How to bet on Kentucky Derby

Last updated:

June 26, 2023

Years of preparation so that a horse proves itself in the most exciting two minutes in sports. Twenty horses compete to claim the championship of the Kentucky Derby, also known as “The Run for the Roses”.

A quick history of the Kentucky Derby:

An American gentleman was inspired by the Derby held in Epsom, England, during his visit in the 19th century. He returned to raise funds and build the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. It went on to be known as the Kentucky Derby and has been run annually since its first race in 1875.

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race held annually on the first Saturday of May. Grade I refers to a race with the best horses, jockeys, and trainers with some of the largest prizes. Furthermore, horses chosen for the Stakes Races should have a history of winning, unlike Maiden Races, which consist of horses that have never run in a race.

The horses should be three-year-old thoroughbreds which can be colts, geldings, and fillies. They are handicapped based on their sex, a female, for instance, carries lighter weight. They race at a distance of 1 ¼ miles, 10 furlongs (each furlong equals 201.2 meters), or 2 kilometers.

Horses from all around the world go through different filtering phases called Road to the Kentucky Derby. The best of the best are selected for the final race taking many factors into account. Though only 20 horses can participate in the race, more than 20 are selected in the case of last-minute withdrawals due to any reasons.

When is the Kentucky Derby?

Kentucky Derby is scheduled for the first Saturday in May every year.


How to bet on horses?

The Kentucky Derby is all about horse racing, and knowing how to bet on horses is essential. Betting on horses has a long history and has been common since horses were domesticated. There may not have been as many betting types in the past as there are now, but the new ones add another level of excitement to the game. Here are the most common betting types you can select based on your preferences.

Straight bets:

These are the most straightforward and simple types of bets that involve choosing a single horse.

Win: It is the most common and oldest type of bet in horse racing. Legend has it that cavemen used to place Win bets when they raced horses. It refers to betting on which horse will win the race and come first. It involves betting on only one horse.

Place: This bet also involves betting on only one horse. If the selected horse comes either first or second, the bet wins.

Show: When you bet on only one horse to either finish first, second, or third, it is called a show bet. Placing a show bet on the favorite almost guarantees a payout most of the time.

Across the board: It involves placing the above three bets on a single horse. If the horse comes first, all three bets are paid. If the horse comes second, the place and show bets are paid. And if the horse comes third, the show bet is only paid.

Exotic bets:

These bets involve multiple horses. Correctly predicting exotic bets is difficult, so the payouts are much higher than the straight bets.

Exacta: If you bet on two horses to finish first and second in the exact order you predicted, it is called an Exacta bet. The bet is lost even if the two selected horses finish in the first and second positions but in the reverse order defined by the bettor.

Trifecta: The same concept of Exacta applies to the Trifecta bet, except the bettor must pick three horses. They should finish the race in the exact order predicted by the bettor. For example, I bet that horse X finishes first, horse Y finishes second, and horse Z finishes third.

Superfecta: Placing bets on four horses to finish in the exact order the punter predicted. The Superfecta is lost if the selected four horses finish the race as first, second, third, and fourth position holders but in the reverse order of the punter’s prediction.

Super High Five: Picking five horses to finish in the exact order the punter predicted.

There are some more bet types that are less common, and correctly predicting them seems daunting. You will reach financial freedom if you can correctly predict the game’s outcome, especially in the exact order.

Kentucky Derby betting odds:

The odds in horse racing are not fixed, unlike other sports or casino games. Let’s look at some examples of fixed odds.

  • A winning hand in Blackjack pays even money (1: 1).
  • An example of a soccer match odds can be: Chelsea 11/10, Manchester United 12/5, and Draw 23/10.
  • Betting on a single number in Roulette pays 35 to 1.

What differentiates horse racing from other sports and casino games is the use of the Pari-Mutual wagering system. Punters bet against other punters and not the sportsbooks. All the wagered money of a particular bet type (Win, Show, Exacta, …) goes into a shared pool.

The sportsbook takes its share, which is usually 15%, and distributes the rest of the money in the pool to all the winners in that particular pool.

Sportsbooks come up with the best odds describing each racing horse after a comprehensive assessment. The odds are announced as the morning lines before the race, printed on paper, and displayed on the boards and online websites. These odds are determined by professional handicappers taking many factors into account, such as the horse’s past performance, etc.

The odds usually change and get updated every 40 seconds based on how much money is wagered on each horse. The fluctuation continues until the racing gates are opened, and the wagering is stopped. The morning odds do not match the final odds most of the time. Horse racing usually uses fractional odds to express the odds.

For example, the morning odds for a horse named King Russell in Kentucky Derby 2023 were 50/1. It simply means you would win 50 dollars for every dollar you wager on that horse. The final odds were 32.27 for the same horse after the race. 50/1 odds in horse racing mean the horse is an underdog and not supposed to win.

The morning lines for the favorites in the Kentucky Derby 2023 were: Angel of Empire 8/1 and Tapit Trice 5/1.

Kentucky Derby 2023 was interesting since none of the favorites claimed the championship. On the other hand, Mage surprisingly took over all other horses and crossed the line by a length. The morning lines for the Mage were 15/1, indicating something of a moderate, not a favorite, and not an underdog. The final odds for the Mage were 15.21 after the race.

Mage’s jockey was Javier Castellano, and its trainer was Gustavo Delgado. It was foaled (born) on April 18, 2020. It was a colt which refers to a male horse below the age of three. His sire/father (Good Magic) finished second in the Kentucky Derby 2018. Mage is a descendant of Darley Arabian (One of the three forefathers of all thoroughbred horses).


Kentucky Derby payouts:

The final odds are announced once the race is finished, and the payouts are calculated based on that.

The payouts for a 2$ stake for the Kentucky Derby 2023.

Horse Name Win Place Show
Mage $32.42 $14.58 $9.08
Two Phil’s $10.44 $6.52
Angel of Empire $4.70

The final odds for Mage were 15.21 after the race. If a punter placed a $2 bet on the Mage, the payout would be $32.42 (15.21 x $2 = $30.42 plus the original stake of $2, which equals $32.42). The morning and final odds had a negligible change for Mage.

The Exotic bets are some of the most difficult to predict correctly, and they pay handsomely if one happens to do so.

The table below shows the exotic bets payout for the Kentucky Derby 2023.

Stake Bet Type Payout
$2 Exacta $330.44
$0.5 Trifecta $491.18
$1 Superfecta $15,643.65
$1 Super High Five $194,923.09


A $6 bet on Super High Five would have made one a millionaire instantly. Predicting the first five horses to finish the line in the exact order is a difficult task. That is why sportsbooks offer such enormous payouts for a Super High Five and other exotic bets.


Where to bet on Kentucky Derby?

Festivals of different sorts precede the Kentucky Derby race. If you like to enjoy the festivals and attend the Kentucky Derby in person, you can also place your bets on the racetrack. Nothing can match the joy of having a beer and wandering around with thousands of people on the track. Furthermore, the racing horses are taken out and paraded before the spectators to have a closer look at them 20 minutes before the Derby. The boards show the morning lines, and you can place your bets on the racetrack and have the honor of watching the race live.

On the other hand, if you cannot make it to the Derby due to any reasons like being outside the country. You can place your bets online from anywhere with a button click. Too many online sportsbooks are willing to offer the betting service in jurisdictions where sports betting is legal. You may not have the pleasure of being in the Derby, but you can still join the party from far away.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby online has never been this easy. Here is a step-by-step guide.

  • Find a reputable online sportsbook that is licensed and trustworthy.
  • Create an account and redeem the bonuses and promotions.
  • Deposit funds into your account. Sportsbooks support the most common payment methods.
  • Navigate to the horse racing section of the site.
  • Choose your bet type, enter the wager amount, and confirm the bet.

Having done all the above steps, you can relax and watch the live race to see the result of your bets. Betting is always about fun and examining your analysis prowess. Winning and losing are both fun as long as you have bankroll management and gamble responsibly. There are people who can exactly predict the final odds with intuition. It is a gift that has been polished through years of experience in the field.

These people work as handicappers for racetracks and sportsbooks, and some are hidden gems whom you never know or hear about. Handicappers are professional horse analysts who grade horses and set odds. Handicapping is used to give each horse an equal chance to win the race. For example, each horse carries a certain weight. Otherwise, the race would lose its meaning when everyone knows the favorite will certainly win.


Final thoughts:

Researching the horse will definitely help in placing a successful bet. A punter should consider the horse’s past performances in previous races, its win and loss counts, and the racetrack condition which affects its performance.

A good investigation of the trainer and the jockey will certainly provide more value. A punter should check the trainer’s history to see how many successful horses they have in their record. A major factor in Mage surprisingly winning the Kentucky Derby 2023 is due to the experience of the jockey it had. An experienced jockey in love with the horse will do magic.

Most sportsbooks offer the stats on each horse. They also come up with a score that is calculated considering everything that affects the performance of a certain horse. Note the score and the odds of each horse when placing a bet.

On May 6, 2023, horse racing fans witnessed the 149th Kentucky Derby. It is gaining popularity with each passing year and shows no signs of declining. You can make a fair amount of money if you are into horses and find value in the odds offered by the sportsbooks. Those betting on Mage must have seen the value in the horse and had their bets return 15 folds.

Mage- Kentucky Derby 2023

Mage- Kentucky Derby 2023



Read More:

How To Bet On Horse Races Online


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