Tuesday November 28, 2023

Kentucky Derby: Where The Rich Come to Play

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks
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The Kentucky Derby is known as the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” and it’s also one of the most expensive.

Wagers on the race were down to $79.4 million last year — less than half of the $165.5 million bet in 2019 — but the event remains a cultural statement for high-net-worth individuals.

  • The most exclusive hotels go for more than $20,000 a weekend.
  • The Mansion, an invite-only club that opened in 2014, features a Chanel makeup artist in the women’s bathroom and a $1,000 mint julep cocktail.
  • Millionaires Row has been an exclusive, interior dining room since 1966, starting at $36,000 per table.

For fans indulging in the event’s more luxurious elements, there’s a good chance of running into the world’s wealthiest. Horse owners include William Strauss, co-founder of ProFlowers, which sold to Formula One and Atlanta Braves owner Liberty Media for $477 million in 2005.

Sheikh Mohammed, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, also owns a horse racing in the Derby, but complaints have been filed to pull his horse from the race after reports surfaced of his involvement in human rights abuses, including the disappearance of his own daughter.

Though millions are spent on attendance, drinks, and gambling, valet workers — essential to the event’s logistics — get paid $16 an hour. They protested earlier this week in demand of a fair union contract.

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