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Record-Breaking Triple Crown Leans Into History

Dollars & Sense with Frank Angst

On-track and off, horseplayers helped the Belmont Stakes to record handle for a year in which the Triple Crown was not on the line

On-track and off, horseplayers helped the Belmont Stakes to record handle for a year in which the Triple Crown was not on the line

Mathea Kelley

In shattering wagering records for Kentucky Derby day and week, as well as Belmont Stakes day—for a year in which the Triple Crown was not on the line—and week, Churchill Downs Inc. and the New York Racing Association leaned into history.

And along with that celebration of tradition, both of those efforts included facility upgrades that paid dividends on-track and, off-track, new success by advance-deposit wagering platforms in attracting the emerging sports betting market. It all added up to a record $545,107,859 in total handle—the most money every wagered for the three Triple Crown race days.

Churchill Downs and its media partner NBC, got the word out that 2024 would be the 150th edition of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and CDI began preparing three years ago with upgrades to its Louisville, Ky., track capped by the unveiling of a spectacular new paddock ahead of this year's race. 

As Belmont Park is being rebuilt, NYRA leaned into the oldest active sporting facility in the country—Saratoga Race Course—for this year's edition of the Belmont Stakes (G1). A crowd of 50,000 people celebrated this year's unique Belmont at Saratoga, a facility that also has seen significant upgrades in recent years including the 1863 Club and this year's very popular Jim Dandy Bar.

Preakness day saw a decline in wagering but the good news there is that a plan is in place to move that event forward at a rebuilt Pimlico Race Course facility that should put the Middle Jewel in a better position to flourish. 

In New York, currently the plan is for one more Belmont Stakes at Saratoga before returning the classic to a new Belmont Park. NYRA CEO and president David O'Rourke is looking forward to carrying the momentum seen at Saratoga back to the rebuilt home of the Belmont Stakes.

"It's the Belmont Stakes. It belongs at Belmont Park," O'Rourke told BH. "But there could not be a better place to run it than Saratoga without a race-ready facility."

While Saratoga provided a spectacular setting for the Belmont Stakes, perhaps its most significant benefit was helping to bring increased interest in the race cards around Belmont Stakes day—the Thursday and Friday before and the Sunday after, which NYRA touts as the Belmont Racing Festival.

On Thursday all-sources wagering reached $18,168,565, shattering the previous Thursday mark of $10.3 million in 2017. On Friday handle reached $38.5 million, up more than $12 million from 2023 ($26,078,400).

The numbers also were helped by new success in bringing sports bettors to ADW platforms such as TwinSpires, XpressBet, and NYRABets, but also the ADW platforms of major sports-betting operations—such as Caesars Racebook, FanDuel Racing and DK Horse (DraftKings). CDI reported its TwinSpires.com advance-deposit wagering service saw $92.1 million in wagering on Churchill Downs races for the Derby day program, a 22% increase over last year's record. FanDuel Group noted that it saw 200,000 of its customers on Derby day bet on racing for the first time.

Total Handle, Triple Crown Race Days
Year Race day Handle % Change
2023 Kentucky Derby $288,700,000  
2023 Preakness $101,668,475  
2023 Belmont $118,283,455  
2023 Total $508,651,930  
       
2024 Kentucky Derby $320,500,000 11%
2024 Preakness $98,858,918 -2.7
2024 Belmont $125,748,941 6.30%
2024 Total $545,107,859 7.20%