How to bet on The Kentucky Derby

07 Jul 2021
Phil Lowe 07 Jul 2021
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Kentucky Derby (Getty Images)

How to bet on The Kentucky Derby 

The Kentucky Derby is the most anticipated horse race in American sports and it attracts attention from all around the world. Dubbed ‘the most exciting two minutes in sport’ the race is one of the fastest and most thrilling races in the world. 

The race sees million of punters wagering money on the event, and the bookmakers will often have a wide variety of introductory offers and special bets to draw in even more customers. 

If you want to be a part of the action in the next Kentucky Derby, then check out the following guide detailing the ins and outs of betting on the event. 

When is The Kentucky Derby?

As its name may suggest, The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

The event takes place on the first Saturday in May, bringing to an end the two weeks long Kentucky Festival that precedes it.  

The race is iconic in American sports and in horse racing in general and is ran on a dirt track that runs one and a quarter miles. 

Types of bets

Win bet

The most popular, and the most straight forward type of bet to place is a simple win bet. This is simply where you choose which horse you believe is going to win the race. 


Each way bets are one of the most popular types of bets to place at the Kentucky Derby, largely because of the unpredictable nature of the race. 

An each-way bet is basically two separate bets placed on the same horse. The first of these bets is for your horse to win, the second is for your horse to place. 

What defines a placement will change from bookie to bookie, with most offering a second, third or fourth place finish, but some even going as low as sixth place. You will likely find some very generous offers on this given the popularity of the event. 

Of course, the lower your horse does place, the lower your return will end up being, so make sure you bare that in mind.  

If your horse wins and you have an each-way bet placed, then you will get the money from both the win part and the place part of the bet. However, if your horse only places, then you won’t receive a pay-out for your horse winning.  

For first-time customers, you should also bear in mind that when you put your stake on this bet, it will be doubled when you go to pay it, which can be quite a nasty surprise if you weren’t expecting it. 

Straight Forecast

A forecast bet can be a great little money maker in the Kentucky Derby but they can also be very difficult to get correct 

A straight forecast bet or an ‘exacta’ as it is called in The States is when you predict which horses will finish first and second, in the correct order. 


A tricast bet, or a trifecta, is essentially the same bet as a straight forecast, only this time, you will also attempt to pick which horse finishes in third place as well. 

Needless to say, this bet is even more difficult and tends to only be placed by either really brave punters, or really experienced and knowledgeable ones.  

Some punters likely to keep upping the ante at the Kentucky Derby with these kinds of bets, with some going for a ‘superfecta’ which is the same again but with the top four places, and the even braver going for a ‘magic high five’ which predicts the top five places. 

Special bets 

The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest horse races in the world and as such, the vast majority of bookmakers will offer a range of specials on the event. 

Due to the event often attracting a lot of first-time punters, there will be a range of sign-up bonuses available around the event which can be taken advantage of. There will also be a lot of free bets available providing you are willing to wager a certain amount yourself. 

The bookies also like to try and soften up new customers by offering insurance style bets where you will recieve your money back as a free bet if your horse fails to win under certain circumstances. These can definitely be worth taking advantage of. 

Where to bet

While the Kentucky Derby is absolutely massive in America, not all bookmakers elsewhere will offer the same kind of in-depth markets that they would do for domestic competitions. 

That being said, there is still a massive range of bookmakers who will have brilliant markets and offer excellent value on the event. 

Kentucky Derby betting strategy

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most unique and exciting sports races in the world and as such, picking a winner for the race can be extremely tricky. 

The race features 20 runners which is the largest of any race in the United States, meaning that you do have the option of playing around and putting on multiple bets for the race. Each way bets are always advised in the race, as predicting an out and out winner can prove to be quite difficult. 

Qualification for the Kentucky Derby is notoriously difficult, with the annual road to The Kentucky Derby featuring around 46 races on average. This long process does provide punters with plenty of previous races to analyse and pick apart, though, it is worth remembering that the Derby is an incredible unique race and a lot of horses may not have run such a track before.

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