Kentucky Derby Betting
The Kentucky Derby, aka the Super Bowl of horse racing, is the biggest and most bet horse racing event in North America. Held on the first Saturday of May each year at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby is the first of three legs that make up the much esteemed American Triple Crown.
Below, you’ll find everything needed to place informed bets on the races, including; online betting guides, odds information, historical information, and other helpful content.
Kentucky Derby Online Betting
We have tested and reviewed dozens of online betting sites to find those with the best Kentucky Derby betting selection and overall quality. All the Kentucky Derby Betting Sites that we recommend on this website are fully licensed in the USA, making them safe and secure.
Our reviews take into consideration many factors, some of which are general across all types of betting while others are focused on horse racing specifically. Here is a list of some of the things our team researched when looking for the best places to bet on the Kentucky Derby.
When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, the odds are that you will be out at an event or in front of the TV, not in front of your computer, and you will be looking to make your bets from your phone. We look at the mobile versions of sites to ensure they are optimized to provide the best possible user experience.
Extra credit is given to a site that has a native app for iOS or Android.
Promotions and bonuses are very important to consider when deciding on which racebook to make a deposit at. Reputable betting sites will develop special offers for events like the Kentucky Derby so be sure to weigh your options carefully when registering.
Offers at the sites we recommend can include but are not limited to:
- Deposit bonuses
- Risk-free bets
- Boosted odds
- Special odds markets
How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby
If you’re a newcomer to horse racing, you may feel intimidated and overwhelmed when you first log in to an online racebook looking to make a Kentucky Derby bet. Even if you’re used to making orthodox online sports bets, the terminology and bet types can differ massively and it’s no shame to be confused.
Below, we’ve listed and described the main Kentucky Derby betting types and markets you’ll need to understand if you’re making your first bet on the ponies or you just need a refresher if you only bet on the Derby every year. We’ve also attempted to explain any horse racing jargon that may seem like it’s in a foreign language.
Kentucky Derby Odds and Bet Types
There are hundreds of ways to bet the 12 races on Derby day but if you’ve found this page, you’re more than likely focused on race #12 (the biggest of the day) and are looking to make a Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta bet.
We will break each of these wager types down in detail, describe how to “box” your bets to give yourself a stronger chance of winning, and look at some other ways to get in on the Derby action.
The simplest horse bet you can make. Quite simply put, you win if you pick the horse who finishes first. The odds on each horse are determined by the pari-mutuel pool, meaning that the price of each horse will depend on how much is ultimately bet on it.
An example: If you had made a $2 win bet on Authentic in 2020, you would’ve made $18.80 with the Bob Baffert trained horse closing with 8/1 odds.
Take a look at the results and payouts from the 2020 Kentucky Derby to get a better idea of what to expect once the race has ended:
|18||Authentic||John R. Velazquez||Bob Baffert||8/1||$18.80||$6.00||$5.00|
|17||Tiz the Law||Manuel Franco||Barclay Tagg||3/5||–||$3.40||$3.20|
|9||Mr. Big News||Gabriel Saez||W. Bret Calhoun||46/1||–||–||$16.80|
All racebook payout figures are based on a $2 wager.
Tip: It’s tempting to simply bet on the favorite but the Kentucky Derby is a tricky race with a lot of pitfalls and the favorite actually rarely wins.
So many people bet on the favorite, assuming that he is the best horse. It is often the case, however, because the horse is favored, many new players will bet on it which makes the horse’s price lose value. It is therefore better, sometimes, wiser to select one of the other horses in the field if you are interested in betting value.
With a bet to place, you win if your horse finishes first or second in the race. Note the table above to see what you would’ve won with a place bet in 2019.
- When there are few horses running, this bet type offers short potential returns as the favorite will capture most of that betting money and if he does win, the other place bet is not paying enough for it to be worth much.
- In the Kentucky Derby, however, with so many horses running and the favorite being so vulnerable, the place bet offers a lot of value and you basically double your chance to win, compared to a straight win bet.
The bet to show follows the same logic as the place bet, you win if your horse finishes first, second or third.
- Similar to the place bet, we would not advise betting this way on most races but in the Kentucky Derby, with this huge field, the Show bet can actually pay off well and you triple your chance of winning.
Players looking for a big payout on Kentucky Derby day will normally make an Exacta bet. To make this bet, you need to select two horses and decide who will finish first and who will finish second.
- If they come in first and second, you win, usually a large sum. If they come in any other order, you lose the bet – very similar to a parlay in sports betting.
- You can place multiple Exacta bets, with multiple horses in multiple orders but then the price goes up. This as what’s known as “boxing” which we describe in detail below. Still, a winning Kentucky Derby Exacta bet can pay off big, if you have a clear idea of who has the best chance of finishing first and second.
A winning $2 Exacta ticket from the 2020 Kentucky Derby was worth $41.
The Trifecta follows the same logic as the exacta but is exponentially harder as you have now to decide who will finish first, second and third. If you hit a Trifecta bet, it will pay off a lot, often thousands of dollars depending on the odds. But with such a large number of horses in the race, there are often surprises.
A winning $1 Trifecta ticket from the 2020 Kentucky Derby was worth $1,311.80.
If you understand the concept of the Exacta and Trifecta, you understand the Superfecta: you just have to add another horse, picking who will finish first, second, third and fourth.
- If winning the Kentucky Derby Exacta or Trifecta was hard, you can imagine how hard the Superfecta is.
The good news is that most betting sites will allow you to make a Superfecta bet for just $0.10. Meaning that you can add multiple horses or play multiple orders and each combination costs you only 10 cents. Still, you have to be ready to lose that bet because finding the top 4 order of finish on the Kentucky Derby is really difficult.
A winning $1 Superfecta bet in the 2020 Derby would’ve produced a payout of $7,925.80, if only.
|Bet Size||Bet Type||Boxes||Payout|
Making a box bet will drive the price of your ticket up, but it will give you a much higher chance of success.
Example: You buy a boxed exacta ticket on the number 1 and 2 horses. You win your bet if the 1 and 2 horses finish first or second in any order.
- You can add as many horses to this bet as you want, but your ticket cost will be multiplied by every additional horse.
- The same principles apply to trifecta and superfecta box bets.
You can also bet on the winner of the race ahead of time in an odds market racebooks call “futures”. You can see the most updated futures odds for the 2021 Kentucky Derby in the table below.
|Horse||Odds to Win|
|Hot Rod Charlie||8/1|
|Drain the Clock||25/1|
|Candy Man Rocket||25/1|
|Nicky the Vest||25/1|
|Rock Your World||25/1|
|Soup and Sandwich||25/1|
Odds via Unibet as of April 1, 2021
As with any big betting event, sportsbooks will offer many prop (short for proposition) bets that focus on the proceedings of the Kentucky Derby.
These bets can be wide-ranging and are only limited by the imagination of the sportsbooks and the red tape put up by regulatory boards.
Tip: The crazier the prop, the more likely it is that you’ve stumbled upon an offshore sportsbook that may be illegal in your region.
An example of a Kentucky Derby prop bet might be which celebrities show up to the event and what types of attire they might dawn to the lavish gathering.
Generally speaking, prop bets are a good entry point for absolute beginners and for those who are more interested in the pomp of the event.
Kentucky Derby Picks
Many platforms will offer picks for the Kentucky Derby but it’s important to understand that with the event being so popular, there will be a lot of noise in the space from non-experts with everyone trying to take advantage of the biggest day in horse racing. If you’re looking for good advice on who to pick, it’s likely you’ll have to subscribe to a paid service. After all, you get what you pay for.
Our partners at Daily Horse Picks are obsessed with perfecting their AI-driven horse racing models and handicapping tools. They offer premium picks packages starting at just $4.99 per day.
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Kentucky Derby Historical Information
While not necessarily valuable for handicapping the upcoming race, it can be interesting to look back at past results to see if any trends pop out. Look out for factors like which trainers produce the most winners? Which post position is most valuable? How often does the favorite win?
First up, let’s look at the winners of every race since 1960:
|2020||Authentic||18||John R. Velazquez||Bob Baffert||2:00.61||1 1/4||8/1|
|2019||Country House||20||Flavien Prat||William I. Mott||2:03.93||1||65/1|
|2018||Justify||7||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||2:04.20||2 1/2||5/2|
|2017||Always Dreaming||5||John R. Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||2:03:59||2 3/4||9/2|
|2016||Nyquist||13||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||2:01.31||1 1/4||2/1|
|2015||American Pharoah||18||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert||2:03.02||1||5/2|
|2014||California Chrome||5||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||2:03.66||1 3/4||5/2|
|2013||Orb||16||Joel Rosario||Shug McGaughey||2:02:89||2 1/2||5|
|2012||I’ll Have Another||19||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||2:01.83||1 1/2||15|
|2011||Animal Kingdom||16||John Velazquez||Graham Motion||2:02.04||2 3/4||20|
|2010||Super Saver||4||Calvin Borel||Todd Pletcher||2:04.45||2 1/2||8|
|2009||Mine That Bird||8||Calvin Borel||Bennie L. Woolley, Jr.||2:02.66||6 3/4||50|
|2008||Big Brown||20||K. Desormeaux||R. Dutrow, Jr.||2:01.82||8||3.5|
|2007||Street Sense||7||C. Borel||C. Nafzger||2:02.17||2 1/4||4.5|
|2006||Barbaro||3||E. Prado||M. Matz||2:01.36||6 1/2||6|
|2005||Giacomo||10||M. Smith||J. Shirreffs||2:02.75||1 1/2||50.30|
|2004||Smarty Jones||13||S. Elliott||J. Servis||2:04.06||2 3/4||4.10|
|2003||Funny Cide||5||J. Santos||B. Tagg||2:01.19||1 3/4||12.80|
|2002||War Emblem||5||V. Espinoza||B. Baffert||2:01.13||4||20.50|
|2001||Monarchos||16||J. Chavez||J. T. Ward||1:59.97||4 3/4||10.50|
|2000||Fusaichi Pegasus||15||K. Desormeaux||N. Drysdale||2:01.12||1 1/2||2.30|
|1999||Charismatic||16||C. Antley||D.W. Lukas||2:03.29||nk||31.30|
|1998||Real Quiet||3||K. Desormeaux||B. Baffert||2:02.38||1/2||8.40|
|1997||Silver Charm||5||G. Stevens||B. Baffert||2:02.44||hd||4.00|
|1996||Grindstone||15||J. Bailey||D.W. Lukas||2:01.06||no||5.90|
|1995||Thunder Gulch||16||G. Stevens||D.W. Lukas||2:01.27||2 1/4||24.50|
|1994||Go for Gin||8||C. McCarron||N. Zito||2:03.72||2||9.10|
|1993||Sea Hero||6||J. Bailey||M. Miller||2:02.42||2 1/2||12.90|
|1992||Lil E. Tee||10||P. Day||L. Whiting||2:03.04||1||16.80|
|1991||Strike the Gold||5||C. Antley||N. Zito||2:03.08||1 3/4||4.80|
|1990||Unbridled||8||C. Perret||C. Nafzgar||2:02||3 1/2||10.80|
|1989||Sunday Silence||10||P. Valenzuela||C. Whittingham||2:05||2 1/2||3.10|
|1988||Winning Colors||1||G. Stevens||D.W. Lukas||2:02 1/5||nk||3.40|
|1987||Alysheba||3||C. McCarron||J. Van Berg||2:03 2/5||3/4||8.40|
|1986||Ferdinand||1||W. Shoemaker||C. Whittingham||2:02 4/5||2 1/4||17.70|
|1985||Spend a Buck||10||A. Cordero Jr.||C. Gambolati||2:00 1/5||5 1/4||4.10|
|1984||Swale||15||L. Pincay Jr.||W. Stephens||2:02 2/5||3 1/4||3.40|
|1983||Sunny’s Halo||10||E. Delahoussaye||D. Cross Jr.||2:02 1/5||2||2.50|
|1982||Gato Del Sol||18||E. Delahoussaye||E. Gregson||2:02 3/5||2 1/2||21.20|
|1981||Pleasant Colony||7||J. Velasquez||J. Campo||2:02||3/4||3.50|
|1980||Genuine Risk||10||J. Vasquez||L. Jolley||2:02||1||13.30|
|1979||Spectacular Bid||3||R. Franklin||G. Delp||2:02 2/5||2 3/4||0.60|
|1978||Affirmed||2||S. Cauthen||L. Barrera||2:01 1/5||1 1/2||1.80|
|1977||Seattle Slew||4||J. Cruguet||W. Turner||2:02 1/5||1 3/4||0.50|
|1976||Bold Forbes||2||A. Cordero Jr.||L. Barrera||2:01 3/5||1||3.00|
|1975||Foolish Pleasure||3||J. Vasquez||L. Jolley||2:02||1 3/4||1.90|
|1974||Cannonade||2||A. Cordero Jr.||W. Stephens||2:04||2 1/4||1.50|
|1973||Secretariat||10||R. Turcotte||L. Laurin||1:59 2/5||2 1/2||1.50|
|1972||Riva Ridge||9||R. Turcotte||L. Laurin||2:01 4/5||3 3/4||1.50|
|1971||Canonero II||12||G. Avila||J. Arius||2:03 1/5||3 3/4||8.70|
|1970||Dust Commander||2||M. Manganello||D. Combs||2:03 2/5||5||15.30|
|1969||Majestic Prince||8||J. Longden||W. Hartack||2:01 4/5||nk||1.40|
|1968||Forward Pass (via DQ)||13||I. Valenzuela||H. Forrest||2:02 1/5||n/a||2.20|
|1967||Proud Clarion||7||R. Ussery||L. Gentry||2:00 3/5||1||30.10|
|1966||Kauai King||12||D. Brumfield||H. Forrest||2:02||1/2||2.40|
|1965||Lucky Debonair||8||W. Shoemaker||F. Catrone||2:01 1/5||nk||4.30|
|1964||Northern Dancer||7||W. Hartak||H. Luro||2:00||nk||3.40|
|1963||Chateaugay||1||B. Baeza||J.P. Conway||2:01 4/5||1 1/4||9.40|
|1962||Decidedly||4||W. Hartak||H. Luro||2:00 2/5||2 1/4||8.70|
|1961||Carry Back||14||J. Sellers||J.A. Price||2:04||3/4||2.50|
|1960||Venetian Way||9||W. Hartack||V. Sovinski||2:02 2/5||3 1/2||6.30|
Kentucky Derby Post Positions
One of the biggest moments in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby is the announcement of post positions. This determines which gate each horse will race out of and as you will see in the chart below, some post positions produce far more winners than others.
Looking at that data, you may want to select a horse who starts from one of the middle post positions. Post position statistics for the Kentucky Derby reveal that starting gates 5 to 15 win more often than the rest.
Because of the field size, if you don’t have a lot of early speed and start from an inside position, you might end up being blocked all the way. If you start from way outside, you will probably run a longer race, being forced to the middle of the track on the turns.
Kentucky Derby General Information
The Kentucky Derby, often referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, is a race for eligible three-year-old thoroughbred horses (male and female).
To participate in the Kentucky Derby, horses must qualify by earning points in the Kentucky Derby preparation races. These races are not linked to the organizers of the Kentucky Derby or to the racetrack Churchill Downs, but they are high-profile races for young horses.
- Location: Louisville, Kentucky (Churchill Downs)
- Date: May 1, 2021 (Saturday)
- Time: 6:50 pm ET (approximate post time for the #12 race)
- Purse: $2 million
- Length: 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs)
- Nickname: The Run for the Roses
Churchill Downs can hold 50,000 people but more than 150,000 spectators normally pass through the gates on Derby weekend.
Held on a track that is longer than most (1 1/4 miles), stamina will be a crucial factor when handicapping the Kentucky Derby.
Kentucky Derby Parties
The party has extended far outside the state of Kentucky, with a whole host of parties being held around the world with attendees wearing big hats, lavish clothing, and drinking the traditional mint julep, which consists of bourbon, sugar, crushed ice, and of course, fresh mint.
Where to watch the Kentucky Derby?
The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse race in America and it is rightfully broadcast everywhere in the country and abroad.
You can watch the Kentucky Derby on NBC or on the internet, on the NBS Sports website.
The broadcast usually starts early in the afternoon as they cover some of the other high-profile races run at Churchill Downs the same day.