148th Kentucky Derby Day Breaks Betting Record With $273 Million In Handle

Written By Derek Helling on May 9, 2022
Rich Strike Goes Up While Kentucky Derby Betting Record Goes Down

Saturday’s edition of the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports will be memorable for more reasons than just long shot Rich Strike claiming the victory. For many, it might be more historic due to a new Kentucky Derby betting record.

The bettors at the track laid down over $273 million on the entire race program that contained the 148th Kentucky Derby, besting the previous record tally. The correlation with the removal of all COVID-19 restrictions at the track is impossible to overlook.

A Kentucky Derby betting record

While Rich Strike became the horse with the second-longest odds to ever win a Derby on Saturday at 80-1, the racebook at Churchill Downs was probably overjoyed to see such a result. Just a fraction of the wagers on Saturday backed Rich Strike.

Saturday’s full 14-race program drew more than $273.8 million in bets. That alone represents an increase of 9% from the previous best of $250.9 million set in 2019. The Derby itself accounted for most of that action.

Bettors put down about $179 million on the headliner event. That is also a record. In 2019,
racing fans dropped $166.5 million on the Kentucky Derby. The track kept most of the 8% increase on the previous record, too.

Churchill Downs says that of all the money on the Derby in 2022, bettors only put down around $501,000 of it on Rich Strike. That accounted for about two-tenths of a percent of the handle.

In fact, Rich Strike was the least-bet horse in the running. Why was betting action so historic on Saturday? The unfettered access to the track seems to have something to do with it.

Return to pre-pandemic conditions at Churchill Downs

Perhaps absence made racing fans’ hearts grow fonder. While Churchill Downs did not see record attendance on Saturday, the return of normalcy at the track likely played a part. Last year, the track limited spectator capacity to just under 52,000, and in 2020 the track did not allow any spectators.

On Saturday, not only was the track back to full capacity but offering the usual amenities and sponsor activations. It seems that the easement of restrictions also had some impact on interest beyond Kentucky as well.

Churchill Downs also shared that it set a new record for online wagers on the Derby as well. The tally there for the entire program came to over $67.4 million, another 8% improvement on the previous tally.

Of that amount, $44 million came down on the Derby itself. True to the trend, that’s also an 8% improvement on the previous record set in 2021. While other online racebooks like TVG have yet to report their numbers, it looks likely that the 2022 Kentucky Derby Day will go down as the most-bet edition ever.

That could change next year, of course. Given Rich Strike’s win this year, more bettors could consider the long shots going forward as well.

Photo by Charlie Riedel / Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of Playin USA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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