The Kentucky Derby has been run every year since 1875, and it’s known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” It draws the largest crowd of any North American horse race, and it’s the first leg of the prestigious American Triple Crown (followed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes).
While some fans may be more interested in drinking Mint Juleps and admiring the colorful hats worn by female spectators, there are plenty who still tune in because of Kentucky Derby betting. The odds can often be punishing, but successfully picking a long-shot from among a pack of thoroughbreds can result in a monster payout.
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Types of Wagers
Sportsbooks like to keep things interesting for their clients, which is why Kentucky Derby betting sites are often tasked with coming up with numerous betting options for an event. In this section, we’ll look at some of the most common ways to wager on the event.
- Outright Winner – In order to gain a payday on this wager, the bettor must correctly choose the winner of the race. This bet offers a larger payout than the “place” or “show” options. If made at Churchill Downs, the minimum required wager is $2.
- Future Winner – This is also a bet on the winner of the race, but it’s often made months in advance before the field is even set. Since so much uncertainty surrounds the event at this stage, it’s common to see larger payouts (such as risking $100 to win $2,000).
- Sire Future – This option allows punters to wager on world-class sires such as Pioneer of the Nile or Super Saver months before the race occurs. If one of their offspring wins the Kentucky Derby, then the punter receives a hefty payout.
- Place – If you bet on a horse to “place,” then you’re predicting that he’ll finish in first or second place.
- Show – The punter collects a payout if their horse finishes in the top three.
- Exacta – The bettor chooses two horses to finish first and second, but he must also predict the exact order. This offers a greater payout because of the degree of difficulty. There’s also the option to “box” the bet, which means the order doesn’t have to be exact (thereby reducing the payout).
- Trifecta – This option is harder than the exacta, as the bettor must choose three horses and predict the exact order they’ll finish in. This offers an even bigger payout, as the odds are heavily stacked against the bettor. A less profitable option is to “box” the bet, which removes the need to predict the exact order.
- Prop Bets – These wagers allow oddsmakers to exercise a certain amount of creativity, as they don’t deal with the specific winner of the race. Instead, options might include one of the following: the over/under on the length of the National Anthem, the over/under on the official winning time, and the number of words in the name of the Derby winner.
Biggest Upsets in Kentucky Derby History
Gamblers have been chasing big wins at the Kentucky Derby since the inaugural running of the event. While the favorites often get the traditional wreath of roses draped around their necks for a good reason, an underdog can sometimes prove the experts wrong and deliver a massive payout. Here are a few of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history to give you hope:
- Mine That Bird – While he never won a race after the Kentucky Derby, this 50-1 underdog pulled off a shocking 2009 win by a distance of 6 ½ lengths.
- Lil E Tee – Everyone had already crowned Arazi the winner of the 1992 race, but this 17-1 underdog had other ideas. Arazi, meanwhile, would finish in eighth place.
- Donerail – This 91-1 underdog captured the win in 1913, returning $184.90 on a $2 wager. To date, he remains the biggest long-shot to claim victory at the event.
- Giacomo – Despite a lackluster prep race, this colt defied the 50-1 odds to claim victory. He won by just half a length over another long shot named Closing Argument, while favorite Bellamy Road finished seventh.
- Gato Del Sol – Running with a relatively weak field, this colt surged from last place and took the 1982 win despite odds of 21-1.
2016 Kentucky Derby
The running of the 2016 Kentucky Derby is scheduled for May 7th. The race is about two months away at this point, but it’s already shaping up to be among the most exciting in recent memory.
Mohaymen, the undefeated gray colt who was sired by Tapit, is currently getting the most action at sportsbooks. One site has him listed at +225, meaning a bettor would need to risk $100 to win $225. Racing analysts are keen to see his form during his next start at the Florida Derby on April 2nd, but there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t remain the Derby favorite.
Another Florida Derby participant that’s drawing buzz is Nyquist, the thoroughbred who was sired by Uncle Mo and won the 2015 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. Still undefeated, he took first in the seven-furlong-long San Vicente Stakes with a time of 1:20:71 and seems poised to make a strong run at Churchill Downs in May. Current odds have him at +500, which would award $500 on a $100 wager.
My personal favorite is Mor Spirit, the winner of the 2015 Los Alamos Futurity. This three-year-old colt was sired by Eskendereya, and he also has the distinction of being trained by Bob Baffert, a veteran of the sport whose horses have won two Kentucky Oaks, two Belmont Stakes, six Preakness Stakes, and four Kentucky Derbies. Mor Spirit is currently going off at +900, which offers a generous $900 payout on a $100 investment.