Why So Many People Bet on The Kentucky Derby Over The Years

When it comes to horse racing, not a single race gets more attention than the Kentucky Derby. This is probably one of the most popular horse races globally, which obviously attracts a lot of bettors.

If we look at the numbers, we can get a sense of how popular Kentucky Derby betting is. In 2023, the Kentucky Derby week races broke $400 million for the first time in history from all sources. TwinSpires alone generated around $73.6 million in placed bets.

But why do people love the Kentucky Derby so much? Maybe it’s the thundering hooves, the extravagant fashion, or the mint juleps that seem to flow like a river. But let’s be real, a significant part of the Derby’s charm lies in the betting. It’s like the stock market, but with more horses and less yelling (well, maybe the same amount of yelling).

In today’s article, we will explore the magic of the Kentucky Derby and find out how it has the power to turn non-bettors into handicappers in a blink of an eye.

A Historical Hobby Turned Tradition

Gambling and horse racing have been BFFs since, well, forever. The Kentucky Derby, first run in 1875, didn’t just invite this trend—it put on a fancy hat and started a parade.

Betting on the Derby has become as traditional as the race itself. Why? Because tradition is comforting, like grandma’s cookies or those fuzzy socks you wear every Christmas.

Can you imagine attending the Kentucky Derby and not placing a bet? – It’s like you’ve never been there. After all, horse racing’s popularity comes down to the betting aspect. The race doesn’t provide much in terms of excitement since it lasts about 2 minutes.

So, the only thrill that turned into tradition is betting.

The Thrill Factor

This tradition, wouldn’t be a thing if the betting aspect of the Kentucky Derby doesn’t come with its own thrills. Thankfully, betting on the Kentucky Derby is just as exciting as the race itself and there are several different reasons why people love to place bets on the big day.

Underdog Stories: We all love a good underdog tale. The Derby often serves these up. Remember Mine That Bird? 50-1 odds and yet, victory! What does this mean?

Well, underdog stories, or betting on the underdog can result in huge gains. Let’s be real, people love winning a lot of money, especially on a small bet. The opportunity to place a bet on an underdog and win a lot of money sounds very attractive to many people. Therefore, they choose the Kentucky Derby as the perfect opportunity to place some bets.

The Adrenaline Rush: There’s something about placing a bet that gets your heart racing faster than the horses. It’s like a rollercoaster, but you might win money instead of just losing your lunch. The excitement goes through the roof the very second the horses start running down the racetrack. This excitement is another reason why betting is very popular in horse racing.

The Social Aspect: Betting on the Derby is often a group activity. Nothing bonds people like collectively screaming at tiny people riding horses.

You wouldn’t want to be the guy who misses the memo and turns on a themed party in regular clothes, right? Well, it is the same with the Kentucky Derby. As most people place bets and talk about which horse is going to win the race, you will follow the crowd and probably place a bet even if you didn’t plan to.

The Economic Angle

Did you ever wonder how much money flows through the Kentucky Derby? Spoiler alert: it’s a lot. Betting on the Derby isn’t just a pastime; it’s a significant economic activity. It’s like Black Friday, but everyone’s dressed better.

It is the only way to make the race possible and for it to maintain that huge prize purse. That’s why this year, at the 150th Kentucky Derby we will have the biggest prize purse for a single race in history reaching $5 million.

After all, a lot fewer people and competitors would be interested in the derby if we take betting out of the story.

The Accessibility of Modern Betting

Gone are the days of needing to be at the track to place a bet. Now, you can bet on your favorite horse while wearing your PJs, thanks to online betting.

Back in the day, you needed to physically attend the Derby in order to place a bet, but nowadays, everyone can do that from the comforts of their home, no matter where they live. This increases the total betting value of the Kentucky Derby and gets more people interested in the race.


Lastly, we have the unpredictability of the race. We have 12 horses racing down the finish line with similar capabilities that can be impacted by their past performances, weather conditions, training regimes, and more.

It is one of the most unpredictable sporting events in the world.

Every year brings new horses, new stories, and new chances to win big or lose hilariously.

This unpredictability draws people into betting, just because they love predicting uncertain outcomes.

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