The Kentucky Derby Is Still A Top Of The Line Event

A place to be seen.

There is a major horse race taking place in Louisville. The Kentucky Derby. Four years ago, there was the hope that American Pharoah by winning Thoroughbred Racing’s Triple Crown, would help revive the horse racing industry. It didn’t. Justify winning the Triple Crown in 2018 didn’t boost the industry. Times have changed and it is no longer 1950 when baseball was the king of American sports with boxing and horse racing a distant second and third. College football had a large following but the National Football League was little more than a semi-pro operation. The National Basketball Association had just been created by a merger, the National Hockey League had six teams and soccer was a fringe sport. Horse racing was an everyday event. People could go to the track and bet legally. Within a generation, horse racing’s importance fell as states offered off track betting and lotteries. Betting was made easy.

Attendance and revenues at racetracks didn’t suddenly rise because there were Triple Crown winners in 2015 and 2018. But there was a huge benefit for the owners of American Pharoah’s. The horse is making millions of dollars for the owners who breed him with the mares of owners who put up money and hope that a union between American Pharoah and their mares produces a champion. American Pharoah’s first two year olds on the track have won two races in three starts this year. The Kentucky Derby will have pageantry, complete with stylish hats and bow ties and mint julips. It is a throwback day but state lotteries, off track betting and the availability of all forms of gambling in stores along with casinos sprouting up around the country have taken care of gamblers’ needs. The horse racing industry has been saved by casino gambling at tracks around the country. And that is not going to change anytime soon.

Kentucky Derby winner Justify, center, with exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard, waits before being escorted to the track for a workout, Thursday, May 17, 2018, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. . (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)