Monday, May 20, 2024
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Churchill Downs Says Kentucky Derby Betting Toppled Records

Shares of Churchill Downs (NASDAQ: CHDN) notched some upside Monday after the gaming company said wagering on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby hit an all-time high.

That was true of the Kentucky Derby Day program and the entire slate of Derby Week offerings. Mystik Dan, an 18-1 shot, claimed the 150th running of the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Derby Day program set a new record of $320.5 million, beating last year’s record of $288.7 million. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby race was a new record of $210.7 million, beating the previous record of $188.7 million set in 2023. All-sources handle for Derby Week rose to a new record of $446.6 million, beating last year’s record of $412.0 million,” according to a statement issued by Louisville-based Churchill Downs.

The Derby arrived at just the right time for Churchill Downs investors as the stock entered Monday in the midst of a run that’s seen it surge 12.3% over the past month, helped by a strong first-quarter earnings report delivered in late April.

Churchill Downs also noted that this year’s Kentucky Derby brought new records for the operator’s TwinSpires unit.

Handle for the Derby Day program at TwinSpires jumped to a new record of $92.1 million, easily surpassing the 2023 tally of $75.5 million. For the Derby itself, TwinSpires handled $60.9 million in wagers — also a new record and well ahead of the previous all-time high of $48.9 million set last year. The best viewership of the Derby on NBC in 35 years was another catalyst for TwinSpires.

TwinSpires, which was the subject of takeover speculation several years ago, played a pivotal role in helping the parent company realize record Derby Week earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $26 million to $28 million. That forecast was highlighted in the press release by Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen. Separately, it appears as though new amenities at the iconic Kentucky track, including a new paddock, paid dividends for the operator.

“1) enthusiasm, and hence incremental pricing power, around the 150th running, 2) the debut of the transformational $200M Paddock Project, and 3) residual ticket yield left to capture following the debut of the First Turn Experience last year. Regarding the Paddock Project, our checks suggest solid customer feedback on the new & unique viewing product,” wrote Stifel analyst Jeffrey Stantial in a note to clients.

While the Kentucky Derby is one of the most beloved events on the US sports calendar, it’s long attracted horses owned by foreign entities, but the international ties don’t end there. Though Japan is still a small part of overall Derby betting, it’s growing, and with Japanese horses Forever Young and T O Password finishing third and fifth, respectively, in the Derby, Churchill’s Europe & Japan “Road to Derby” initiative appears to be paying off.

We believe two top five positions for Japanese starters should help further cultivate interest abroad, helping CHDN unlock a sizable wagering total addressable market and attract incremental wealthy international visitation,” added Statntial.

Stantial also highlighted historical racing machine (HRM) venues in Kentucky and Virginia as well as a new regional casino in Terre Haute, Ind. as potential catalysts for the stock going forward.

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