139th Kentucky Derby: A Billionaire's Bonanza
The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby will surely make history, and a lot of money, too.
Start with the horses and owners. Right now, the favorite is named Orb. Owners Stuart Janney and Dinny Phipps, first cousins whose families both have a long and distinguished history in horse racing, bought him for just $50,000. Orb has already won close to a million dollars. A Derby win would more than double that, and most likely, bring an annuity of riches in terms of breeding. Repole's horse is Overanalyze and at 15-1, he has a chance to do just that.
Most people don't know the name Mike Repole. But he's a billionaire. Repole co-founded Glaceau—most known for Vitamin Water—and he sold it to Coke for $4.1 billion in 2007. Now, he's out to dominate horse racing like he did the beverage industry.
Repole's horse is Overanalyze and at 15-1, he has a chance to do just that.
There's also a great deal of buzz surrounding the horse Goldencents. It was originally purchased for $62,000 and has won even more than Orb. However, there are two elements of Goldencents' story that make the horse one to watch.
First, it's part owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. He just won the national championship, and a hoops/Derby double would absolutely be unprecedented. Then, there's the jockey. Kevin Krigger is an African American from the U.S. Virgin Islands. No African American jockey has won the Derby since 1902.
While on the subject of jockeys and history, Rosie Napravnik is mounted on Mylute, and she could become the first female to ever win the Kentucky Derby.
Those are the headline history-making possibilities, and if any of them win, huge money would follow.
The truth is that huge money is everywhere at the Derby: from the $8,000 per ticket new luxury area called the "Mansion," to the $500 hats and $1,000 mint julep.
Not everyone will pony up $1,000 for a gold-leafed mint julep, but plenty will buy the cheaper versions. Approximately 120,000 will be served, and that translates into more than a ton of mint and 7,800 litres of bourbon.
You might need a few to swallow the cost of staying in Louisville on Derby weekend. Put it this way, a Hampton Inn 10 miles away in Indiana is charging $550 a night...and they're full. Normally, that room-rate is $90.
If you come through on a nice 50-1 long shot, it might all be worthwhile. To see the spectacle, it might still be worth it even if you lose.
The 139th Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 4 at Churchill Downs.
—By CNBC's Brian Shactman. Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman