How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

Also known as the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby has historically been one of the most popular sporting events to bet on, and that popularity seems to be growing every year. Last year’s Derby set betting records, with $150 million wagered for just that one race. You don’t have to be a betting expert, you can just follow our simple steps to placing your first Kentucky Derby bet and you’ll be in on the action! We’ll go over the 4 basic steps to get you started:

  1. Do some research on the horses in the race.
  2. Get a basic understanding of how the odds work.
  3. Learn about the different kinds of bets you can make.
  4. Make your bet online!

Step 1. Know Your Horses

There’s always some risk when it comes to betting on any sport, horse racing included. But an educated bettor will be more successful in the long run if they do a little research first. To qualify for the Kentucky Derby, the 20 horses that run the race have to accumulate enough points to be invited. You can find out just about everything there is to know about these horses, from who their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are, to how well they race on different track conditions.

For example, during the 2018 Derby, the track was very challenging due to heavy rain, and the muddy conditions meant that some of the horses didn’t do as well as they would have had it been a dry track.

As an example of how bloodlines can affect a horse’s performance, just look at Justify, who won the 2018 Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. He was descended from Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Count Fleet, War Admiral, Omaha, and Gallant Fox, all previous winners of the American Triple Crown.

Step 2. Understand the Odds

In most cases, the odds given for horse races are fractional. To figure out what your winnings would be, based on the odds given, the first number is what you’ll win if your bet wins, and the second number is the stake. Here’s an example using a few of the horses in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

In our example, the odds favourite is Improbable, who is listed as having 5/1 odds. That means if you bet $1 on him to win, you’ll win $5 if he does. What if you decide to take a slightly bigger risk and bet on By My Standards to win? His 15/1 odds mean you’ll win $150 if you bet $10.

Step 3. Know the Different Bet Types for Horse Racing

There’s more to betting on horse racing than just picking one to win! Let’s take a look at some of the common terms used for betting on horses.

Win: Pretty simple, you just bet on the horse you think you will win the race.

Place: If you bet on your horse to place, that means you’ll win if they finish first or second.

Show: This kind of bet won’t pay out as much, but if your pony comes in first, second or third, you’ll win your bet.

Then, it gets a little more complicated, but a lot more exciting for bettors.

Exacta: If you pick the first two horses to finish the race, in the right order, you win this bet type.

Trifecta: The clue is in the word! Predict the first three horses to cross the finish line, in the right order, and you win.

Superfecta: Feeling lucky? Get the right order of the first four horses past the line and you’ll win the Superfecta bet.

Super High Five: High fives to you if you can predict the first five horses in the correct order and win this bet!

Horse Head-to-Head Bets: They don’t offer this kind of bet at Churchill Downs, but you can usually make these at online sportsbooks. The book will list odds specifically for horse against another, and you bet on whichever horse you think will win between the two. Here’s an example:

Kentucky Derby Prop Bets

Sportsbooks love to have a variety of betting odds on every aspect of a sport, and when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, there are plenty of prop bets on offer that make wagering on the two-minute race even more thrilling for a bettor. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Secretariat is probably the most famous racehorse who ever lived, and his records remain unbroken to this day. If you think one of the horses has a chance to beat that record, your $10 bet would earn you $100.

Will a horse pass the first half mile in over or under 46.8 seconds? You can bet on that. Will more than 158,070 people be in attendance at the race? Bet on it. These kind of prop bets use the Over/Under bet type, which you can learn more about here. 

Will the winning horse win by a healthy distance, or will the race be extremely close, or as they say won “by a nose”? Your $10 dollar bet on the winner winning by a nose will earn you $100.

Step 4. Make Your Bet!

You now have all the knowledge you need to make do some informed betting on the Kentucky Derby. All you have to do next is sign-up and make your wager!