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How many people watched the Kentucky Derby 2024?

May 8, 2024

When we are talking about the elite world of horse racing, only one race comes to mind – the Kentucky Derby. Even a few days after the event we are still under the impression of the impressive race that drew thousands of spectators to witness the two-minute action. Since the Kentucky Derby is a race full of history and tradition, we often like to compare numbers and see how is the event doing. The Kentucky Derby is also the perfect picture of the entire horse racing industry. Bear in mind that this is a globally watched race, and the viewership can tell a lot about the sport, whether it is declining or rising in popularity.

But this year was also a special year for the Kentucky Derby. It was the 150th anniversary of the event, which is quite a significant milestone. That’s why the organisers at Churchill Downs went all in with the preparations for this two-day event.

One thing is for sure, the Kentucky Derby was paced with A-list celebrities. It was an action-packed show full of drama, luxury, class, fashion and celebrities.

So, obviously, we are talking about a big thing here. So, how many spectators actually watched the race both in person or on TV?

Kentucky Derby Highlights

SPOILER ALERT – If you still haven’t watched the race and plan to replay it soon, skip this part.

There was a lot of competition at the 150th Kentucky Derby and the end result wasn’t that shocking like Rich Strike from a few years ago. This year, the finish was just as exciting as the start. It was a three-horse photo finish.

Out of all three horses Mystik Dan managed to pull through the fastest, alongside Sierra Leone and Forever Young to win the Run for the Roses. The end was truly spectacular. Mystik Dan won by a nose, and the last time that was this close was in 1996.

It was truly hard to see with the naked eye who won the race, and we haven’t had such a close finish for a year now. This proves that the Kentucky Derby is becoming even more competitive where only the best of the best horses gets to participate in the event and the difference between them is very little.

We can spot the same level of competition on the second leg of the Triple Crown with the Preakness Stakes.

So, how many people actually witnessed this incredible race? Let’s talk numbers. If you take a look at the Preakness Stakes contenders you will see the odds are leaning towards Mystik Dan, but it is still questionable if the horse is going to compete in the second leg of Triple Crown.

150th Kentucky Derby Viewership

Obviously, this was one of the biggest if not the biggest horse racing event in the world. So, it should attract a lot of eyes, right? Absolutely!

In terms of actual spectators, we’ve seen thousands of them. Particularly around 157,000 only on Saturday to witness this incredible photo-finish run by Mystic Dan. This isn’t a record attendance for the Kentucky Derby, despite the larger popularity and new renovations to the racetrack allowing more visitors.

The record attendance was set on the 141st Kentucky Derby where around 175,000 fans came to witness the action at Churchill Downs.

With that said, it is important to mention that attendance is growing compared to last year. In the 2023 Kentucky Derby, we had around 150,000, which is around 5 per cent less than this year.

Here are all the attendance numbers by year:

· 2024 – 156,710
· 2023 — 150,335
· 2022 — 147,294
· 2021 — 51,838* (Covid-19)
· 2019 — 150,729
· 2018 — 157,813

But that shouldn’t surprise us. We have an even bigger leap in viewership on TV and online platforms.

According to NBC Sports data, when Mystic Dan took all the glory, 18.5 million people glued to their screens. This is the largest Kentucky Derby audience since 1989 on ABC.

Bear in mind we are talking about averages. The broadcast viewership peaked at 20.1 million from 7 to 7:15 p.m.

On top of that, the Kentucky Derby 150 also had the largest streaming audience for a horse racing event on NBC. This year, there were 714,000 viewers watching the race online compared to 2023 when only 371,000 were tuned in on their official website.

Just as a comparison, the average viewership on an NBC broadcast was around 16.7 million, and this is up 13 per cent from last year.

Final Words

It seems like the world of horse racing is just getting more exciting, and with all the races investing millions in renovations and improving competitiveness, more people are getting interested in horse racing.

Horse racing is a sport where you don’t have to be an expert handicapper to understand it. You just watch the race; bet on a horse that you think will finish first and observe the thrills of the race.

Fortis Media expects the viewership for the Kentucky Derby and other elite horse racing events to continue to rise in the future. After all, the sport is advancing, and we are slowly stepping away from the chaotic world we lived in this past couple of years. This means that people will have more money and time for entertainment.

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