2021 Kentucky Derby Betting: Increase Value, Fade the Hunch

Chris Adams

In 2018 My Boy Jack was installed at 30-1 on the morning line for the Kentucky Derby. When the gates opened, the winner of the Lexington went off at 7-1.

This precipitous drop left many scratching their heads. The horse justified the odds. However, the past performances left a lot to be desired for a 2nd betting choice in a large field.

What’s in a Name?

One of the explanations given for the massive deflation of the horse's value was his name. “My Boy Jack” was ripe for hunch plays. These plays are not based on any handicapping angle. They are merely plays that seem to carry symbolic significance for the player.

It was natural for gamblers to bet on this horse in honor of anyone they knew named Jack. This proved to be a lot of people since Jack has been in the top 50 boys' names every year since 2000.

While there could certainly have been other factors, this seems to be the most likely explanation for the disparity between the morning line and off odds.

The Kentucky Derby is Hunch Bet Heaven

It makes logical sense that these types of hunch bets deflate the prices of Derby long shots every year. The primary reason is that the Kentucky Derby is the marquee horse race of the year and often attracts a massive audience of people who pay little attention to horse racing.

They know little about the contenders, the connections, or the path horses took to get to the Derby. The Derby for these players is an excuse for a party. The race itself is a game of chance akin to a slot machine.

If you’re looking to make money on the Derby these are precisely the kind of people you want throwing fistfuls of money at the windows because it presents you with a great opportunity to grab a share of the extra liquidity being added to the pot.

Four Over Bet Angles in the Kentucky Derby

  • Horses with Human Names: Like My Boy Jack you can count on horses like Mr. Z and We Miss Artie to take more money than their talent indicates.
  • Feel Good Stories: To stretch minutes of racing into hours of coverage, the Derby broadcast includes feel-good stories about some of the runners. This was the case with one-eyed horse Patch in 2017.
  • Bob Baffert: This seems to be the one recognizable figure in the horse racing world. They know him as the guy that won two Triple Crowns.
  • Pundit Picks: The TV networks will roll out their public handicappers to help the novice bettors decide what to play. These analysts do in fact handicap the race. However, if all the pundits start to include similar horses you can be assured your value is about to crash.

Tossing Bad Value

In horse racing, it is best not to hold any hard and fast rules. Just because a horse is eligible to be a hunch play doesn’t mean they should be automatically tossed from your Kentucky Derby ticket.

It is your task as the horseplayer to establish what is fair value for a horse. This should be done based on your handicapping of the race. Make sure that the odds you’re getting are commensurate with your perception of how likely the horse is to factor in the race.

2021 Kentucky Derby Hunch Play Candidates

  • Hot Rod Charlie: With Charles being such a popular name, this logical contender may get crushed in My Boy Jack fashion.
  • Medina Spirit: Bob Baffert is likely to get plenty of air time in the hours leading up to the big race. Most of the coverage will probably focus on his past successes and the big names that he was supposed to have in this race.
  • Midnight Bourbon: The official drink of the Derby is the Mint Julep and party-goers around the country may feel compelled to have a few dollars on a “Bourbon” horse.
  • Soup and Sandwich: This is the kind of catchy name that will immediately jump off the page for novice bettors.

Betting News will continue to provide Kentucky Derby coverage in the week leading up to the Derby including post position analysis and expert picks for every bankroll.

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