Churchill Downs exceeds $200 million handle

Total handle on the Kentucky Derby and the supporting 14-race card at Churchill Downs on Saturday were both records, according to charts of the races, with total wagering on Saturday breaking a milestone mark of $200 million.

Total handle on the Derby was $137.8 million, according to the chart, when including all horizontal wagers that end in the race. The figure just bested the record set in 2015 of $136.5 million, and it was an 11.8 percent jump over betting on the race last year, when wagering was significantly impacted by the crash of a leading account-wagering company in the hour leading up to the race.

Total handle on the 14-race card was $207.5 million, also a record, and a 9.8 percent gain over the figure for a 14-race card last year. It was the first time that handle on a single card in North America broke the $200 million mark.

The strong wagering figures on the Derby were due in part to a wide-open, 20-horse field that led bettors to stretch their bankrolls in the hopes of catching a large payout in the exotic pools. The gains also indicated that bettors also seemed unfazed by the quirky nature of the track, which was listed as wet-fast at the time the Derby went off after being listed as sloppy early in the card.

Rain fell in Louisville for most of Thursday and Friday, but the rain stopped early in the card on Saturday before returning briefly as a strong shower later in the afternoon.

The rain and unseasonably cold weather did have an impact on the size of the crowd, with Churchill reporting attendance at 158,070, well off the record set in 2015 of 170,513. Churchill said the reported attendance was the seventh-highest in history for the race.

A total of 147 horses ran in the 14 races on Saturday, down from 155 horses on the Derby Day card last year. This is the second year in a row that Churchill has run 14 races on Derby Day, after expanding the card by one race last year.

The Derby was won by the 9-2 post-time favorite, Always Dreaming, the fifth time in a row that the race has been won by the favorite. But Always Dreaming was followed by Lookin at Lee at 33-1 and Battle of Midway at 40-1, with the third choice, Classic Empire, filling out the $75,974 superfecta.