Preakness Stakes Handle Rises Slightly Even With Small Field

Preakness Stakes Handle Rises Slightly Even With Small Field
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Wagering on Saturday’s running of The Preakness Stakes increased from last year. However, another small field for one of thoroughbred racing’s premier events kept the handle from approaching the record. The second leg of the Triple Crown is a major Maryland sports betting event in addition to drawing national interest in horse racing.

In all, bettors put down $57.9 million for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, which was won by Seize the Grey. That’s up about 6% compared to the $54.6 million for last year’s Preakness.

The 2023 Preakness had its smallest field in 37 years, as just seven horses competed. This year’s race had just eight entrants, though a ninth – Muth, who likely would have been the favorite – was scratched a couple of days before the race due to a high fever. 

The handle rose slightly for the 2024 Preakness but wagering throughout the day at Pimlico fell for the third consecutive year. The $98.9 million wagered was down less than 3% from the $101.7 million bet in 2023. Both cards featured 14 races, but this year’s had just 107 starters, down from the 118 that raced last year.

Winning Preakness Betting Trend Continues

Breaking down the handle data by type of wager, Saturday’s Preakness continued the trend of wagering increasing on bets for a horse to win. The win pool nearly reached $17.3 million, a 12.3% increase from last year. The total amount put down for either win, place or show bets was just less than $25.3 million. That was a nearly 10% improvement from 2023.

Since last year, FanDuel Maryland Sportsbook bettors have been able to use funds from their sports betting accounts to make parimutuel wagers. FanDuel’s racing app primarily promotes bets on horses to win.

This year’s Kentucky Derby saw a 19% increase in bets to win. FanDuel reported it had more than 700,000 place bets on the May 4 race, with peak betting traffic for the race reaching “Super Bowl levels.” FanDuel did not release similar findings for this year’s Preakness.

Some other sportsbooks have their own wagering platforms for racing. But unlike FanDuel, they have yet to unveil a single wallet that would enable their customers – including those signing up in the Old Line State using Maryland sports betting promo codes – to use their sports betting account funds for a racing wager.

Pimlico also reported year-to-year increases in exactas ($9.9 million, up 4.9%) and trifectas ($10 million, up 3.2%) for the Preakness. Those are the two pools that attract the most money outside of the win pool.

Analysis: Good Day For The Preakness

While Saturday’s handles were a mix of ups and downs, seeing an increase in Preakness wagering was reassuring for the race. It’s the middle child of the Triple Crown. It does not generate the worldwide interest of the Kentucky Derby, and it pales in comparison to the Belmont Stakes, which is run in New York and sometimes draws a large, national audience if a Triple Crown is on the line.

This year’s event also took place at the same time as the PGA Championship and the Oleksandr Usyk-Tyson Fury fight for the undisputed heavyweight boxing title, which further diluted the audience.

There might not be hard data to prove it, but it’s easy to connect the increase in wagering to the introduction of FanDuel’s single wallet.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if other Maryland sportsbook apps operators such as bet365, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings and ESPN BET can someday develop a single wallet that connects both fixed-odds sports betting and parimutuel horse racing wagering platforms. If they do, that could make it easier for their account holders to make Derby and Preakness bets, and we would likely continue to see wagering on these big races increase for the foreseeable future.

USA Today photo by Mitch Stringer

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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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