Kentucky Derby 2014: How popular is it compared to other sports?

Kentucky Derby 2014 will be plenty popular. Last year's event drew more than 16 million TV viewers. But how does that stack up in the modern sports hierarchy? Well, the Kentucky Derby is no Super Bowl, but it's still giving NASCAR a run for its money. 

Garry Jones/AP/File
Exercise rider Abel Flores takes Kentucky Derby entrant Tapiture for a morning workout at Churchill Downs Friday, May 2, 2014, in Louisville, Ky.The Kentucky Derby drew in more than 16 million viewers in 2013, making it the year's sixth-most popular sporting event.

Get out your big, extravagant hats: It’s Kentucky Derby time.

Horse racing used to be one of the big three sports in America, along with baseball and boxing. The Derby is still plenty popular, drawing more than 16 million TV viewers last year. But how does that stack up in the modern sports hierarchy?

Ahead of Saturday’s “Run for the Roses,” NerdWallet put the horses on the track against football, basketball, baseball and more to see how the top-rated events in each sport rank in the race for TV viewers.

“And down the stretch they come, heading to the finish line it’s … “

“… not even close.” The Super Bowl crushes the competition, like Secretariat at the Belmont, and it comes as no surprise—the NFL has long since usurped baseball as the national pastime.

It’s really a competition for second place, where the Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals squeaked by this year’s BCS National Championship game. That’s an upset, ladies and gentlemen. Most years, the most popular pro and college football games are an easy 1-2 finish among TV viewers.

Other upsets: The Kentucky Derby came in sixth thanks to both a six-hour rain delay at the Daytona 500 (which saw its ratings drop from nearly 17 million in 2013 to 9.3 million) and a Tiger-less Masters (which saw a ratings slip from 14.7 million to 8.6 million).

Women’s sports had a good year with viewers: with Serena Williams in the final, the U.S. Open final captured 6.2 million viewers, its highest ratings in 11 years and nearly double the viewership for the men’s final. And the NCAA women’s basketball championship game garnered 1.5 million more viewers than it did last year, thanks to an unprecedented matchup of two unbeaten teams in Connecticut and Notre Dame.

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