TV ratings not accurate gauge of popularity

As detractors shovel manure on what they believe is the demise of horse racing, the Kentucky Derby proves how resilient the sport is.

Attendance and handle were up at virtually every outpost that offered betting on the Derby. In fact, NBC reported 14.8 million Americans watched the race, a 9.0 national rating that was up 6 percent over 2011.

My read on horse race TV ratings is it is the least understood number in our business. That's because the way racing fans participate lends itself to lower TV ratings.

Most racing fans are out at racetracks, off-track betting locations and race books - not sitting at home in front of their flat screens. These participants aren't counted in Nielsen ratings.

The NBC numbers underestimate the growing interest in the Derby and, to a degree, the sport of horse racing.

For example, Las Vegas earned a 9.2 rating and a 19 share. We just missed finishing in the top 20 markets nationally. Imagine how much higher our Nielsen rating would be if it included the thousands of eyeballs that watched the broadcast in race books and casino parties around town.

I'll Have Another will be fun to watch in the Triple Crown chase. The Preakness is no gimme. But imagine the potential spike in interest should he go into the Belmont with a Triple Crown in sight.

■ TRAKUS DERBY REPLAY - Watch a unique Trakus replay of the Kentucky Derby as if you're with jockey Mario Gutierrez for the ride on I'll Have Another at

■ DERBY WINNER MAKES LUCKY'S PAY - Winning a futures bet in Las Vegas is like trying to catch a fly with a pair of chopsticks.

However, some people from the Doug O'Neill barn hammered I'll Have Another in the Lucky's Derby future book in early February. This was days before he won the Robert Lewis at 43-1 odds at Santa Anita.

The wagers were made at Buffalo Bill's in Primm. The first bets were placed at 200-1 odds. Dan Shapiro of Lucky's lowered the odds four times, but the money kept coming.

When I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby, it caused a loss on the Lucky's Derby futures for the first time in four years.

■ FREE DERBY BETS - Here's a tale of two free Kentucky Derby win bets. At Churchill Downs, Joel Einhorn won a chance to make a $100,000 Derby Dream bet, which he placed on Alpha, who finished 12th.

At Santa Anita, Greg Politano won a drawing for a $1,000 win bet on Santa Anita Derby winner I'll Have Another. The victory earned Politano $16,300.

■ HORSEPLAYER WORLD SERIES QUALIFIER - The Gold Coast will host a qualifier for the 2013 Horseplayer World Series on May 18. Entry fee is $40, and two free HWS seats will be awarded.

Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.