Kentucky Derby Betting Guide


Horse racing’s Triple Crown is the highlight of every racing season, beginning with the Kentucky Derby. Everything is bigger at Churchill Downs; the field, the crowd, and, of course, those ridiculous hats.

However, and much more importantly, so are the payouts. Not only do all the traditions and pageantries of the Kentucky Derby bring in the casual fan, but it also invites only the best of the best of thoroughbreds to participate and will always intrigue the professional bet layers.

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Horse racing is a gambler’s paradise. If you can think of a bet, you can make that wager. Pick a longshot winner or some odd combination of horses to finish 1-2-3-4. An experienced gambler can tell you all the value available at the track. And at the Kentucky Derby, that value is enhanced.

When is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby takes place annually on the first Saturday in May. It has almost always taken place on the same weekend. However, it took place later in the year in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The race is famous for being the first Triple Crown race of the season, meaning that it will be the first big test that this year’s crop of three-year-olds has faced. However, in 2020, it was staged as the second leg. This marked the first time since 1931 that the Kentucky Derby did not kick off the Triple Crown campaign.

What time does the Kentucky Derby start?

The Kentucky Derby is scheduled to start at 6:57 pm ET officially. However, the traditions that lead up to the race are almost as famous as the race itself. Fans will be able to watch the contenders for the race in the parade ring at around 6:09 pm ET. The call for ‘Riders Up’ is then made at 6:37 pm ET, before fans can then join in and sing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ at 6:39 pm ET.

What channel is the Kentucky Derby On?

The whole of Derby Day will be broadcast on NBC. The action gets underway at 2:30 pm ET. Races before 2:30 will be aired on NBCSN.

Kentucky Derby Information

The famous Grade 1 is contested over 1 ¼ miles. The race lasts for two minutes, which is why the Triple Crown race is dubbed “the most exciting two minutes in sports”. The Kentucky Derby also has a massive purse of $3 million, with winning connections picking up $1,860,000.

There will be 20 horses aged three going to post for the Kentucky Derby. The post draw is made earlier in the week, with fans able to watch on the official Churchill Downs Twitter page. Horses must qualify for the race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 20 horses with the most accumulated points are offered their spot in the famous race.

Who will win the Kentucky Derby?

You can read our exclusive in-depth preview at VegasOdds after the draw for the Kentucky Derby has been made. We will give a full rundown of all the contenders involved in the race, along with examining the form of each of the runners.

Kentucky Derby Raceday

The Kentucky Derby is the big race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. However, there is also an exciting undercard of races that also take place at the track. Below, you can find out more about the racecard on Derby day.

Grade II Churchill DownsSeven furlongs4yo and up$250,000
Grade III La TroienneSeven furlongs3yo fillies$150,000
Grade III Distaff Turf MileOne mileFillies and mares, 3yo and up$150,000
Grade I DistaffSeven furlongsFillies and mares, 4yo and up$300,000
Grade I Turf Classic1 1/8 mile3yo and up$1,000,000
Grade I Kentucky Derby1 1/4 mile3yo$3,000,000

Kentucky Derby History

The Kentucky Derby is not just one of the greatest races in the USA but worldwide. It all began when a Kentucky businessman, Meriwether Lewis Clark, was keen on bringing a prestigious event like the Epsom Derby, which he witnessed during a visit to England, to Kentucky, which was already a big name in the world of horse businesses.

Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and paved the way for the first Kentucky Derby, held on opening day. This race, which began with entry only for three-year-old horses, has now grown into of the biggest events. Today, it features some of the best three-year-old horses in the world, and a maximum of 20 runners participate in the race.

The real jump in popularity happened when it became part of the Triple Crown events for thoroughbred horses. The Kentucky Derby became the first leg of this Triple Crown, and it is followed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. A horse that manages to win all three events is considered as truly special, and the feat has only occurred 13 times.

Location and Course

Churchill Downs in the state of Kentucky is the location for this prestigious event, which is run over 1 1⁄4 miles. The oval course has been specifically built for this race, which was earlier used to showcase the Kentucky thoroughbred breeding. As a result of being conducted without a break since 1875, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are two of the longest-running sporting events in the United States.

Even though Churchill Downs is an oval circuit, racing does not take place in a staggered manner. As a result, horses that are in the outside positions have a disadvantage since they run only for a quarter of a mile before they have to turn at the clubhouse. Horses that start on the inside have to make a tight turn to prevent running into the fence. Hence, the extreme outside and inside of the track are not favored at this event.

Since Kentucky is known for rain in spring, track officials have a huge task to keep the fast dirt surface in good condition. It is no surprise that a vast majority of the Kentucky Derby races have taken place in fast conditions, with only 28 races being labeled as slow, heavy, sloppy, or muddy.

Kentucky Derby Past Winners

There have been some iconic horses to have won the Kentucky Derby throughout their history. However, fillies do not have a great Kentucky Derby record, with only three races going their way. The last filly to win the event was in 1988, as D. Wayne Lukas trained Winning Colors to glory. The past ten winners of the Kentucky Derby can be found below.

2022Rich Strike+8100Sonny LeonEric Reed
2021Mandaloun+1200Florent GerouxBrad Cox
2020Authentic+800John VelazquezBob Baffert
2019Country House+6500Flavien PratWilliam Mott
2018Justify+200Mike SmithBob Baffert
2017Always Dreaming+500John VelazquezTodd Pletcher
2016Nyquist+300Mario GutirrezDoug O’Neill
2015American Pharoah+300Victor EspinozaBob Baffert
2014California Chrome+250Victor EspinozaArt Sherman
2013Orb+500Joel RosarioClaude McGaughey III

Competing at the Kentucky Derby

It takes a long series of races that ultimately decide the 20 horses that will line up in the Kentucky Derby in May. The Kentucky Derby prep series lists over 30 events where horses get points for finishing in various positions. The number of points on offer is dependent on the grade of the race.

Meanwhile, the Rebel Stakes is one of the most important events on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. This Grade II event is open to three-year-old horses with a $1 million purse.

Another prestigious race comes from Dubai and is the UAE Derby, which offers a purse of $2 million. Other prestigious races include the G1 Santa Anita Derby, G1 Blue Grass Stakes, and the G1 Wood Memorial.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is immensely popular in horse racing, and more than $130 million is bet on this race every year. A bettor will be able to place a wager on almost every outcome.

Types of Bets and Wagers

Before placing a wager on the Kentucky Derby, a bettor should know the basics. There are traditional options, which are ideal for newcomers with their low risk and moderate return, and exotic wagers, which provide huge returns at huge risk.

The traditional and straight betting types are:

  • Win – Betting on a horse that will come out successful in the Kentucky Derby.
  • Place – Betting on a horse to come first or second
  • Show – Placing a wager on a horse to finish in any one of the first three positions

The popular exotic options are:

  • Exacta – Placing a wager on the first two horses to finish in the same order
  • Trifecta – Betting on the exact order of three horses finishing in the top three
  • Superfecta – Picking the exact order of the first four horses
  • Super High Five – Choosing the first five horses in the exact order

Most sportsbooks tend to accept a very small wager on exotic options. If a $2 exotic wager sounds like a risky proposition, you can even go with a much smaller wager. For example, there are options to place a $0.20 superfecta. The minimum Superfecta is $0.10, but some bookmakers require a minimum of $1.

Top Tips When Kentucky Derby Betting

Knowing the Horses

It is very important to understand the horses before placing a bet on the race. Just like an athlete, you can size up the horse against its competition by understanding its physical features. The muscle definition can be crucial in identifying if a horse is carrying too much fat. It indicates perfect shape if they have toned and well-defined muscles near the rib cage and chest. A shiny coat is also a great indication of good condition.

One can also identify a horse’s mental state with some obvious signs. An alert horse has a greater chance of success. If the ears are pointed up, it means that the horse is alert to the surroundings. If the head is held high, it indicates a confident horse that is likely to show dominant behavior. Anxious horses are not a good bet, and you should look for signs of sweat on the coat. If the horse is sweating excessively, it indicates too much exertion of energy through anxiousness.

Plenty of Research

Bettors can easily access a large amount of information regarding wagers and handicaps. There is also plenty of materials to study different factors of the horses through videos available on workout analysis, Derby preps, past performances, and pedigree information. Since these numbers tend to play a major role in horse races, bettors need to be alert. Derby Week also sees many expert opinions on almost all mediums.

Using a Wagering Strategy

The bankroll is crucial for a bettor, who can succeed only by managing funds in a smart way. It is very easy to exhaust the bankroll on Derby Day with 13 races being held. The large fields and multiple betting opportunities can be very tempting, but bettors need to be prudent. A bet should be made only when there is a strong opinion on the race or horse. If not, the funds should be preserved for future races.

Identifying Value

Any bettor has to find value so that they can compensate for the losses and still end up with a profit. It is essential to plan bets and search for odds that provide the best return. Rather than relying on the numbers given out by bookmakers, you should take a stance on the fair odds for a horse. This can help find better value and get more returns from the bet.

Choosing between Favorite and Underdog

The common path taken by many bettors is to pick the horse based on name or color. However, this is not a surprise since horse racing is one of the sports where sabermetrics plays a crucial role. Meanwhile, the numbers end up having a greater role to play than hunches. However, the Kentucky Derby has witnessed both hunches and sabermetrics come into play equally.

Few Kentucky Derbies have witnessed a favorite coming out successful. More often than not, the favorite at the Kentucky Derby has struggled to come out on top. There was a two-decade-long wait for the favorite to emerge successful and this wait ended in 2013 when Orb picked up the title. However, the open nature of the field was evident in 2022, as Rich Strike won from odds of +8100.

Deciding Between Running Styles

The running style has a major impact on the Kentucky Derby. There are three styles – closers, stalkers, and frontrunners. Since the Kentucky Derby is a long race, frontrunners may not perform well. They tend to tire out in the final sections. However, stalkers are the type of horses that stay within touching distance – usually 1-4 lengths – of the frontrunners. From here, they can mount a challenge towards the end of the race. Meanwhile, closers are more difficult to predict, as they prefer making a tilt for the top spot from the back.

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