Kentucky Derby 137 was one for the record books as 164,858 enthusiastic race fans packed legendary Churchill Downs Racetrack, smashing the former attendance record of 163,628 set in 1974 during the 100th anniversary of the "Run for the Roses." The victory in the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) was also the first win in America's premier race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds for owners and breeders Team Valor, trainer H. Graham Motion and jockey John Velazquez.
On-track guests -- from spirited infielders to glamorous celebrities -- gathered under overcast, rainy skies that by mid-afternoon gave way to partly sunny, breezy conditions and paid ample visits to the wagering windows.
Wagering at Churchill Downs on the full Kentucky Derby Day card was $23.4 million, an increase of 9 percent over 2010's on-track wagering total of $21.5 million. On-track wagering on the Derby itself was $11.5 million, an increase of 4.2 percent over the $11.1 million wagered one year earlier.
All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby card was $165.2 million, the third-highest in Derby history and an increase of 1.5 percent over the prior year's $162.7 million. All-sources handle on the Derby race itself was $112.0 million, flat with 2010's $112.7 million. Churchill Downs returned $135.3 million to bettors, which amounts to 81.9 percent of total wagering on the Derby Day race card.
NBC Universal networks provided live coverage of Kentucky Derby 137 throughout the day. Cable channel VERSUS kicked things off at 11 a.m. (EDT) with the Derby Day undercard. National broadcast coverage continued at 4 p.m. on NBC with highlights from the Kentucky Derby red carpet and live coverage of the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports." A combined team of NBC Universal hosts, racing analysts and lifestyle correspondents took viewers behind the scenes of the country's biggest day at the races, providing a comprehensive look at the event, the race and the remarkable stories connecting them.
"Today's record-breaking attendance and near-record wagering prove that the Kentucky Derby is not only an enduring American tradition but one of the most popular and well-supported sports and entertainment events available," Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said. "When you deliver competitive, high-quality racing packaged with an unforgettable social experience, fans will want to be part of it.
"We saw evidence again this year of the Derby's power as an economic engine and cultural phenomenon. Our Churchill Downs team is tremendously proud of that outcome, and we want to thank our fans on-track and around the world and the thousands of people outside our company that contribute their time and talents to make each Derby Day successful and memorable."