Weekend Entertainment: Kentucky Derby Time Is Here

It is a remembrance of a different era.

There is a major horse race taking place in Louisville. The Kentucky Derby. Seven 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. People also turned away from horse racing as they did with boxing. Within a generation, people’s sports tastes changed with football, the National Football League and college football along with high school football, becoming the most popular sport in America. There is also more product available.

Attendance and revenues at racetracks didn’t suddenly rise because there were Triple Crown winners in 2015 and 2018. 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 and sportsbooks sprouting up around the country have taken care of gamblers’ needs. The horse racing industry has been saved partially by casino gambling at tracks around the country. Horse racing is at the bottom rung of American sports and that is not going to change anytime soon.

 Jockey John Velazquez, left, watches as trainer Bob Baffert holds up the winner’s trophy after they victory with Medina Spirit in the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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Evan can be reached at evan_weiner@hotmail.com