A Kentucky Derby Betting Guide, From Odds To Key Basics

Written By Darren Cooper on May 5, 2022 - Last Updated on December 5, 2023
Kentucky Derby, What You Need To Know About Horse Betting

The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is Saturday, May 7 on NBC, and the official post-time is 6:57 p.m. ET.

By now, you know of the pageantry associated with the Kentucky Derby, a.k.a. The Derby, and have your mint julep recipe down to a science and gaudy hat brim ready.

Even so, you might be new to Derby betting and confused by the terms. What the heck is a superfecta? Why do I want my horse to place? Isn’t he already there? And what, exactly, is an exacta?

But first …

Get your $20 bonus bet for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

Betting on the Kentucky Derby

As of May 4, it’s a 20-horse field. Over $150 million is won on bets on the Kentucky Derby…that’s right, won. You don’t need to be in Louisville to bet on the Derby. You can bet the Kentucky Derby online using apps like TVG.

It would help to know a few things on how to bet on the Kentucky Derby and what to look for.

Bets on horse races can be broken down into two categories: standard and exotic. These are exactly what they sound like.

Standard bets are one-horse bets. You like Epicenter to win the Derby Saturday (he’s a favorite). You put your money down on him to Win.

That’s why it’s called a “Win” Bet.

You kind of like Epicenter but aren’t so sure he will win. So you hedge. You think he may finish first or second, so you bet on Epicenter to “Place.”

You win your Place bet if Epicenter finishes first or second. Of course, your payout is smaller than if you just picked him to win.

Let’s say you like Epicenter but also think Zandon (another favorite) can win. You can bet Epicenter to “Show.” This means you expect Epicenter to Show, meaning that he will finish first, second or third. Again, it’s a smaller payout than if you bet on Epicenter to win or place.

Playing an Exotic bet in the Kentucky Derby

Now let’s get a little wild. Exotic bets mean you’re betting on the order of finish within a specific race. With every additional finishing position you bet on, the difficulty goes up, and so does your potential payoff.

The “Exacta” means that you exactly picked the top two finishers in the race. Again, let’s go with Epicenter to win and Zandon to come in second.

However, if you’re not 100% sure about that exact order, you can “box” your exacta. If you box your exacta, then you still win if you pick the right two horses.

But why stop at the top two?

The “Trifecta” means you’re picking the top three horses in the correct order. Again, you have the option to box this selection too. The minimum bet here can be as low as 50 cents.

How about the “Superfecta”? (I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it the Quadfecta, but whatever.) Now you are selecting the top four finishers in the Derby.

There’s even the Super Hi-Five, which is the top five finishers. A lot of tracks roll this over, like a slot machine jackpot, until someone hits it.

Derby Odds (listed by post position)

  1. Mo Donegal 10-1
  2.  Happy Jack 30-1
  3. Epicenter 7-2
  4. Summer is Tomorrow 30-1
  5. Smile Happy 20-1
  6. Messier 8-1
  7. Crown Pride 20-1
  8. Charge It 20-1
  9. Tiz the Bomb 30-1
  10. Zandon 3-1
  11. Pioneer of Medina 30-1
  12. Taiba 12-1
  13. Simplification 20-1
  14. Barber Road 30-1
  15. White Abarrio 10-1
  16. Cyberknife 20-1
  17. Classic Causeway 30-1
  18. Tawny Port 30-1
  19. Zozos 20-1
  20. Ethereal Road 30-1

What do I look for before placing my Kentucky Derby bet?

Note a few things right away. The Kentucky Derby distance is a mile and a quarter. Few, if any, of these horses have ever run in a race this long before. Most of the pre-Derby prep races are a mile-and-an-eighth.

So there’s always the unknown factor of how a horse will respond to a longer distance. The horses don’t know they signed up for this.

Look at how the horses from about 13 and on in the post positions have higher odds. Why? Because they start from the outside on the track, and therefore have a longer route and have to get through a lot of horses to get to the finish line. Rare is the horse race that doesn’t end with the winner on or near the rail.

Some of these horses have never won a race before. Does that matter? Maybe. Some have raced against and beat the other horses before. Does that matter? Maybe.

You can take a flyer on a long shot (Tiz the Bomb would be my longshot choice), pick a horse with a cute name, like Smile Happy, or have deep knowledge of Epicenter’s Sunday morning workout times (he went five furlongs in 1:01).

The point is to have fun and enjoy the race. Just go easy on the simple syrup.

Photo by Charlie Riedel / Associated Press
Darren Cooper Avatar
Written by
Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper is a staff writer for PlayUSA. He’s been a sports writer in the Northeast since 1998 and developed a keen interest in covering the gaming, casino and sports betting industry and has written for multiple additional Play state sites. He always bets responsibly although his grandfather did have a secret system for betting on the ponies at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

View all posts by Darren Cooper
Privacy Policy