The crowd count, 134,444, was far below the record 163,628 who came in 1974 for the 100th Kentucky Derby, but betting on today's 109th Derby at Churchill Downs reached record proportions.
The handle of $5,546,977 was up $535,000 from 1982.
This Derby held its own in celebrity attendance, and even former Super Bowl quarterback Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals remarked, "This is probably greater than the Super Bowl."
Former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and Vice President George Bush were among occupants of the fourth tier, known as Millionaires' Row.
Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and wife Phyllis George Brown were host to Carter, his wife Rosalynn, son Chip and daughter Amy. Football quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Roger Staubach and golfer Ray Floyd were among the sports figures.
Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial said before the race he liked Sunny's Halo.
"This is a great spectacle," Musial said. "Besides the race, you get to see all your friends."
Carter stayed with successful thoroughbred breeder Tom Gentry in Lexington, and, with race favorite Marfa having been foaled on Gentry's farm, "I like Marfa," Carter said. "He's a political friend of mine."
Ford was going with Country Pine. Ford was the guest of Churchill Downs' board chairman, John Galbreath, whose son Dan was running the horse.
Far from the VIP seats, several hundred folks spent the day in folding chairs in a grassy area near a tulip garden behind the twin-spired clubhouse.
One, Louisville paint dealer Tim Roseberry, said, "I guess I haven't missed a Derby in 25 years. I never get to see one, but I come. There's electricity in the air."
All the props and spirit for a gigantic beach party filled the infield, where the crowd basked in 70-degree temperatures early in the day. Many, though, huddled under cover when thunderstorms struck about 40 minutes before the race.
Brightly colored rain slickers and tarpaulins dotted the infield about 4:56 p.m., when the storms rumbled through, accompanied by a few bolts of lightning. Some in the estimated 85,000 in the infield (out of perhaps 135,000 total attendance) rushed for the exit gates and the shelter of their cars.
There were 43 arrests reported by noon. Sgt. Grace Smith with the Jefferson County Board of Corrections said most had been of out-of-towners, for possession of alcoholic beverages and marijuana. That total was normal for midday during the Derby, officers said.
Confiscated beverages were being tossed in a dumpster at the main gate as Derby fans opened their coolers, purses and bags for inspection. "There's no way we can get it all," one officer conceded.
Shortly before the featured race, the pari-mutuel machines failed for about 10 minutes, leaving prospective bettors squirming in the long queues.