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
The 2017 Kentucky Derby is in the gate! It’s fast approaching May 6th, the scheduled start date of another fateful Kentucky afternoon filled with incredible hats, eager bettors at the track, and one legendary race. It’s plenty of hype for such a short race, but it’s also easy to understand why – winner takes all.
The spot for lead horse is neck and neck, but just edging out the competition is Classic Empire. Currently running away with +400 odds, the 4:1 payout makes him the leader of the pack during this year’s race and with good reason. The three year old colt has already pushed through the competition times before – once by winning the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
As it gets closer to race time, expect the favorite horse here to be bet on heavily due to the fact he is kin to the Triple Crown winning American Pharaoh. This dangerous fact speaks for itself and is directly reflected in the favorite horse’s current odds.
Just a nose behind the current odds leader is Always Dreaming. Depending on where you wager, you can find this dark brown colt at +500 or +450 at the more conservative race-books. A $100 bet on this horse will return you between $450-$500, depending on the racebook you’re betting at. This beauty won the coveted Grade 1 Florida Derby on the 1st of April, decisively outrunning another Kentucky Derby contender – Gunnevera. Always Dreaming will be looking to do the same to the current odds leader when they get set to race this year at Churchill.
One special horse worth keeping an eye on, and recently gaining momentum with the odds, is the Kentucky bred McCracken! Previously listed at +1000 odds, the 10:1 payout line has been recently changed to +700! Now your $100 wager is only going to pay you $700 instead of $1000! That’s not exactly a small downgrade in odds for a field of over 20 horses. Although McCracken is attempting to rally from a recent 3rd place setback at Keenland, look for this sleeper horse bet to be a real contender as the minutes to post slowly tick down.