Betting Handle Low For Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is typically a huge day for the sports betting industry, but the 2020 numbers fell well short of expectations. There was more than $126 million wagered on the Kentucky Derby this weekend, but that number is just half of what was recorded a year ago.

Sportsbooks offered bets on 14 different races that took place at Churchill Downs this weekend, but the actual Kentucky Derby brought in the most betting action. Bettors wagered close to $80 million on the first leg of the Triple Crown.

The Kentucky Derby is normally run on the first Saturday in May, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the race to be rescheduled until Labor Day weekend. Churchill Downs hoped that the later date would allow fans to attend the event, but that was not the case.

On Aug. 21, Churchill Downs announced that fans would not be allowed to attend any of the races this weekend as Kentucky saw a surge in positive cases. The hope was that 23,000 fans could attend on Saturday, but those fans were refunded their money.

The fact that the Kentucky Derby took place without fans played a major role in the low betting numbers this weekend. The race simply did not generate as much excitement as it typically does.

Wagering is also available at the race track during normal years, but that was not the case this time around. Online sportsbooks saw the majority of the betting handle, and some sportsbooks tried to offer bonuses or promotions to generate more buzz.

The Saturday betting total across all sportsbooks was the lowest total since 2002. Last year almost $251 million was wagered on the races at Churchill Downs, and over $21 million of that was done by bettors at the race track.

Churchill Downs Inc. is also to blame for the low sports betting numbers as they were unable to reach a deal with sportsbooks in Nevada. Sportsbooks could only offer betting on the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, and they missed out on offering bets for the other races.

Fixed odds were offered by Vegas sportsbooks on the Kentucky Derby, and the sportsbooks were pleased with the outcome. Anytime that a Kentucky Derby favorite loses the race, it usually leads to a big day for the sportsbooks.

Authentic Pulls Off Impressive Upset

Tiz the Law entered the Kentucky Derby as a huge favorite, and he had yet to lose a race this season. Tiz the Law saw Authentic take an early lead on Saturday, and the horse never gave it up en route to a victory.

Authentic won the Kentucky Derby by 1 ¼ lengths, ending the hopes for Tiz the Law to win the Triple Crown in 2020. Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes earlier this year, as that race was held on its normal weekend.

There were just 15 horses in the Kentucky Derby field this year, which is the lowest number since 1988. Three horses were scratched, including Thousand Words, and that horse was scratched early Saturday morning.

John Velazquez was the jockey that rode Authentic to victory on Saturday, and the horse is owned by Bob Baffert. Baffert is no stranger to owning Kentucky Derby-winning horses, but this time that won’t lead to a chance at the Triple Crown.

The team has yet to decide if Authentic will run in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on Oct. 3. Typically the Preakness is just two weeks after the Derby, but there will be a month to get horses ready for the final Triple Crown race of the season.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.