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May 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Several sports gurus had predicted that last Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby would smash previous records. And in many ways they were right. Churchill Downs recorded an all-time high in attendance — 164,858, beating a record set in 1974. Betting from all sources was up 1.5 percent from last year to $165.2 million, with online betting up 8 percent from a year ago. The wagering site, owned by Churchill Downs, signed up 47 percent more new accounts. Unfortunately, NBC, which expected a commensurate boost in viewers and expanded its coverage in hopes of attracting advertisers eager to reach a big and guaranteed live audience — after all, who would watch a horse race on a DVR? — saw ratings actually drop 12 percent from last year. “We were a little disappointed in that,” Churchill Downs chief Bob Evans told the Lexington, KY Herald-Leader. Nevertheless, the race itself, won by 20-1 longshot Animal Kingdom, did attract 14.5 million viewers, which, had it run during primetime, would have put it at No. 2 on last week’s Nielsen ratings list.