05/07/2011 9:32PM

Churchill Downs: Derby Day handle increases, attendance a record


All-sources wagering on the 13-race Kentucky Derby card on Saturday at Churchill Downs was $165.2 million, a slight increase over last year’s figures and the third-highest of all-time, while attendance was a record, according to figures released by Churchill late Saturday night.

The preliminary all-sources handle figure was a 1.5 percent increase over the 2010 figure of $162.7 million, according to Churchill. Last year’s handle total reversed three years of declines on the Derby card.

Churchill reported that attendance on Derby day was 164,858, a record, besting the mark set in 1974, when 163,628 were on hand. The weather on Saturday was mild and partly cloudy with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees, though some rain fell midway through the afternoon.

All-sources handle on the Derby itself was $112.0 million, down 0.6 percent compared to handle of $112.7 million last year on the Derby. The field this year had 19 betting interests, compared to 20 betting interests last year. The favorite this year, Dialed In, was 5-1, in a race in which no horse was longer than 40-1. The winner, Animal Kingdom, was 20.90-1.

Ontrack handle for the card was $23.4 million, a 9 percent gain over ontrack handle last year of $21.5 million, according to Churchill. Ontrack betting on the Derby was $11.5 million, a 4.2 percent increase over ontrack betting on the Derby last year.

The increase in betting handle and record attendance contrasted with moribund betting figures from tracks across the country over the past three years, which have suffered stark declines. However, big-event days such as the Derby have fared far better than every-day events.

On Friday, all-sources wagering on the 12-race Kentucky Oaks card set a record at $37.5 million, including a record ontrack handle of $12.1 million, according figures released by Churchill. The Friday all-sources handle total was up 4.2 percent over the previous record, set last year, at $36 million. The ontrack handle total was up 2.1 percent over last year’s record of $11.9 million. In addition, attendance on Oaks day was 110,122, the third-highest of all time.

On Saturday, no bettor picked the pick six that included the Derby, resulting in a $514,582 carryover into the Thursday card at Churchill. In addition, no one picked the correct order for the first five finishers in the Derby, leading to a carryover in the so-called Super High Five bet of $220,430.

Last year, wagering on the Kentucky Derby card was up 4.5 percent from the 2009 card. Wagering on the Derby card had declined for three straight years going into the 2010 card, after 16 years of unchecked growth.