Kentucky Derby betting handle down 50 percent from 2019

There’s something about springtime that makes betting on the Kentucky Derby all the sweeter. That may be one of the reasons that overall betting on the 2020 Kentucky Derby was down a whopping 50 percent over wagers on the 2019 running of “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

While the race, which was won by Authentic, proved plenty exciting the lack of fans in the stands and grass at Churchill Downs; and the absence of Nevada parimutuels. This latter factor appears to be a self-inflicted wound that’s the result of Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) asking for a 5.5 percent surcharge on all wagers on the race. Nevada sportsbooks balked and the numbers speak for themselves.

According to a report on, $126 million in wagers were placed on the four-months-later-than-usual Kentucky Derby. That’s down more than 50 percent from the $250.9 million that was wagered on the 2019 running.

Despite the big dip in the betting handle, Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen was all smiles and pointed optimistically towards a COVID-19-free future saying, “We are grateful to our fans and our community for their support of the 146th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. We look forward to seeing our loyal fans at next year’s 147th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby on the first weekend of May.”

In a separate statement, company officials said that they were pleased with the betting action overall, given that there were no fans in the building when the race was run. They also, quite correctly, pointed out that comparing this year to any other year would be problematic.