While many racing fans will have been relieved that the 2020 Kentucky Derby actually took place, bookmakers will have taken a hit from a massive drop in betting. The number of bets on this year’s Kentucky Derby fell by 52%. This saw a reported $79.4 million bet on the 146th Kentucky Derby. A record $165.5 million was bet on the Triple Crown horse race the previous year.
Churchill Downs race officials attributed a number of reasons for the massive drop in bets. Primarily, there was no on-site betting. Hopes had been high that fans would be able to attend the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Previous years had featured over 150,000 spectators at the iconic racing event.
One of the main reasons as to why the race had been postponed from May to September was that it was hoped that up to 23,000 fans might have been able to attend. But with Covid-19 rates still high, race organizers had no option but to hold the race behind closed doors.
Secondly, this year’s Kentucky Derby saw much fewer runners in the race. This year saw just 15 racehorses taking part, making it the smallest field in the Kentucky Derby since 1998. Many famous jockeys failed to attend the race due to the ongoing pandemic. Notable absentees included last year’s winner Flavien Prat, along with the impressive duo Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr.
It has to be noted that this year’s Kentucky Derby produced a clear favourite at odds of 3-5. While Tiz the Law didn’t live up to the hype, it still meant that fewer punters would want to bet on such an apparently one-sided race. Plus many Nevada sportsbooks withdrew from a parimutuel pool due to an ongoing conflict with Churchill Downs over data fees.
The return of an iconic US sporting event
Although bets were down on this year’s Kentucky Derby, the fact that the horse race took place at all was a massive boost to the racing industry. In the end, Authentic produced the winning result as it held off Tiz the Law to give trainer Bob Baffert a record-equalling sixth victory of Kentucky Derby.
Tiz the Law had already won the Belmont Stakes the previous day and went into the Derby as the biggest favourite in 31 years. But the fact that Authentic could shock the bookies and win the Derby showed just how exciting these Triple Crown races can be, even despite the absence of fans.
The race was 2020’s most watched sporting event since Super Bowl LIV. The coverage on NBC Sports averaged 8.4 million viewers, and it shows that despite the ongoing pandemic, there is still a healthy appetite for sports in the US.