Updated on 05/05/2014 5:20PM

Kentucky Derby handle down 0.8 percent


Betting on the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday was down slightly from last year, while overall betting on the 13-race card rose slightly, according to a side-by-side comparison of charts of the races.

Betting on the Derby was $124.66 million, according to the chart of the race, compared with betting of $125.66 million last year, down 0.8 percent. Both races had 19-horse fields. The totals do not include the money bet in the future wagers offered by Churchill in the months leading up to the race.

The final rating for the live broadcast on NBC was a 9.4, down slightly from the 9.7 posted for last year’s Derby broadcast. In a release, NBC said the broadcast was watched in 15.3 million households, compared with 16.2 million households last year. The share, a measure of the percentage of televisions in use that were tuned to the broadcast, was a 22, slightly higher than the share of 21 posted for last year’s broadcast, which, unlike this year, did not compete with an NBA playoff game.

Betting on the entire card Saturday was $180.75 million, up 1.4 percent from $178.27 million last year, according to the charts. A total of 128 horses ran in the 13 races, compared with 122 horses last year, up 4.9 percent.

The mixed results came on a day when Churchill reported attendance of 164,906, the second-highest figure of all time behind reported attendance of 165,307 for the 2012 Derby. There was nearly ideal weather Saturday in Louisville, with highs in the lows 70s and clear skies. Last year, when rain threatened the Louisville area all day, attendance was reported by Churchill as 151,616.

Ontrack betting for the day was $23.4 million, according to the track, up 11 percent. Ontrack betting on the Derby was $11.9 million, up 4 percent, Churchill said.

Handle was basically level at a time when some horseplayers were urging bettors to boycott Churchill Downs because of the track’s decision to raise its takeout rates at the start of the spring meet April 26. Rates on straight wagers rose from 16 percent to 17.5 percent, while rates on exotic wagers rose from 19 percent to 22 percent.

The higher takeout rates, coupled with higher rates that Churchill has begun getting for its signal from simulcast sites, likely had a significant impact on the company’s revenue. In a release, Churchill chief executive Bob Evans said the company’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization – a measure of cash flow favored by companies – for Derby Week was up between $7.5 million and $9.5 million compared with last year.

Churchill also said that handle through its market-leading account-wagering operation, twinspires.com, was up 6 percent on Derby Day and 11 percent on the Derby itself.

Handle on the Kentucky Oaks card Friday at Churchill was $43.14 million, down slightly from last year. Combined, handle on the two days was $223.89 million, compared with $223.92 million last year, virtually even.

The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, won by Wise Dan for the second year in a row, drew $8.6 million in bets, up $1.5 million from last year. The race had 10 runners this year, compared with seven runners last year.

The Derby was won by 5-2 favorite California Chrome. Last year, the favorite also won the race, but the victorious Orb went off at 5.40-1, one of the highest prices for a favorite in the history of the race. Bettors placed $54.13 million in straight wagers on the Derby this year, down 4.8 percent from $56.86 million in straight wagers last year.

Handle for the pick six ending with the Derby was $1.29 million. The pick four had handle of $2.91 million, while the pick five had handle of $1.45 million.