Now that the 2018 Triple Crown is in the books, how did it perform on the metrics of attendance, wagering, and television ratings?   In spite of the rainiest Kentucky Derby in history, rain and thick fog at Pimlico for the Preakness, and a 20-minute-long malfunction on the TwinSpires betting platform immediately preceding the Derby, the answer is that, on balance, the Triple Crown did very well on all three measures.

On-Track Attendance

Official attendance at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby was 157,000 people, the eighth-largest crowd in the race’s history.

A reported 134,487 people showed up at Pimlico for the Preakness Stakes, the third largest crowd in the history of the race.

Belmont Park capped attendance at 90,000 and the reported attendance was 90,327.


All-sources wagering (on-track betting plus off-track betting) on the Derby itself and the Derby-day card broke all records.  Betting on both the Derby ($149.9 million) and Derby-day card ($225.7 million) rose 8% over the previous records set in 2017.  The $311.2 million bet during the 6-day Derby week was also a record, up 9% from 2017.  The Kentucky Oaks card on Friday saw a record-breaking 14% increase in betting handle over 2017 and handle on the Kentucky Oaks race soared 18%.

Betting on the Preakness card was $93.66 million–which was the third best ever—and came notwithstanding small field sizes, including the eight-entry Preakness with a strong favorite in the mix.  The Preakness itself set a betting record with a handle of $61.97 million, up $600,000 over the previous record set in 2016 and up 2.9% over 2017.

All-sources wagering on the Belmont Stakes 13-race card was nearly $138 million, the second largest amount (behind the 2014 Belmont card) in the history of the New York Racing Association.  Wagering on the Belmont Stakes itself was $72.7 million, which fell short of the money bet on the Triple Crown attempts of California Chrome in 2014 and American Pharoah in 2015.  Betting handle on the 3-day Belmont Festival was almost $169 million, up 35% over 2017.

Television Ratings

The Derby telecast had an overnight rating of 9.1% (down by 13% from 2017) with a 21 share (down 8.7% from 2017).  The race portion of the telecast had a rating of 10.9 and a 25 share.  (A show’s rating is the percentage of all possible TV households or viewers in the country and its share is the percentage of households or viewers actually watching TV at the time.)  The Derby telecast had the best Saturday television rating since a Winter Olympics telecast on February 17, 2018.

The Preakness had a television rating of 5.5 and a share of 12.

The Belmont telecast had a rating of 8.1 with a share of 19.  The actual race portion was better, with a rating of 9.9 and a share of 23.  These figures were below the ratings for California Chrome’ s failed effort to win the 2014 Belmont and American Pharoah’s successful run in 2015.  However, NBC Sports said the 2018 Belmont telecast was likely to be the highest TV rating for the weekend.

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