05/08/2011 6:58PM

Derby Day Betting


Commingled handle on Saturday's Kentucky Derby Day card was up $2.1 million (1.33 %) from 2010 despite a $1.1 million drop in bets on, or ending with, the Derby itself.

Handle for the 13-race card totalled $161.1 million, up from $159.0 in 2010. (This includes all money merged into he parimutuel pools with the exception of the two-day Oaks/Derby double and Oaks/Turf Classic/Derby pick-3, for which reliable figures are as yet unavailable.)

On one hand, any increase at all is good news in an industry where handle has been declining by 7 to 10 percent annually in recent years. It also was accomplished in the absence of a pick-6 carryover, which attracted $1.3 million in pick-6 bets last year as compared to just $847,131 this year.

On the other, this year's Derby Day was conducted in perfect weather and with slightly larger fields than a year ago, when rain forced two races off the grass and turned the main track sloppy. This year's Derby drew an announced record crowd of 164,858.

ARTICLE: Kentucky Derby betting numbers mixed but positive »

The only change on this year's betting menu was the addition of a 50-cent pick-5, which attracted a strong inaugural handle of $792,396. The Derby declines came in the intrarace pools, including a $1.82 million drop (3.79 %) in straight betting and a $1.06 million drop (4.93 %) in exacta betting. These were somewhat offset by gains in the double, pick-3 and pick-4 ending with the Derby. The full year-over-year comparison appears at the bottom of this post.

The win betting on the Derby was stunning in terms of the amount of money that flowed to two longshots because of their riders. Churchill oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said he had planned to make Twice the Appeal 50-1 until Calvin Borel got the mount, after which Battaglia dropped the winner of a weak Sunland Derby to 20-1. Bettors entranced with Borel's recent Derby successes made him the 11.90-1 fifth choice in the race. Just as skewed was the price on Pants on Fire, who was slammed from a reasonable 20-1 to be the 8.10 second choice in the field of 19, apparently due to the presence of jockey Rosie Napravnik.

While the victorious Animal Kingdom was the 11th choice in the betting, the public did a better-than-random job of handicapping the race: The six longest shots in the field, who went off at between 32-1 and 39-1, finished 6-13-14-17-18-19:


 (Note: Percentages add up to slightly more than 100 percent due to the rounding of odds to the nearest lower 0.10 increment, i.e. a horse who goes off at 16.80-1 could have actually been anywhere from 16.80-1 to 16.89-1.)

 Here's the complete pool-by-pool comparison: