Kentucky Derby TV Ratings, Attendance History, Betting Totals

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Does the Derby still matter?

Lexington Herald-Leader columnists John Clay and Linda Blackford support the importance of our state’s most recognized sporting event in today’s rapidly changing cultural landscape.

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Is the kentucky derbythe world’s largest and most recognizable thoroughbred horse race still matters?

Audience figures at the track, race betting and television viewing can help answer this question.

Since 2006, the Run for the Roses has broken all-time records for attendance, track management, all-source management and achieved its highest ratings since 1989.

In fact, before the COVID pandemic hit, the two biggest minutes in sport, traditionally run on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs from Louisvilleaveraged at least 15 million viewers a year nine times over an 11-year period.

The Derby draws more viewers on average than the NFL Draft and, as the graph below shows, it maintained a stable level of television share while other comparable domestic sporting events had more erratic results.

Despite the COVID pandemic limiting attendance in 2020 and 2021, the four best Derbys of all time have been held in the past 10 years.

Kentucky Derby betting, a handful all-source powered by online betting, has grown significantly over the past 20 years.

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Fans enter Churchill Downs on May 2, 2015, for what would become a Kentucky Derby Day attendance record: 170,513. 2015 Herald-Leader File Photo