The 2022 Kentucky Derby took in the highest betting handle in the history of the Triple Crown race. According to ESPN, a record $179 million was wagered in the pari-mutuel pool on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby — a big 17 percent increase over the track’s 2021 returns.
The $179 million handle was also eight percent more than the previous record, which was set in 2019.
But in a cruel twist of fate for bettors, not much money was placed on the horse that won. Of the whopping $179 million, only $501,135 was wagered on Rich Strike, who won the opening leg of the Triple Crown as a very unlikely 80-1 underdog.
Rich Strike became the second-largest upset in the history of the iconic race when it passed favorites Epicenter and Zandon in the final seconds to win. The horse wasn’t even supposed to be in the Kentucky Derby field, but a late scratch on Friday eased the horse into the race. Now Rich Strike is the biggest underdog to win the race since Donerail in 1913.
Helping the massive increase in the amount of money that was wagered on the race was that for the first time since 2019, this was a “normal” Kentucky Derby. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the last two races to deal with smaller crowds than usual and pushed the Derby to be run at a different date than it usually is.
The 2022 Kentucky Derby, a return to normalcy, will go down in history for more than one reason.