Churchill Explores Elimination of Derby Mutuel Field

Churchill Downs is looking into expanding the number of possible wagering interests in the Kentucky Derby to 20, eliminating the need for horses to run as part of a mutuel field. The expansion of Derby wagering interests would require the approval of the Kentucky Racing Commision.

"We think that making each horse in the Kentucky Derby an individual wagering interest will make this race more exciting for Derby fans at every level," said Alex Waldrop, the track's president. "It will allow skilled handicappers to receive good value on attractive Derby longshots that, in the past, have seen their odds diminished by their placement in an entry or the mutuel field."

Previously, the Kentucky Racing Commission voted to allow horses with common ownership to run as separate wagering interests in Kentucky races with a purse of $1 million or higher. As the Kentucky Derby carries a purse of $1 million guaranteed, that eliminates coupled Derby entries due to common ownership. The earlier ruling, which took effect in mid-year, will also impact this year's Breeders' Cup races in November at Churchill Downs.

Churchill has been in communication with United Tote, Autotote, and American Tote -- the three major tote companies -- on the proposal, and the companies assured Churchill that they would be able to handle 20 Derby wagering interests.

Churchill Downs, however, has concerns about on-track patrons access to odds as three of the track's tote boards can only handle a maximum of 14 betting interests.

"The on-track challenge will be to utilize our track's television screens and large infield tote board to provide fans with easy-to-read updates of Kentucky Derby odds," said David Sweazy, the track's vice president of operations.

The 127th renewal of the Kentucky Derby will be held May 5, 2001.