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.
2017 Kentucky Derby Recap
It hadn’t happened for over 120 years. When Always Dreaming crossed the finish line nearly 3 lengths ahead of second-place finisher Lookin at Lee, it was the fifth consecutive year that the post-time favorite went on to capture the Derby. It hadn’t happened since before 1900 and who knows if it will ever happen again.
If you were one of the many that took a chance on Always Dreaming, then good for you. If you were fortunate enough to hit a $1 “trifecta”, you netted a handsome payout of over $8,200. If you somehow found yourself holding a $1 “superfecta” winning ticket- you added a hefty $76k to your bank account.
The point is, the 2017 Kentucky Derby offered fans and bettors a plethora of opportunities to turn a profit while watching the race, and many folks did.
The “wet-fast” track conditions played a huge factor in determining the outcome. While it may be difficult to predict which horses and jockeys will be able to prevail when the circumstances are less than ideal, there is no doubt that some of the three-year-old horses faltered under the heavy pressure.
Thunder Snow began the race at close to a 16:1 favorite but was extremely affected by the surface of the track. So much, that the colt actually buckled and kicked coming out of the gate to the point that he was pulled out of the race. Despite seemingly feeling comfortable and confident the morning of the race, jockey Christophe Soumillon was unable to get his horse to respond.
The difficulties of the track’s surface and the behavior of Thunder Snow had a ripple effect down the line. The horses from gates 14-17 all stumbled into each other. It is admirable that Classic Empire was able to regain his composure and finish in a respectable fourth-place.
It was an interesting and exciting race on many levels. It was almost as if the linemakers had a sense of what was coming. Morning line favorite Classic Empire’s line went from +400 to +680 before the race got underway. Sure enough, Classic Empire got knocked around at the outset of the race and was playing “catch up” the rest of the way.
The second favorite McCraken saw his price also jump before the race. Coincidentally, he was involved in the mini-wreckage at the beginning of the race as well and was unable to get back into contention for the race.
The 2017 edition of the Derby was thrilling to watch. While the wet track put a damper on the race for some, those who wagered on Always Dreaming weren’t complaining about anything.
2018 Kentucky Derby
As we approach the 2018 Kentucky Derby, we will be waiting on pins and needles to see what storylines unfold ahead of the race. We all have May 5th circled on our calendars and will all have our eyes glued to NBC that afternoon. As the horses that will be competing in the Derby start to come to light and the odds are fine-tuned, we will be updating this page to make sure you don’t miss out on anything.
One horse will leave Churchill Downs on May 5th with a chance to win the Triple Crown. The 2018 Kentucky Derby will be the stepping stone for that horse and we can’t wait to see who it will be.