SBD/May 9, 2011/Events and Attractions

Kentucky Derby Draws Record Crowd, Sees Slight Increase In All-Sources Wagering

Saturday's attendance broke previous Kentucky Derby record set in '74
The Kentucky Derby drew a record crowd of 164,858 for Saturday's race, while all-sources wagering on the 13-race card at Churchill Downs was $165.2M, a "slight increase over last year's figures and the third-highest of all-time," according to Matt Hegarty of the DAILY RACING FORM. The attendance mark topped the previous record set in '74, "when 163,628 were on hand." The all-sources handle was up 1.5% from $162.7M in '10. All-sources wagering on just the Derby was $112M, down 0.6% compared to handle of $112.7M last year. The ontrack handle for the whole card was $23.4M, a 9% gain over ontrack handle last year of $21.5M, while ontrack betting for the Derby was up 4.2% from '10. The record attendance and increase in betting "contrasted with moribund betting figures from tracks around the country over the past three years, which have suffered stark declines" (DRF.com, 5/7). Last year's Kentucky Derby drew a crowd of 155,804 (BLOODHORSE.com, 5/7).

A CHANGE IS NEEDED: Churchill Downs Inc. President & CEO Robert Evans prior to the Kentucky Derby was asked about the state of horse racing and he said, "The day-to-day horse racing that goes on across the country (is) pretty tough sledding. The special stuff -- Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes -- those kind of events are going great. So quality stuff works, the stuff that isn't high quality is struggling right now" ("Street Signs," CNBC, 5/6). In Portland, John Canzano wrote horse racing "needs an overhaul." Canzano: "It needs a mission. It needs leadership. It needs fresh marketing and a new outlook. The horses need an advocate, too." Fans need a "reason to care about horse racing for more than a few weeks out of the year," and the "premier race in the Triple Crown falls flat." Canzano: "The experience at Churchill Downs is special. Unforgettable. As good, almost, as a summer Olympics. But most of that is lost through the broadcast, cheap promotion and an industry that is desperate and catering mostly to the off-track wagering industry instead of fixing itself" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/8).
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