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‘The Amazing Race’ Host Phil Keoghan Says He Places Dollar Bets on the Winner (Exclusive)

The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan is invested in the reality competition series’ outcome in more ways than one.

“We take a few bets — just fun bets for a dollar — on who we think is going to do well and who’s going to be there at the end. And we are rarely anywhere close to being right,” Keoghan, 56, exclusively told Us Weekly on Thursday, March 7, while promoting season 36 of the CBS show. “We make certain assumptions about who’s going to do well at particular things, and inevitably, we’re wrong.”

Keoghan, who has hosted The Amazing Race since its 2001 debut, added that one of his “favorite parts” of the show is contestants proving his expectations wrong. This season in particular, Ricky Rotandi and Cesar Aldrete, a couple from New York City, took him by surprise.

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“[They were] just so vivacious and so bubbly and enthusiastic about being on the show. I have to be honest with you, when I first saw them, I’m like, ‘They probably love shopping and traveling in luxury,’” Keoghan said. “But man, when they got out on the race, whatever they tackled, they approached it in a way that just, I think, shocked everybody. Nothing phased them.”

The Amazing Race Host Phil Keoghan Says He Places Dollar Bets on the Winner
CBS Entertainment

The season 36 cast consists of 13 two-person teams, all of whom have a shot at the $1 million grand prize. In addition to Ricky and Cesar, Keoghan gave married couple Rod and Leticia Gardner a shout-out.

“[They] are just a ball of energy and just full of love for each other and [have] a spark between them [and are] constantly bickering with each other in a good way, in a sort of playful way,” he said. “Both of them had the most incredible physiques. When you see that kind of spark and you see that kind of energy, you’re like, ‘Yes, we got it. We got a great team here.’”

Keoghan appreciates that enthusiasm because he’s seen firsthand how much fans of the show would love to trade places with contestants.

“Every team that’s there, I want them to have earned their place, and I want them to really respect that they have that place [and] that they never take it for granted,” he said. “Very rarely does that happen, but when it does happen, I’ll call them out on it because it annoys me, because I know from getting stopped every single day just how many people want to be on this show and see this show as such a privilege to be on.”

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It doesn’t seem like that will be a problem for season 36, as Keoghan teased that audiences are “going to fall in love” with the cast.

“You’re going to see a lot of teams really feeling for other teams and wanting them to [do well], and then [feeling] torn between wanting to help but then also [knowing] ‘We got to go, because we’re in this race,’” he said. “The nature of the cast members that we have on the show, they’re very heartfelt. They’re good storytellers.”

While wholesome cast members are nothing new for The Amazing Race, the season 36 contestants will jet off to two locations never before featured on the show, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.

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Keoghan told Us that Barbados was his favorite stop of the season, in part because Rihanna is from there.

“I am a big Rihanna fan and I was really hoping I might run into her,” he quipped. “Rihanna, where are you? I’m hoping that Rihanna might see the show and say something. Rihanna, if you’re reading this, please reach out and say hi. We love you and we love Barbados and we hope to make you proud when you see your homeland on The Amazing Race.”

Season 36 of The Amazing Race premieres on CBS Wednesday, March 13, at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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