Highest Handles Ever
On the heels of the greatest two minutes in sports, Churchill Downs recapped the Kentucky Derby in a press release, announcing a record-setting handle bet by Derby fans around the world. In this year’s historic event, wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Derby race totaled $179 million, a 15% increase from last year’s race and an 8% increase from the previous $165.5 million handle record set in 2019. This is one of several records set during Derby week.
Wagering from all sources on the entire Kentucky Derby Day program on Saturday totaled $273.8 million – up 17% from 2021 and 9% from the previous record of $250.9 million set in 2019. Bettors totaled a record $391.8 million handle over the entire course of Derby Week, an increase of 25% from last year and 14% from the previous record of $343 million set in 2019.
This year’s Derby marks the first “normal” Kentucky Derby since 2019, after which the Derby’s date was changed and the in-person viewership was drastically reduced to stunt a superspreading event. Between the return to normalcy and the mass embracement of the sports betting industry since then, the Kentucky Derby saw exceptional growth this year.
The growth doesn’t stop there – TwinSpires, the official betting partner of the Kentucky Derby, also posted a record handle. They took in $67.4 million in wagers during the Kentucky Derby day program, up 8% from the record they posted in 2021.
Rich Strike Strikes
But wait, there’s more – the most heavily-bet on Kentucky Derby was won by the longest shot in the field, to the tune of 80-1. This marks the second-biggest long shot ever to win the Kentucky Derby behind Donerail’s win in 1913 at 91-1 odds. Rich Strike, trained by Eric Reed and ridden by Sonny Leon, came from behind to win by ¾ of a length, covering the 10-furlong (mile and a quarter) race in 2:02.61 followed by Epicenter and Zandon. Not bad for a horse that wasn’t even in the Kentucky Derby field until Friday after a late scratch.
Of the $179 million pool for the Kentucky Derby race, only $501,135 was wagered on the victorious Rich Strike, the lowest of any horse in the field. Rich Strike nearly quadrupled that in his earnings from the race alone, bringing home a cool $1.8 million to its owners. Epicenter raked in $660,000 and third place Zandon, won $300,000.
Several Las Vegas sportsbooks posted Derby winner odds months ago, where Rich Strike was pegged at odds as long as 300-1. Vegas Sportsbook Circa, had Rich Strike posted at 200-1 on Saturday of the Derby. Lovers of the long-shot odds hammered Circa with bets right before the race, resulting in a loss for Circa in the end. Other sportsbooks like Westgate Las Vegas took very few bets on a Rich Strike win and came up big as a result.
The race for the Triple Crown will continue in a couple weeks when Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course hosts the Preakness Stakes on May 21. Then on June 11th, the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will be hosted at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Epicenter, the favorite in the Kentucky Derby and eventual second-place horse, is currently favored to win the Preakness Stakes at 3-1 odds. Stay tuned, and watch out for Rich Strike.