Sunday, May 05, 2002

128th Derby means big bucks payoffs

Associated Press Writer

        LOUISVILLE, Ky. — War Emblem returned big money to bettors who ventured a few bucks Saturday on No. 5 in the Kentucky Derby.

        With a big field of 18 and no clear prerace favorite, the $43 payoff on a $2 winning bet was among the 10 best returns since Churchill Downs started keeping records. The return on the 20-1 shot tied the amount paid for a winning bet on Bold Venture in 1936.

        The payoffs rose astronomically for the exotic wagers. A $2 exacta on War Emblem and Proud Citizen meant $1,300.80. A trifecta, picking War Emblem, Proud Citizen and Perfect Drift in order, returned $18,373.20.

        A superfecta, which included fourth-place Medaglia d'Oro, meant $91,764.50.

        Owner Prince Ahmed Salman, a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, did not get to share in the wealth, at least from the betting windows.

        “No, I'm not a gambler,” he said.

        The post-time favorite was Harlan's Holiday, the morning-line pick who made it to 6-1 among the moneyed masses in the fifth-largest crowd in Derby history. His seventh-place finish made him the latest Derby favorite to lose.

        The less adventurous among the 145,033 sun-baked patrons got $22.80 on a place bet and $13.60 to show on War Emblem.

        Place horse Proud Citizen paid $24.60 and $13.40. Perfect Drift was $6.40 to show.

        In 1913, Donerail paid $184.90, a record for a $2 wager on a Derby winner. The second-highest payoff in the 128 years of the Derby was $123.60 on Stone Street in 1908, but it was an anomaly because that year a $5 minimum bet was required.

        Gallahadion in 1940 provided the second-best payoff on a $2 bet — $72.40.

        Salman nevertheless profited handsomely from the win. His Thoroughbred Corp. bought War Emblem after his win in the Illinois Derby. The reported $1 million price was recouped and then some.

        In addition to the $875,000 first-place purse from the Kentucky Derby, War Emblem got a $1 million bonus for winning the Illinois-Kentucky double.

        “I thought the price was extremely reasonable,” Salman said, dismissing any notion that he somehow bought his way into winner's circle. “Everybody buys the Derby.”

        Churchill Downs said incomplete totals showed betting on the Derby set records for both the race and the 11-race card.

        A total of $79,094,806 was wagered on the Derby, 11.1 percent more than the previous record of $71,189,142 set last year, the track said.

        The on-track total for the day rose 9.73 percent to a record $19,400,818, the track said. The previous Derby Day record was set in 2000 but included wagering on just 10 races.

        Overall betting on the entire card was $123,215,302, up 14.5 percent from the previous best of $107,598,904 established in 2001, according to incomplete figures from the track.

        On-track wagering on the race was $8,630,408, up 3.23 percent from last year's $8,360,273 but below the record of $8,737,659 set in 2000, Churchill Downs said.


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