< Betting on the Kentucky Derby


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How to Bet on Kentucky Derby


Inaugurated in 1875, the Kentucky Derby is the youngest race in the American Triple Crown series. When founder Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. returned from his travels in Europe in 1872, he wanted to recreate the glory of the Epsom Derby on American soil. Churchill Downs was constructed to accommodate his vision and has been the host of the race ever since.


To get an invitation to this race, horses collect points based on a system called “The Road to the Kentucky Derby.” First, second and third-place finishers in select races win points, and at the end of the road, the 20 horses with the most points get invitations to Churchill Downs for May 5. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the event, placing bets on their favourite horses. Betting has always been a big part of horse racing, but it’s gotten even bigger in recent years, and it’s no wonder why. Kentucky Derby betting creates a more compelling show, as spectators feel invested in the outcome of the race.


Kentucky Derby Odds and Bet Types Explained


Nowadays, there are all sorts of Kentucky Derby betting options. Recreational bettors enjoy adding a layer of excitement to the race by placing straight bets on horses, whereas handicappers go for the more exotic options, which offer higher payouts. We’ll explain each type of bet, so that you know how to bet on Kentucky Derby action come race day.


Kentucky Derby Straight Wagers (Win/Place/Show)


Straight wagers are a great starting point for people who are looking to bet for entertainment purposes. These bets involve picking a single horse to finish in the money. There are three kinds of straight bets: win, place and show.


For a win wager to pay out, your pick must win the race.


For a place wager to pay out, your pick must finish first or second. The order doesn’t matter.


For the show wager to pay out, your pick must finish first, second, or third. Again, the order doesn’t matter.


In the 2017 Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming won, Lookin At Lee finished second and Battle of Midway finished third. People who who bet on Always Dreaming for a win, place, show bet got paid, with win paying the most ($11.40 on a $2 bet). Looking At Lee paid out for the place ($26.60) and the show bets ($15.20), and Battle of Midway paid out for the show bets ($20.80) only.


Kentucky Derby Exotic Wagers


Exotic bets are popular with horse bettors, as they offer bigger payouts than straight bets. Essentially, any bet on multiple horses is considered an exotic wager, and there are many different bets to cover the multitude of winning combinations. We’ll start our explanation with exacta bets.


Kentucky Derby Exacta Betting Explained


An exacta bet is a wager on the first and second-place finishers of a race. You must accurately predict the victor and the runner up; if the horses finish in opposite positions, the bet is lost. In 2017, exactas predicting Always Dreaming to win and Lookin at Lee to finish second paid $336.20 for a $2 bet.


Kentucky Derby Trifecta Betting Explained


A trifecta bet requires an accurate prediction of the first-place, second-place and third-place finishers, and they must finish in the correct order. In 2017, a $1 trifecta bet on Always Dreaming for first, Lookin At Lee for second, and Battle of Midway for third paid $8,297.70.


Kentucky Derby Superfecta Betting Explained


For more risk and reward, you can attempt to predict the top four finishers of the Kentucky Derby through a superfecta bet. For it to pay out, you need to guess the right order of the winner, second-place, third-place and fourth-place finisher. People who bet $1 on 1-Always Dreaming, 2-Lookin at Lee, 3-Battle of Midway, 4-Classic Empire at the 2017 Kentucky Derby won $75,974.50 off their superfecta bets.


Kentucky Derby Quinella Betting Explained


The quinella is one of the easier exotic bets available. With this wager, you need to guess the top two finishers of the Kentucky Derby, but you don’t have to predict the order. Had you simply picked Lookin at Lee and Always Dreaming in a quinella bet for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, you would have won regardless of which horse finished first and which finished second.


Boxed Wagers in Horse Racing


What are Boxed Wagers in Horse Racing?


To cover all your bases with a race, you may want to box your wager. A boxed wager is a bet on every combination of possible outcomes with the horses you select. In essence, you no longer have to predict the correct finishing order of your picks when you box your wager. A boxed exacta is essentially the same as a quinella, but we’ll use an example to keep things simple. With a boxed exacta, you’re betting on the following outcomes:


Horse A wins

Horse B finishes second


Horse A finishes second

Horse B wins


Since you’re betting on multiple pools, the payouts for boxed wagers are lower than with standard exotics.


What are Wheeled Bets in Horse Racing?


If you think you know where one horse will finish, but are unsure of the others, you can place a wheeled bet. With a wheeled exacta, you pick one horse to finish first or second, and a number of horses to finish in the other position. For example, Horse A may be selected to win, and Horse B, C, and D can be wheeled in for second. That way, your ticket will pay for any of the following outcomes:


Horse A

Horse B


Horse A

Horse C


Horse A

Horse D


Wheeled bets are a top choice when there’s a clear-cut favourite and a few mid-range contenders.


Kentucky Derby Futures Betting Explained


Even before the field for the Kentucky Derby is set, you can bet on horses through the futures section of the racebook. Futures bets are long-term wagers that offer great value since there are a lot of unknown variables. In the 2017 Kentucky Derby, the winning horse, Always Dreaming, was available at 7/1 in the futures section a month before the Kentucky Derby. His odds shortened to 5/1 a couple days before the race.


Kentucky Derby Prop Betting Explained


Props, short for proposition bets, are side bets suggested by oddsmakers. These can include things like: Which gate will the winning horse exit from? and Will a horse break the Kentucky Derby speed record?. Oddsmakers will provide answers, coupled with odds, for the public to bet on.


Coupled Entry in Horse Racing


What is a Coupled Entry in Horse Racing?


Any time a single trainer or stable owner has multiple contenders competing in the Kentucky Derby, you can lump them together in a coupled entry. If you’re placing a win bet with a coupled entry, one of the coupled horses needs to win for the bet to pay out. In the 2017 Kentucky Derby, Todd Pletcher had three horses competing: Always Dreaming, Tapwrit, and Patch. This coupled entry won since Always Dreaming finished first.


What is a Pick 3 and Pick 4 Bet in Horse Racing?


To boost your payout (while increasing risk), consider betting on three or four races on the same card. For the Pick 3, all three of your picks must win for the bet to pay out. Likewise, with the Pick 4, all four of your picks must win for the bet to pay out. The traditional Pick 3 offered on Derby Day includes the Kentucky Oaks, the Turf Classic and the Kentucky Derby.


What is a Daily Double Bet in Horse Racing?


The Daily Double is the two-race version of the Pick 3 and 4. You’re picking the winners of two races for a bigger payout than you’d get from placing two straight wagers. An example of a popular Daily Double is the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, which happen on back to back days at Churchill Downs.


How is my Online Racebook Payout Determined?


Horse racing uses a pari-mutuel betting system, where bets are placed in pools and bettors are wagering against one another. After the race is finished, the rake is removed from the pools, and the final odds are calculated. Your payout is determined by these odds. The odds that you see posted before the race (Morning Line odds) are estimates based on how the oddsmaker thinks the public will bet.


Kentucky Derby Betting Tips and Strategies


Understanding your betting style will help you develop Kentucky Derby betting strategies. Exotic bets are suited for people who like high risk and reward. These bets require a fair amount of research, including things like horse racing styles (closers, stalkers, front runners and which is best for the Kentucky Derby) and historical post position statistics.


If you’re betting on Kentucky Derby for entertainment purposes, keep things simple and go for a straight bet. After determining which straight bet to use (win/place/show), you must decide between the security of the favourite, and the value of a mid-range or long shot. Out of 143 Kentucky Derbies, the favourite has won 51 times (35.6%). Will that be the case again this year?


Consult our Horses FAQ to learn more about racebook wagering.


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