Churchill Downs cites no fans, fewer horses for Kentucky Derby betting decline

Betting on the 146th Kentucky Derby was down sharply over the weekend, dropping 52% from last year’s record amount wagered.

With no fans allowed at the track because of the coronavirus pandemic, Churchill Downs reported that $79.4 million was bet in the parimutuel pool on this year’s race. Last year’s Derby set a record with $165.5 million in wagers across all sources.

Churchill Downs officials attributed the decline in handle to the lack of on-site wagering, fewer horses in the race and a prohibitive favorite. Tiz the Law went off as an odds-on 4-5 favorite but failed to chase down winner Authentic, who was 8-1 and bested a 15-horse field, the smallest since 1998.

Over the past five years, $22.5 million has been wagered on average at the track on Derby day, which traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in May.

“We are grateful to our fans and our community for their support of the 146th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing our loyal fans at next year’s 147th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby on the first weekend of May.”

In addition to no on-site betting, Nevada sportsbooks did not participate in the parimutuel pool on the Derby this year because of an ongoing dispute with Churchill Downs over data fees. Nevada sportsbooks did take wagers on the Derby, but outside of the parimutuel pool.

Bookmaker William Hill reported that 8% of the money wagered at its sportsbooks backed Authentic to win. Tiz the Law received 20% of the bets and 48% of the money wagered to win the race at William Hill.

Overall, $126 million was bet in the parimutuel pool on the Kentucky Derby day program. It was the smallest amount wagered on the Derby day program since 2002.

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