The Kentucky Derby is the longest running sports event in American history. Now, a cherished pastime has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. CNBC Originals and Melissa Francis take you inside the winner’s circle where legends are born and millions are made.
It happens once a year on the first Saturday in May. Twenty of the fastest thoroughbreds explode onto the racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky for the Run for the Roses. America’s favorite horse race has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Horse racing is big business. Every year about $13 billion is bet on the horses... much of it generated from online betting services. Online betting helped Churchill Downs transform itself into a powerhouse in the world of racing.
One of the biggest upsets in horse racing history took place in 2009, when Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby. The Canadian bred Colt was a long shot with 50/1 odds. He came from last place and took home the title.
In 2008, all eyes were fixed on a colt named Big Brown. That year more than $102 million dollars was spent on simulcast wagering. Simulcast transmissions allows bettors to watch a live broadcast of the race and bet in the same betting pool as the people at Churchill Downs.
Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby against the odds... two months earlier he wasn’t even a contender. For many Americans, his story is the personification of the Kentucky Derby.
In 2007, more than $118 million dollars is wagered on the Kentucky Derby as jockey Calvin Borel rode Street Sense to victory. Street Sense became the 133rd Kentucky Derby Winner.
Wagering records are broken in 2006 when Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby.
Jockey Mike Smith atop Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner. The total wagering for all of the races on Derby day topped $155 million dollars. Nearly $104 million was bet on just the Kentucky Derby.
The chestnut colored colt, affectionately called Big Red, made history in 1973 when he became the first Triple Crown Winner in 25 years. Secretariat’s track records at The Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes still stand today.
In 1978, Affirmed took home the Triple Crown, making him the last colt in over 30 years to accomplish such a feat. He was a descendent of 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral.
In the early 1900’s actors, athletes and dignitaries began attending the Derby. On May 3rd 1969, Richard Nixon attended the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, with a record crowd of over 100,000. He was the first America President to do so. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has also attended the race.
Today the Kentucky Derby is the place to be and to be seen. Top entertainers including Rebecca Romijn, Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo attend the race.
Fashion and big hats are as much a part of the Kentucky Derby as the thoroughbred horses. Hat sales in Louisville soar during derby time. Model and actress Jenny McCarthy wears a wide brim hat for Derby day and Chelsea Clinton shows off her festive hat.
Hat designer, Christine Moore is one of the most popular designers for the Kentucky Derby. Her hats have graced the covers of fashion magazines and hit television shows. Moore’s hats price range from $175 to $1,700.
The Mint Julep has been the beverage of the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Each year, almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over during the Kentucky Derby Weekend. This requires over 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.