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Kentucky Derby Betting

The Kentucky Derby is run each year on the first Saturday of May under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. The race is the first jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.

For horseplayers the race is the Holy Grail of wagering. While the average field size is 7 or 8 in a typical horse race, a field of as many as 20 three-year-olds line up for the Run for the Roses each year.

Known as the “two most exciting minutes in sports,” more than $155 million was wagered on the race and over $233 million on the entire card in 2021.

First run in 1875, the Kentucky Derby kicks off the Triple Crown. The race is followed by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico two weeks later. The Triple Crown wraps up three weeks later with the Belmont Stakes.

Just 13 horses in history have swept the series. The first was Sir Barton in 1919. After Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, the third in six years, we had to wait for American Pharoah to make history in 2015 and just three years later Justify become the most recent winner of the three classics.

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Betting on the Derby

Betting on the Kentucky Derby can be a challenging handicapping puzzle. Horseplayers are confronted with a large field of mostly lightly raced three-year-olds who have not been tested at the 1 ¼ mile distance.

That did not stop the betting public from landing on the favorite who won six years in a row from 2013 to 2018. That streak was snapped in 2019 when Improbable came up short as the 4-1 betting favorite, crossing the wire fifth.

The second choice Maximum Security crossed the wire first at 9-2 but was disqualified for interference in the stretch. That made longshot Country House the winner, returning his backers $132.40, one of the biggest upsets in history.

The colt was the third Kentucky Derby winner to pay more than $100 in the last 17 years. Giacomo pulled off the upset in 2005 to the tune of $102.60 and Mine That Bird paid $103.20 in 2009.

The 2021 Derby was won by Medina Spirit who paid $26.20 to win with the $2 exacta with Mandaloun (26-1) paying $503.60 and the $1 trifecta with Hot Rod Charlie (5-1) returning $1,696.90.

Derby Favorites Have Fared Well

The betting favorite has won 10 times in the last 36 editions of the Run for the Roses. However, even when the favorite wins, the exotics can still be hefty.

During the six-year run between 2013 and 2018 where favorites won each race, the $2 exacta still averaged $310.20. The shortest payoff during that period was $61.20. In 2013 Orb got home as the favorite and topped a $2 exacta that paid $981.60 with 34-1 Golden Soul the runner up.

Florida Derby Key Prep

Over the past 22 years the major prep for the Run for the Roses has been the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. The race has produced six Kentucky Derby winners (including Maximum Security, who was DQ’d).

The Santa Anita Derby has produced five including Medina Spirit in 2021. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park have produced three winners each.

There is no shortage of different ways to bet on the world’s most famous race. There is Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, and Super Hi-5 betting.

In addition there are Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 wagering on the Kentucky Derby card and special Daily Doubles including a double with the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.