Kentucky Derby Will Again Make Money and History
Life + Money

Kentucky Derby Will Again Make Money and History

REUTERS/John Sommers II

It’s time for the 139th running of the famed Kentucky Derby. And once again the mint julep – as well as the highly trained thoroughbreds that will run for about two minutes on Saturday – will be flowing fast. But definitely not for free.

A basic mint julep at Churchill Downs and its surroundings this week will run you about $8 – and some 120,000 drinks are typically consumed at the track on Friday and Saturday.

But there’s more. A special limited-offer mint julep comes with a $1,000 price tag on Derby day, if you can believe it. (Believe it.)  Bourbon maker Woodford Reserve is concocting the pricey beverage for the eighth year in a row at the Derby, reports USA Today and CNBC – with proceeds going to various charities.

For $1,000, Woodford Reserve fills to the brim a sterling silver cup that includes an engraved horse and rider, a gold-plated garland of roses and a gold-plated straw. Laura Petry, brand manager of Woodford Reserve, says the offering is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

But here’s another “once in a lifetime.” For an opening bid of $5,000, a cup called the “Golden Opportunity” gives the buyer a chance to present a trophy to the winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Class (the race that’s run right before the Derby). The lucky buyer is also treated to a tour of the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center with a Hall of Fame jockey – plus a tour and dinner at the Woodford distillery in Versailles, Kentucky.

But for those not satisfied with all that – how about the new 10,000-square-foot VIP section at Churchill Downs now known as The Mansion? Churchill Downs spent $3 million on the upgrade.

Built inside the former media center, “it has some of the best views of the track and grandstand,” Sports Illustrated reports. The new area seats about 300 people.Tickets “range from $7,000 to $12,500.” The area is open exactly twice a year – on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby day.

SI also reports that “a total of about $150 million in upgrades at Churchill Downs began with a major construction project completed in 2005, which drastically changed the exterior look of the structure, with new additions rising nearly as high as the spires.”

Here are more numbers associated with the Derby, the longest continuously held sporting event in this country:

$217.8 million
The total economic impact on Louisville and its surrounding area during the Derby, according to a study by Wilkerson & Associates in 2001, the last year the study was done.

$7 million
The amount it cost NBC for the broadcast rights to the race, a deal that holds through 2015.

The total purse of the Derby if all 20 horses were to start on Saturday. As of Friday afternoon, long-shot Black Onyx was scratched from the race – leaving 19 to race to the finish.  

What the winner will earn on Saturday.

The number of spectators that gathered on the banks of the Ohio River last year to take part in Thunder Over Louisville, the nation’s largest annual fireworks event, part of the Kentucky Derby Festival. (Area residents say that’s actually a low attendance number: The weather kept some people away last year. Previous numbers have reached as high as 800,000.)

The amount originally spent to buy Goldencents, a horse getting a lot of buzz this year. Rick Pitino, the Louisville basketball coach, is part owner. The horse will be led by jockey Kevin Krigger, an African American from the Virgin Islands; the last time an African American won the Derby was was back in 1902.

The amount owners Stuart Janney III and Dinny Phipps spent on Orb, currently considered the favorite. Orb comes into Saturday’s contest with a four-race winning streak.

The amount charged by a Hampton Inn 10 miles away in Indiana for a single night’s stay during Derby weekend. (Normal room rate: $90.)

The amount some attendees will spend on their Derby day hats.

Cost of a Kentucky Derby 139 ladies jacket at the official Kentucky Derby store.

Cost of a Kentucky Derby 139 retro design T-shirt also offered at the Kentucky Derby store.