Incorporated.
The Louisville-based company announced its flagship track took $273.8 million in bets for Saturday’s 14-race card. That’s a 9% jump from the previous record of $250.9 million set in 2019 – the last year the Derby ran without any COVID-19 restrictions or interruptions.
Nearly two-thirds of the money bet Saturday was on the Derby itself, won by Rich Strike in a tremendous upset. Derby bets made up $179 million of the action. That, too, was a record, breaking the $165.5 million set in 2019.
Last year, $233 million was bet on the Derby Day race card, with $155.4 million of that wagered on the Derby itself.
Attendance for the 148th running of the Derby was 147,294. Last year, the pandemic limited the crowd to 51,838, and the 2020 running, which was moved to Labor Day weekend because of COVID, was not open to racing fans. The 2019 Derby attracted 150,729 spectators, and the record occurred in 2015 when 170,513 fans watched American Pharoah start his march to the Triple Crown.
The company continued to see growth in online wagering as well. Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires advanced-deposit wagering site accounted for $67.4 million in wagers Saturday, surpassing last year’s record by 8%. Bets on the Derby accounted for $44 million of the handle, that too surpassed the record previously set last year by 8%.
Kentucky Derby Growing in Japan
Churchill Downs also announced that $8.3 million of the Derby handle was bet in Japan, which had one of its horses in the race. That colt, Crown Pride, finished 13th in the 20-horse field.
Last month, during the Churchill Downs first-quarter earnings conference call with investment analysts, CEO Bill Carstanjen said the part of the company’s future growth will depend on its success in attracting international interest – both from a betting perspective and a guest perspective. And Japan plays a major role in that.
We want wagering from Japan, but ultimately this is about building a connection to that customer base, which will allow us to drive sponsorships and allow us to drive attendance in future years,” Carstanjen said. “It can be a bit premature to talk about that on a call like this, but it’s part of an international strategy that we over time, we hope reaches fruition because we have the brand. We just have to build the processes and the connections to harvest the economics associated with it in some of these jurisdictions.”
Crown Pride was just the fourth Japanese horse to run in the Derby and the first since Master Fencer in 2019.
Big Week for Churchill Downs
It wasn’t just Derby Day that produced record results. On Friday, Churchill Downs reported that its card featuring the Kentucky Oaks produced a record $74.6 million handle, besting the previous record set in 2019 by 24%. The Oaks, a 1-1/8th-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, generated $24.3 million in bets. That beat the previous record, also set in 2019, by 25%.
And over the course of the week’s races, Churchill took in a record $391.8 million in bets. That was 25% better than last year’s handle and beat the previous record by 14%.
The Kentucky Derby is the pinnacle event for Churchill Downs and a major driver of the company’s financial success. With all of the betting records established, Carstanjen said in a statement that he expects the Derby’s portion of the company’s earnings to be a record as well.
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