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.

Best Kentucky Derby Betting Sites

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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.

Mobile Compatibility

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

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.

Win bet:

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:

2020 Kentucky Derby Podium
Post PositionHorseJockeyTrainerOddsWinPlaceShow
18AuthenticJohn R. VelazquezBob Baffert8/1$18.80$6.00$5.00
17Tiz the LawManuel FrancoBarclay Tagg3/5$3.40$3.20
9Mr. Big NewsGabriel SaezW. Bret Calhoun46/1$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.

Place bet:

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.
Show 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.
Exacta bet:

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.

Trifecta bet:

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.

Superfecta:

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.

2020 Kentucky Derby Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta Payouts
Bet SizeBet TypeBoxesPayout
$2Exacta18/17$41.00
$0.50Trifecta18/17/9$655.90
$0.10Superfecta18/17/9$792.58
Box Bet
Boxing your bets is a common strategy in horse racing if you have a strong feeling about multiple horses but you’re not sure exactly in what order they’ll finish. When you make a “Box Bet”, you are betting on all the possible combinations of the horses you select for that ticket.

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.

Futures

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.

Odds to Win the 2021 Kentucky Derby
HorseOdds to Win
Concert Tour7/2
Essentially Quality9/2
Hot Rod Charlie8/1
Greatest Honour12/1
Prevalence12/1
Medina Spirit14/1
Risk Taking14/1
Known Agenda14/1
Helium16/1
Weyburn16/1
Reinvestment Risk20/1
Midnight Bourbon20/1
Mandaloun20/1
Collaborate20/1
Nova Rags20/1
Highly Motivated25/1
Caddo River25/1
Rebels Romance25/1
Proxy25/1
Drain the Clock25/1
Candy Man Rocket25/1
Nicky the Vest25/1
Rock Your World25/1
Soup and Sandwich25/1

Odds via Unibet as of April 1, 2021

Prop Bets

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:

Past Kentucky Derby Winners
YearWinnerPost PositionJockeyTrainerTimeMarginOdds
2020Authentic18John R. VelazquezBob Baffert2:00.611 1/48/1
2019Country House20Flavien PratWilliam I. Mott2:03.93165/1
2018Justify7Mike SmithBob Baffert2:04.202 1/25/2
2017Always Dreaming5John R. VelazquezTodd Pletcher2:03:592 3/49/2
2016Nyquist13Mario GutierrezDoug O’Neill2:01.311 1/42/1
2015American Pharoah18Victor EspinozaBob Baffert2:03.0215/2
2014California Chrome5Victor EspinozaArt Sherman2:03.661 3/45/2
2013Orb16Joel RosarioShug McGaughey2:02:892 1/25
2012I’ll Have Another19Mario GutierrezDoug O’Neill2:01.831 1/215
2011Animal Kingdom16John VelazquezGraham Motion2:02.042 3/420
2010Super Saver4Calvin BorelTodd Pletcher2:04.452 1/28
2009Mine That Bird8Calvin BorelBennie L. Woolley, Jr.2:02.666 3/450
2008Big Brown20K. DesormeauxR. Dutrow, Jr.2:01.8283.5
2007Street Sense7C. BorelC. Nafzger2:02.172 1/44.5
2006Barbaro3E. PradoM. Matz2:01.366 1/26
2005Giacomo10M. SmithJ. Shirreffs2:02.751 1/250.30
2004Smarty Jones13S. ElliottJ. Servis2:04.062 3/44.10
2003Funny Cide5J. SantosB. Tagg2:01.191 3/412.80
2002War Emblem5V. EspinozaB. Baffert2:01.13420.50
2001Monarchos16J. ChavezJ. T. Ward1:59.974 3/410.50
2000Fusaichi Pegasus15K. DesormeauxN. Drysdale2:01.121 1/22.30
1999Charismatic16C. AntleyD.W. Lukas2:03.29nk31.30
1998Real Quiet3K. DesormeauxB. Baffert2:02.381/28.40
1997Silver Charm5G. StevensB. Baffert2:02.44hd4.00
1996Grindstone15J. BaileyD.W. Lukas2:01.06no5.90
1995Thunder Gulch16G. StevensD.W. Lukas2:01.272 1/424.50
1994Go for Gin8C. McCarronN. Zito2:03.7229.10
1993Sea Hero6J. BaileyM. Miller2:02.422 1/212.90
1992Lil E. Tee10P. DayL. Whiting2:03.04116.80
1991Strike the Gold5C. AntleyN. Zito2:03.081 3/44.80
1990Unbridled8C. PerretC. Nafzgar2:023 1/210.80
1989Sunday Silence10P. ValenzuelaC. Whittingham2:052 1/23.10
1988Winning Colors1G. StevensD.W. Lukas2:02 1/5nk3.40
1987Alysheba3C. McCarronJ. Van Berg2:03 2/53/48.40
1986Ferdinand1W. ShoemakerC. Whittingham2:02 4/52 1/417.70
1985Spend a Buck10A. Cordero Jr.C. Gambolati2:00 1/55 1/44.10
1984Swale15L. Pincay Jr.W. Stephens2:02 2/53 1/43.40
1983Sunny’s Halo10E. DelahoussayeD. Cross Jr.2:02 1/522.50
1982Gato Del Sol18E. DelahoussayeE. Gregson2:02 3/52 1/221.20
1981Pleasant Colony7J. VelasquezJ. Campo2:023/43.50
1980Genuine Risk10J. VasquezL. Jolley2:02113.30
1979Spectacular Bid3R. FranklinG. Delp2:02 2/52 3/40.60
1978Affirmed2S. CauthenL. Barrera2:01 1/51 1/21.80
1977Seattle Slew4J. CruguetW. Turner2:02 1/51 3/40.50
1976Bold Forbes2A. Cordero Jr.L. Barrera2:01 3/513.00
1975Foolish Pleasure3J. VasquezL. Jolley2:021 3/41.90
1974Cannonade2A. Cordero Jr.W. Stephens2:042 1/41.50
1973Secretariat10R. TurcotteL. Laurin1:59 2/52 1/21.50
1972Riva Ridge9R. TurcotteL. Laurin2:01 4/53 3/41.50
1971Canonero II12G. AvilaJ. Arius2:03 1/53 3/48.70
1970Dust Commander2M. ManganelloD. Combs2:03 2/5515.30
1969Majestic Prince8J. LongdenW. Hartack2:01 4/5nk1.40
1968Forward Pass (via DQ)13I. ValenzuelaH. Forrest2:02 1/5n/a2.20
1967Proud Clarion7R. UsseryL. Gentry2:00 3/5130.10
1966Kauai King12D. BrumfieldH. Forrest2:021/22.40
1965Lucky Debonair8W. ShoemakerF. Catrone2:01 1/5nk4.30
1964Northern Dancer7W. HartakH. Luro2:00nk3.40
1963Chateaugay1B. BaezaJ.P. Conway2:01 4/51 1/49.40
1962Decidedly4W. HartakH. Luro2:00 2/52 1/48.70
1961Carry Back14J. SellersJ.A. Price2:043/42.50
1960Venetian Way9W. HartackV. Sovinski2:02 2/53 1/26.30

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.

Kentucky Derby FAQ

Can I bet on the Kentucky Derby Online?
Yes, you can bet on the Kentucky Derby online. Find a sports or racebook offering odds on the races, sign up and make a deposit.
How are horses picked for the Kentucky Derby?
Three-year-old thoroughbreds compete in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of prep races around the world, and win points for finishing in the top four spots. The 20 horses who accumulate the most points at the end of the series gain entry into the Kentucky Derby.
What types of bets can I make on the Kentucky Derby?
The most common bets placed on the Kentucky Derby are Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta bets.
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