Kentucky Derby 2013: Derby Attendance Good, But Not A Record

The attendance for today’s Kentucky Derby card at Churchill Downs has been announced at an impressive 151,616. That’s far from a record, however, and just makes the top ten of the best attendance figures in Derby history. If the numbers are correct it will be the #9 crowd to attend the Kentucky Derby in history–an impressive turnout for a sport that can use some good news. Combined with reports of a slight uptick in betting for the 2013 Kentucky Derby it’ll go down in the books as a decent day that could have been much, much worse given the persistent threat of rain and the lack of a ‘star’ horse.

Unlike most major sporting events which are sold out weeks, if not months, in advance, a spectator can make a last minute decision to attend the Kentucky Derby and get in to the facility. In fact, the so called ‘walk up’ business is a significant component of the overall figure for the race. There’s no doubt that the lack of a ‘marquee name’ among the 2013 field hurt this number since it results in a lower overall level of hype which makes it seem like less of a ‘must see’ event.

Of course many race goers are more concerned about drinking and socializing than horse racing and for them it’s all but certain that the dire weather forecast kept them at home. It has been raining on and off throughout the racing day though the soaking heavy rains never quite materialized (they’ll likely hold off until after the race). Still, on a day with unseasonably cool temperatures and off and on rain it’s evident that many ‘socializers’ made the decision to stay home and watch this year’s event on TV.

So it’ll be a ‘good but not great’ day at Churchill Downs and one that could have been much worse. It’s a marked contrast to the huge surge in attendance at Friday’s Kentucky Oaks–113,280 people attended the 2013 Kentucky Oaks, up 1.1 percent compared 2012. This year was the second-highest of all time, behind the 2010 number of 116,046. What is no doubt going to make the Churchill Downs bigwigs happiest is the fact that the wagering handle increase far outstripped the attendance increase–so not only were there more people in the stands but on a per person basis they were betting more than in 2012.



David Glisan has received recognition over the years in Las Vegas for Sports news coverage. He is also featured in various sports radio shows and offers his views on sports.

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