Know Before You Bet: Kentucky Derby Facts, Figures, And History

Written By Dan Holmes on May 2, 2023
Kentucky Derby facts, figures, and history you need to know before betting, from

The horse race betting season is set to kickoff this Saturday, May 6, with the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at famed Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Online horse betting apps in Massachusetts are live, and horse racing fans in the state have plenty of options when betting on this year’s Derby.

Before placing your wagers, let’s take a closer look at some Kentucky Derby facts, figures, and history.

Kentucky Derby facts & figures

Since it was first run in 1875, the Kentucky Derby has evolved into horse racing’s most famous event.

Every year, Churchill Downs swells with as many as 150,000 spectators. Those fans will consume an estimated 120,000 mint juleps, the signature beverage of the Derby. According to research by WalletHub, as many as half a million cans of beer will also be served at the track.

Last year, the sale of thoroughbred horses that competed in the Kentucky Derby totaled a record $1.28 billion, an 11% increase from the previous year. If recent tradition holds, horses worth a combined $1 billion plus will compete in this year’s “Run for the Roses.”

After the race, the winning horse will be blanketed with 400 sewn roses. The blanket weighs roughly 40 pounds.

The purse for the 2023 Kentucky Derby is expected to be $3 million. The winning horse earns $1.86 million, second place $600,000, third place $300,000, fourth place $150,000, and fifth-place gets $90,000.

Even if the weather is less than ideal, still expect the race to go on. The Kentucky Derby has never been canceled or postponed because of weather.

This is a male-dominated sport. Only three fillies have triumphed at the Kentucky Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.

Kentucky Derby is a major betting event

Last year, $274 million was wagered on the Kentucky Derby, according to WalletHub. This year, even with legal sportsbooks, the Kentucky Derby will be a major betting event in Massachusetts.

Oddsmakers at FanDuel Racing Massachusetts list Forte, the winner of the Florida Derby in early April, as the favorite at 3-1. It’s worth noting that the favorite has not won the Kentucky Derby since 2018.

As many as 20 horses can compete in the race, which is 1 1/4 miles in length. The Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes follow over the next five weeks to form horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Horses qualify for the Derby through competition in The Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of races that begin the prior September, leading up to the May 6 running at Churchill Downs. In those races, Forte accumulated 190 points, the most of any horse. The horse has now won five consecutive races. However, it’s been nine years since the horse that earned the most points has won the Derby itself.

This year, one new option available to Bay Staters when placing their wagers is FanDuel Racing. The app includes a horse racing 101 section, streaming available for every race, specialty bets, sign-up bonuses and more.

Bet on Kentucky Derby at Suffolk Downs

In addition to the three retail casinos (Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino), you can also watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby at Suffolk Downs in pari-mutuel betting. That means your wager will be pooled with many others from Massachusetts and other states to form a large prize pool.

Suffolks Downs is located in East Boston, and opened in the 1930s. While it no longer hosts live horse racing, Suffolks Downs does provide simulcasts of horse races.

Going back to its early days, many of the most famous horses in U.S. history raced on the one-mile oval track at Suffolks, including including Seabiscuit and Whirlaway. It was closed briefly in 1986, but reopened under new ownership into the 21st century. But competing entertainment and a sagging interest in live horse racing forced Suffolks Downs to pivot.

The last live horse race at Suffolks Downs was in 2019. In 2021 it reopened following the pandemic with live simulcast options only.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a Staff Writer for PlayMA with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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