04/30/2013 1:36PM

Kentucky Derby: Pick six guarantee of $1 million for Derby Day


Churchill announced on Tuesday that the guarantee for its Derby Day pick six will be $1 million, double the $500,000 guarantee from last year, while the guarantee for the Oaks Day pick six would be boosted $50,000 to $250,000.

With the betting world focused on Churchill for its Derby – the highest-handling day of the year on the racing calendar – it would seem that $1 million for a pick six pool would be an easy mark. However, historical figures for the bet indicate just the opposite, and the Derby guarantee of $1 million may actually offer bonus money to players if those figures hold true.

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In four of the last five years, the Derby Day pick six has benefited from a carryover. In three of those four years, handle on the Derby Day pick six exceeded $1 million, as would be expected when the carryover was approaching that number in the first place. However, in 2008, only $676,000 was bet on the pick six even with a carryover of $410,000, while in 2011, the only year in which there was no carryover, pick six handle was $847,000.

There is a mitigating factor for that 2011 number. In that year, Churchill debuted a 50-cent pick five, which probably cannibalized some of the pick six handle. The bet, which handled $792,000, was also offered last year, and it will again be offered on both the Derby and Oaks Day cards this year.

Part of the reason the Derby Day pick six has had trouble attracting a larger pool is because of the Derby itself. The Derby typically has a 20-horse field, forcing pick six players to spread in the race andrapidly multiplying the cost of the ticket. With a $2 minimum, that can shut out all but the biggest bankrolls.