Fans at the 137th Kentucky Derby.

Fans at the 137th Kentucky Derby.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Churchill: Record Attendance for KY Derby

Track also reports strong increases for on-track, all-source handle.

Kentucky Derby 137 was one for the record books as 164,858 race fans packed legendary Churchill Downs, breaking the former attendance record of 163,628 set in 1974 during the 100th anniversary of the “Run for the Roses.”

The victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands(gr. I) by Animal Kingdom  was also the first win in America’s premier race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds for owners and breeders Team Valor, trainer H. Graham Motion and jockey John Velazquez.

The record crowd gathered under overcast, rainy skies that by mid-afternoon gave way to partly sunny, breezy conditions. Wagering at Churchill Downs on the full Kentucky Derby Day race card was $23.4 million, an increase of 9% over 2010’s on-track wagering total of $21.5 million. On-track wagering on the Derby race was $11.5 million, an increase of 4.2% over the $11.1 million wagered one year earlier.

All-source wagering on the Kentucky Derby card was $165.2 million, the third-highest in Derby history and an increase of 1.5% over 2010’s total of $162.7 million. All-sources handle on the Derby race itself was $112 million, just below 2010’s $112.7 million. Churchill Downs returned $135.3 million to bettors, which amounts to 81.9% of total wagering on the Derby Day race card.

“Today’s record-breaking attendance and near-record wagering prove that the Kentucky Derby is not only an enduring American tradition but one of the most popular and well-supported sports and entertainment events available,” said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs president. “When you deliver competitive, high-quality racing packaged with an unforgettable social experience, fans will want to be part of it.”

Last year's attendance was 155,804, according to Churchill statistics. This year's number is up 5.8% from last year.