Unexpected Contenders: States Surprisingly Interested In The 2024 Kentucky Derby

Written By Walter Yuhl on April 18, 2024
Photoshopped image of a horse at the Kentucky Derby with text that asks Which States Have Derby Fever

Of course, the Kentucky Derby is a popular event in Kentucky. But are other states excited about the Run for the Roses?

The Kentucky Derby is a major event held annually on the first Saturday in May. You can watch this year’s Derby on May 4, 2024, on NBC and Peacock.

The Kentucky Derby is more than just a horse race, though. The pomp and circumstance around the event are as important as who might end up in the winner’s circle.

It is no stretch of the imagination to understand the importance of the Kentucky Derby to the state of Kentucky. But where else is the Kentucky Derby popular?

You might have guessed that California and New Jersey would top the list. They are both big horse racing states. You would be wrong, though.

To determine which states are most interested in the Kentucky Derby, we looked at five key Google search terms and the number of social media mentions by state. The results may surprise you.

Key takeaways

Let’s face it: Kentucky takes center stage every year on the first Saturday of May. For this article, we used Kentucky as the benchmark to measure the Derby’s popularity in other states.

  • Kansas came in a distant second (35) compared to Kentucky (100)
  • Michigan (8) made the top list because of its search interest around the terms “Kentucky Derby party” and “When is the Kentucky Derby”
  • Florida, which sent the most winning horses to the Derby (16) behind Kentucky (207), only came in seventh on the list

One thing is clear: Most of the chatter around the Kentucky Derby comes from Kentucky, and every other state pales in comparison.

PlayMichigan bar chart titled, Kentucky Derby Lovers and Haters, shows the states with the most interest in the Kentucky Derby.

Why is the Kentucky Derby so popular?

The Kentucky Derby is steeped in tradition. In a world that is moving towards Zoom meetings, remote work, and phoning it in – literally, the Kentucky Derby offers an event that fosters community and connectedness.

It goes beyond the “fastest two minutes in sports.” It is a global celebration of style and gastronomy that brings influencers, celebrities and trendsetters to Churchill Downs.

It was unsurprising that Kentucky is the most popular state for conversations centering on the Kentucky Derby. In fact, on a scale of 0–100 (see methodology below), Kentucky scored 100 in all six categories.

Kansas came in a distant second with a score of 36, just over a third of Kentucky’s score. After Kansas, the scores inched downward, with the 10th most interested state, Minnesota, scoring 28.5. To put that in perspective, the lowest-scoring states, Alaska and Hawaii, earned just 1.5 points each.

The top states most interested in the Kentucky Derby:

  1. Kentucky (100)
  2. Kansas (36.2)
  3. Ohio (34.2)
  4. Massachusetts (33.7)
  5. South Carolina (30.7)
  6. North Dakota (30.5)
  7. Florida (30.3)
  8. New Hampshire (29.3)
  9. Michigan (28.6)
  10. Minnesota (28.5)

Except for North Dakota’s place in the top 10, what surprised us most about the results was which states were missing from the list.

Following Kentucky, the three states that send the winningest horses to the Kentucky Derby are Florida, California and Virginia. Given that many past Derby winners come from these three states, one would think those states would have a high level of interest in the Run For The Roses.

Surprisingly, only Florida made the top 10 on our list.

PlayMichigan bar chart titled Home States Of Winning Horses reveals the number of Kentucky Derby winners from four states.

Here is how those states with the most winning horses in the Kentucky Derby scored on our interest list:

  1. Florida             30.3
  2. California         12.2
  3. Virginia            14.1

We don’t know what’s going on in North Dakota, which topped Florida, but clearly, they are fascinated by the Derby.

The states with the least interest in the Kentucky Derby

Due to ties at the bottom of the list, 11 states made the list for showing the least interest in the Kentucky Derby.

Maine and Montana tied for the 10th least interested at 5.7 points each. Arkansas and Idaho tied for 5th place with 4.0 points. Alaska and Hawaii tied for least interested with only 1.5 points.

Top 10 least interest states:

T-1Alaska1.5
T-1Hawaii1.5
3New Mexico2.9
4Vermont3.5
T-5Arkansas4.0
T-5Idaho4.0
7Wyoming4.2
8Nevada4.5
9West Virginia5.5
T-10Maine 5.7
T-10Montana5.7

The Kentucky Derby reigns supreme in Kentucky

Even though Kentucky dominates internet searches and social media for Kentucky Derby terms, the event itself is a global phenomenon where people worldwide are glued to their streams for “the fastest two minutes in sports.”

It makes sense that Alaska and Hawaii have the least interest, being so far away and without much horse racing history.

What happened to Virginia and California? After all, these two states have produced winning horses and boast a long horse racing history.

At the end of the day, while the Kentucky Derby is watched and talked about worldwide, Kentucky becomes the center of that world on the first Sunday in May each year.

Methodology

We used six data sets, five Google search trends and social media mentions in the last 12 months for specific Kentucky Derby-related search terms.

The Google search trends were sorted by state. Google assigned the states a rank from 100 for the most searched to less than one for the least searched. We used these numbers for our ranking. We assigned a score of 0.5 for states Google listed as less than one. For states not on a given list, we assigned a score of zero.

Google search terms:

  • Kentucky Derby
  • Kentucky Derby tickets
  • Kentucky Derby favorite
  • Kentucky Derby party
  • When is the Kentucky Derby

Social media mentions from 21,627 profiles were broken out by each state and given a percentage ranking.

Kentucky was ranked highest with 31%. We converted the percentages into the same scale as the Google rankings using the ratio 31:100.

We calculated the average score with all the scores on the same scale. The average score determined the rankings.

Sources

Equibase

Google Trends

SparkToro

Fair Use

When using this data and research, please attribute by linking to this article or sharing our graphic and citing PlayMichigan.

Remember, PlayMichigan is your source for breaking news about the regulated Michigan online gambling market.

Complete Kentucky Derby popularity rankings

StateSearch Term: Kentucky DerbySearch Term: Kentucky Derby TicketsSearch Term: Kentucky Derby favoriteSearch Term: Kentucky Derby partySearch Term: When is the Kentucky DerbySocial media mentionsAverage
Alabama17180.545454.821.7
Arizona1662035355.519.6
Arkansas16700.50.504.0
Alaska9000001.5
California9310151521.312.2
Colorado2071040409.721.1
Connecticut27404040018.5
Delaware27900006.0
Florida241120555516.830.3
Georgia161210454514.823.8
Hawaii0900001.5
Idaho15800.50.504.0
Illinois25120404016.122.2
Indiana32280454510.326.7
Iowa271303030016.7
Kansas241309090036.2
Kentucky100100100100100100100.0
Louisiana189504040026.2
Maine24900.50.505.7
Maryland1852030304.818.0
Massachusetts2785055557.133.7
Michigan26182050507.428.6
Minnesota24113050505.828.5
Mississippi16180.540406.820.2
Missouri2013204040923.7
Montana221200005.7
Nebraska25900.50.55.56.8
Nevada161100004.5
New Hampshire250.50.57575029.3
New Jersey225204545022.8
New Mexico170.500002.9
New York16520252522.919.0
North Carolina19112040408.723.1
North Dakota23008080030.5
Ohio311830555516.134.2
Oklahoma16110.53030014.6
Oregon114402020015.8
Pennsylvania30100505014.825.8
Rhode Island271000006.2
South Carolina2212206565030.7
South Dakota200.5003008.4
Tennessee211620303012.621.6
Texas13810300.521.613.9
Utah10300.53007.3
Vermont21000003.5
Virginia1771030155.814.1
Washington1052015653.919.8
West Virginia221100005.5
Wisconsin291506506.123.0
Wyoming25000004.2

For the raw data and calculations, email [email protected].

Walter Yuhl Avatar
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Walter Yuhl

Walter (Way) Yuhl is a freelance writer and business professor. Way has written for the Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff Business News, Bangkok University, and Shandong University of Science and Technology as well as edited content for the U.N., Thailand International airports, and other organizations. He has worked with Cantena Media since 2019.

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