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How to bet the Kentucky Derby.

Over $150 million is won by bettors wagering on the Kentucky Derby each year. Learn how to bet on the Kentucky Derby here; with tips fro our experts, important information on contenders, and of course the best place to bet on the Kentucky Derby in our official partners and sister site, TwinSpires.com!

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Betting for All Levels

If you're into numbers and attempting to decipher whose speed, pace and class figures indicate a winner...these guides will set you up for success!

An Introduction to Betting

Want to have a personal rooting interest in the outcome of the Kentucky Derby? Then place a wager and cheer home your favorite horse! Betting the Kentucky Derby isn’t difficult.

These four simple steps will get you started:

  • 1) Examine the odds
  • What does it mean when a horse offers odds of 3-1, or 9-1, or 24-1? The odds simply indicate the perceived chance of that particular horse reaching the winner’s circle. A horse listed at 9-1 is expected to lose nine times and win once from 10 attempts (10 being the sum of nine and one), which equates to a 10% chance of victory. A horses offering odds of 3-2 is expected to lose three times and win twice from five attempts, which represents a 40% chance of victory.

    The odds also determine the payoffs for win bets. A 6-1 winner will return $6 of profit for every $1 wagered.

  • 2) Pick a horse
  • Novices might choose a horse based on its name, color, or program number—any approach is acceptable if you’re betting small stakes just for fun. But for serious bettors, the “past performances” (entry sheets detailing the racing records of each horse) provide a wealth of data for analysis. Speed figures, jockey and trainer statistics, pedigrees, and more can be used to identify the most likely winner.

    This is where the odds come into play. If you conclude a horse has a 25% (3-1) chance of winning, but the horse is offering odds of 4-1, you’ve found a good bet. You wouldn’t want to bet the same runner at odds of 2-1, because the risk wouldn’t be worth the reward.

  • 3) Select a bet
  • Skilled bettors can choose from a wide variety of wagering options, including the exacta (picking the top two finishers in order) and trifecta (picking the top three finishers in order). These challenging bets can yield lucrative payoffs, but they’re also are harder to hit. Novice bettors are more likely to find success with traditional win, place, and show wagers.

    A win bet pays off if your horses reach’s the winner’s circle, so if you’re confident in your selection, this is the route to take. A place bet pays off if your runner finishes first or second, and you can cash a show bet if your horse cracks the top three.

  • 4) Choose the amount
  • The minimum amount you can wager varies from bet to bet, generally ranging from 10 cents to $2. But you can also bet more than the minimum amount, with larger payoffs as the prize. A $2 win bet on a 5-1 winner will return $12 for a profit of $10, but a $20 wager on the same horse will return $120 for a profit of $100.

    At the same time, losses can accumulate quickly when betting large amounts, so play in your comfort zone and save bigger bets for races where you have strong opinions.

5 trends to consider for finding the Kentucky Derby winner

The annual challenge of narrowing down your search down in predicting the Kentucky Derby winner is among the most difficult assignments presented to a handicapper. A 20-horse field, combined with horses traveling from across the country and abroad alike, makes the task especially difficult. I have pegged a handful of tips that history suggests will aid in the process of finding the correct Derby horse.

  • Post Position
  • Drawing close or along to the rail would seem like a logical advantage for any horse in a particular race. But, in the Kentucky Derby, being drawn inside has been the opposite.

    Since 1978, just three horses breaking from the three innermost positions have captured the Run for the Roses. With field sizes that have approached or reached 20 in recent years, any mistake from the inside could crush the chances of a contender in a flash.

    Dating back to 2008, six winners broke from starting slot 13 and wider, and much of that can be attributed to receiving a clean voyage.

    Verdict: The trip is essential.

  • Running Style
  • Horses that are forwardly placed have been especially successful in recent editions of the Kentucky Derby. In eight of the last 12 years, the eventual winner was in the top three at the second call of the 1 ¼ miles event, including six years in a row. The last time a Derby hero rallied from farther back was Orb in 2015 who was 5th at the second call.

    Verdict: Tactical speed is almost a necessity.

  • Odds
  • There was a long stretch where favored horses in the Derby failed to run to their odds, but that has all changed in recent seasons. Seven favorites going back to 2008 came out victorious beneath the Twins Spires, including six in succession from 2013 to 2018.

    A few possible attributes to this can be standout horses running their ‘A’ race, trainers getting better at preparing their contenders, and bettors becoming more informed as the information and technology increases.

    Verdict: Don’t go out of your way to try to defeat the favorite.

  • Trainers
  • Experience matters when considering Kentucky Derby trainers, as the top conditioners in the game often have their runners peaking at Churchill Downs. It’s worth noting that Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, and Doug O’Neill, three of the more successful trainers in our sport, have combined to saddle six of the last 12 Derby winners.

    Verdict: The top conditioners get extra consideration in the Derby selection process.

  • BRIS Speed and Late Pace Figures
  • Nine of the past 12 winners of the greatest race in the U. S. registered a triple-digit BRIS Speed number prior to the Run for the Roses. It makes sense that if a horse was fast in his prep races that he could carry it over to Churchill Downs.

    The 1 ¼-miles distance of the Kentucky Derby is often the first time that a sophomore will travel 10 furlongs. So seeing how a horse finishes at 1 ⅛ miles can be a big indicator of how that animal will endure an extra furlong.

    All but one of the last 12 Kentucky Derby winners garnered a BRIS Late Pace rating of 100 or higher leading up to the storied event. That was Super Saver, who earned a 96 when second in the 2010 Arkansas Derby (G1).

    Verdict: Posting triple-digit BRIS Speed and Late Pace ratings are of great importance.


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How To Bet On The Kentucky Derby

Over $150 million is won by bettors wagering on the Kentucky Derby. Learn how to bet on the Derby, get tips from our experts, and place a bet on the Kentucky Derby contenders now with TwinSpires.com

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