The first running of the Kentucky Derby took place at the iconic Churchill Downs in 1875. Since then, the best 3-year-old thoroughbreds in the world have gathered there annually on the first Saturday in May to compete in the “Run for the Roses” and a purse of $3 million.
Known as “the greatest two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby is the longest-running major sporting event in the history of the US. Annually, it provides the betting community one of the most exciting horse race betting opportunities of the year.
Many potential bettors don’t take advantage because they don’t know where to begin. If you are one of these people, the purpose of this article is to explain everything you need to know to get in on the Derby Day action scheduled for May 1.
|1||Known Agenda||6-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Like the King||50-1||Drayden Van Dyke||Wesley Ward|
|3||Brooklyn Strong||50-1||Umberto Rispoli||Daniel Velazquez|
|4||Keepmeinmind||50-1||David Cohen||Robertino Diodoro|
|5||Sainthood||50-1||Corey Lanerie||Todd Pletcher|
|6||O Besos||20-1||Marcellino Pedroza||Greg Foley|
|7||Mandaloun||15-1||Florent Geroux||Brad Cox|
|8||Medina Spirit||15-1||John Velazquez||Bob Baffert|
|9||Hot Rod Charlie||8-1||Flavien Prat||Doug O'Neill|
|10||Midnight Bourbon||20-1||Mike Smith||Steve Asmussen|
|11||Dynamic One||20-1||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher|
|12||Helium||50-1||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse|
|13||Hidden Stash||50-1||Rafael Bejarano||Vicki Oliver|
|14||Essential Quality||2-1||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|15||Rock Your World||5-1||Joel Rosario||John Sadler|
|16||King Fury||20-1||Brian Hernandez, Jr.||Kenny McPeek|
|17||Highly Motivated||10-1||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown|
|18||Super Stock||30-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|19||Soup and Sandwich||30-1||Tyler Gaffalione||Mark Casse|
|20||Bourbonic||30-1||Kendrick Carmouche||Todd Pletcher|
Betting on the KY Derby has never been easier. More than half the states in the US have legal, online pari-mutuel horse wagering options available.
One absolute when selecting your Kentucky Derby wagering provider is to make sure it operates on a pari-mutuel construct, like TVG. TwinSpires Racebook is also a popular one. If it does not, it won’t be linked to the massive money pool that makes betting on the Kentucky Derby great. This means the payouts will come with a cap.
For example, a doctor in Reno, NV, placed a $40 trifecta bet on the Derby at a local brick-and-mortar sportsbook in 2019. It hit at 11,500-1 odds. Combining this hit with the exacta ticket he also picked correctly, and he was set to collect a $609,000 payday.
Unfortunately, that sportsbook was not a pari-mutuel operation and had capped payouts on exotic wagers. Instead of $609,000, the bettor was only entitled to $35,000.
Let that be a lesson for us all. If you plan on wagering at your local turf club or sportsbook, do your research and avoid offshore sites.
There are 30 states that allow residents to place online horse racing wagers.
Thoroughbred wagering is often conducted on a pari-mutuel platform. It is a French term meaning “to wager amongst ourselves.”
Pari-mutuel gambling is a system where individual bettors are not in competition against the track or online but, instead, are competing against the other bettors in the wagering pool.
The pari-mutuel system is a big part of what makes the Kentucky Derby such an exciting wagering opportunity. In 2019, a record of$250.9 million was wagered on the Derby Day racing card, an 11% increase over the previous record set in 2018. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky Derby wagering was down by about half for 2020.)
Pari-mutuel operators take a commission and divide the rest amongst the bettors with winning tickets. The vast pari-mutuel pool on Kentucky Derby Day creates a unique opportunity to have a chance at cashing a life-changing ticket.
Horse wagering is akin to an accelerated form of speculative Wall Street trading. Essentially, each horse is a commodity that is being evaluated and traded by the bettors.
A horse that is being backed is essentially a hot stock with its shares in demand. For this reason, the profit for a winning ticket on a heavily favored horse will be relatively small. On the contrary, horses that are not being bet on will generally reward their backers handsomely if they hit.
The payout odds for the horses are in constant flux as the wagers keep coming in. A wager will pay out at the final odds at the start of the race and not at the odds at the time the bet was placed.
For this reason, it is sometimes beneficial to hold off on placing a bet until close to post time, as you will have a better idea of the potential return on your investment.
There are two general categories of horse racing bets: straight and exotic. You have many choices in each category, and all have merit at one time or another. It depends on your budget, level of acceptable risk and handicapping of the race.
The following are examples of options available to bettors when making an exacta, trifecta or superfecta bet.
The box itself is not a bet but is an additional option when placing an exacta, trifecta or superfecta. Placing an exacta box, trifecta box or superfecta box ensures you wager all possible combinations involving your selected horses for that bet type.
For example, if you like two horses to finish at the top of a race but feel both have an even shot at winning, you could place an exacta box wager.
In this example, you are essentially making two separate exacta bets where you are flipping the order of finish of the two horses. A $2 exacta box costs $4 (two combinations), a $2 trifecta box costs $12 (six combinations) and a $2 superfecta box costs $48 (24 combinations).
As you can see, “boxing” exotic bets can quickly become expensive and may not be the most efficient option when placing trifectas and superfectas.
Much like the box bet, a wheel is not a bet itself but is a way to place an efficient exotic bet with multiple combinations.
It is challenging to hit a superfecta with just one combination in play. But how would you feel if you could make a superfecta wheel ticket involving six different horses for less money than the superfecta box ticket that only includes four?
Let’s say you feel pretty good about picking the top three horses in the race. You could make a superfecta wheel ticket that looks like this:
This $2 superfecta ticket costs only $36 (18 combinations). A ticket structure like this allows you to “key” horses you like at the top.
Keying horses up top allows for more possibilities in the less predictable third and fourth positions.
“The Road to the Kentucky Derby” was established in 2012 as a series of prep races that doubles as a points system. This series determines which 3-year-old thoroughbreds qualify for the 20 post positions available at the Kentucky Derby.
The series is split into two parts: Kentucky Derby Prep Season and Kentucky Derby Championship Series. Although all these races are important, it is the second leg of the championship series that highlights most big-time Kentucky Derby contenders.
Winners of these races earn 100 points, enough to ensure them a spot in the big dance. Most second-place finishers in these races accumulate enough points to qualify as well.
Since 2017, one of the 20 available post positions has been reserved for the winner of the “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.”
In 2018, Churchill Downs implemented a similar construct for the “European Road to the Kentucky Derby.”
The second leg of the 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series consists of the following seven Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes races:
Here are some further details about these stakes races:
In the US, the Kentucky Derby trailed only the Super Bowl as the highest volume handle for a single sporting event in 2019. The popularity of the Derby and the pop culture effect it embraces ensures that it is the most heavily bet horse race of the year. Also, it is the one with the most inexperienced betting pool in play.
How many times have you heard, “Our dog’s name is Max, so we’re putting our money on the number six horse Max a Million to win!”
Remember that horse betting is based on a pari-mutuel construct, which means you are competing against your fellow bettors for a share of the prize.
You don’t need to be a seasoned grinder to have a leg up on the competition on Derby Day. The most effective way to learn how to handicap the Derby is to learn how to analyze a past performances (PP) report.
Basically, PPs are report cards on the careers of each horse in the race. They contain everything you will need to make an educated wager on Derby Day and have an advantage over, e.g., the bettor who backs Max a Million.
You can purchase electronic PPs and download them for modest prices from companies like Equibase. Single-day racecards typically go for less than $5. These providers have interactive guides on how to interpret the data contained in these reports. Several videos on YouTube will show you how to analyze them as well.
NBC owns the Kentucky Derby broadcast rights. You can watch Derby Day undercard races on NBC Sports Network, with coverage for the biggest races and the Derby switching to NBC late in the day.
We encourage you to use our informative article to your advantage, fund an account and responsibly enjoy the excitement that genuinely is the greatest two minutes in sports.
Dubbed as ‘The Run for the Roses’ and widely known as the ‘Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport’, the Kentucky Derby takes place annually at Churchill Downs, KT. The race is scheduled for the first Saturday in May each year.
The Kentucky Derby is the first of the three ‘Triple Crown’ events in horse racing. The Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes complete this.
This page covers the Kentucky Derby in depth. After a trip to the races formation and look at some of the lasting traditions, the winners and dramas which have unfolded over the years are covered.
The first ever race was run in 1875. Three years earlier Col. M. Lewis Clark had travelled to England and visited Epsom in Surrey. This is the home of English Derby which had been run since 1780. From there he travelled to Paris, where the French Jockey Club would annually run the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, the largest race in France.
On returning home to Kentucky he set about forming a similar great race in the state. He did this by organizing the Louisville Jockey Club to raise money to build a facility. This track would become known as Churchill Downs.
It was on May 17th, 1875 that the very first race took place. A colt named Aristides won under jockey Oliver Lewis. This original race was run over a distance of one a half miles (replicating the Epsom Derby), before moving to the now traditional 1 mile and 2 furlongs distance in 1896.
The Kentucky Derby will always be linked with the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, with any horses winning all three being ‘Triple Crown’ winners. This is considered the holy grail of horse racing. The first ever horse to achieve this was Sir Barton in 1919, although the phrase ‘Triple Crown’ only came into usage after ‘Gallant Fox’ was the second horse to achieve the feat in 1930.
There are several traditions which predate the huge modern-day media coverage of the big race.
Following the call to the post, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band play ‘My Old Kentucky Home’. Many in the huge crowd at Churchill Downs will be sipping on Mint Juleps, an iced drink that consists of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup.
After the race, the winning horse will be draped with a garland of 554 red roses. This originated in 1883 when New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to female attendees of a ball to commemorate the legendary race. Race founder and president of the course Col. M. Lewis Clark (who was in attendance) decided to make the rose the official flower of the Kentucky Derby.
Perhaps the most famous winner of the Kentucky Derby is Secretariat. This horse won the race in 1973, before famously going on to win the Triple Crown. The time of 1 minute 59.4 seconds still stands to this day as the fastest ever for the race. Sham, who finished second, also finished in under 2 minutes, and only one other horse in the history of the race has achieved this feat (Monarchos, the winner in 2001).
In total, 13 horses have won the Triple Crown – with Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, American Pharoah and most recent 2018 winner Justify, joining Secretariat, Sir Barton and Gallant Fox.
The biggest shock in the history of the Kentucky Derby came in 1913. At odds of 91-1 Donerail wasn’t considered to have a chance, but a rally off the final turn would see the horse beat favorite Ten Point by half a length. What’s more surprising is the fact that this was a new best time (the first horse to ever duck under the 2 minutes and 5 seconds mark).
In the history of the race, two jockeys have won it five times. Eddie Arcaro would record five wins between 1938 and 1952 (his last win coming on board Hill Gail), while Bill Hartack’s five successes came between 1957 and 1968 (his final win coming with Majestic Prince). Ben A. Jones and Bob Baffert are the top trainers in the race, with six victories coming between 1938 and 1952 for Jones, and from 1997 to 2020 for Baffert.
The largest margin of victory in the race is 8 lengths and this has been achieved on four occasions – Old Rosebud (1914), Johnstown (1939), Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946).
Perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the Kentucky Derby came in 2019. Second favorite Maximum Security crossed the finish line in first place, ahead of outsider Country House.
However, after a lengthy 22-minute review, it was decided that Maximum Security’s swerve on the far turn had affected three other horses and he was subsequently disqualified into 17th place.
Country House therefore assumed the win and in doing so, became the second longest odds winner in the history of the race at 65.2/1. The horse would also be the first ever winner of the famous race not to cross the finish line first.