LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Is the Kentucky Derby the most exciting two minutes in sports or the most expensive two minutes in sports? It depends on who you ask and who’s betting.
Last year $209 million was wagered on all the races Derby day with 1,200 betting clerks accepting wagers.
“And that was a record. We've only been over $200 million a couple times,” said John Asher, VP of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs.
Of that $209 million, $39 million was wagered electronically from online betting services. That means $170 million of cold hard cash was wagered under the Twin Spires.
“I would assume that it's a lot of money, but not quite that much money,” said Sabrina Oyler, a Churchill Downs attendee.
As for the Derby Race itself, $139 million was wagered on just the Run for the Roses last year.
“It's astronomical what they bring in,” said David Higdon, a Churchill Downs attendee.
If you think a lot of people go home with empty wallets, Asher says think again.
“So the overwhelming amount of that money goes back to the better. More than 80 percent of every wagering dollar, more than 80 cents of every wagering dollar goes back to the better,” Asher said.
The rest of the money goes to the track, the horsemen and of course Uncle Sam. In the meantime the money is stored in a secure room. It’s so secretive, even Asher has never seen it.
“I've never been in there. I've been here for 22 years and I've never been to the money room,” he said.
It's all part of the mystique and allure of the most exciting two minutes in sports that could also be the most expensive.
“After 144 years we seem to just be hitting our stride. There's just such interest in the Kentucky Derby,” Asher said.
During all of Derby week, $285 million is wagered.
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