Kentucky Derby Betting Guide – The Biggest Race in the US

Taking place each year on the first Saturday in May, the Grade 1 stakes Kentucky Derby is a horse race held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. This article has everything about Kentucky Derby betting you need to know, including the latest odds, betting tips and predictions. 

The Kentucky Derby is the climax of the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race has been dubbed The Run for the Roses due to the tradition of draping the winner in a blanket of roses. It's also the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, although attendance at Churchill Downs far outstrips the other two as well as the other major US race, the Breeders' Cup. The race goes off over a distance of one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs, and is exclusively for three-year-old thoroughbreds.

Best Betting Sites We Recommend for the Kentucky Derby

William Hill
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Kentucky Derby 2021 Tips, Odds & Predictions

We'll add the latest odds for the 2021 Kentucky Derby when they are available, along with our betting tips and predictions.

Best Horse Racing Betting Offers

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Paddy Power
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Popular Bets for the Kentucky Derby

To Win Bet

The most popular and uncomplicated way to bet is to bet to win. This is a standard horse racing single bet where you lay money on the horse you think will win. To win money, your horse needs to come home first and be crowned the winner of the Kentucky Derby. The odds you either accept when you lay the bet or the starting price your horse is assigned will determine your pay out. Your return will be a multiple of your stake, based on those odds. While most bookmakers let you alter the odds display, in the UK bookmakers traditionally use fractional odds so if you are watching US TV coverage of the Kentucky Derby then note that fractional odds are not the norm in the USA and may not be a reflection of your return as calculated in the United Kingdom.

Each-Way Bet

Think of the each-way bet as two bets with two separate stakes, one win, one place. Typically, when you bet on a horse each way in the Kentucky Derby, you will be looking for your horse to finish first, second, third and, in some instances, fourth. Each-way bets will normally pay out at 1/5th of the odds if your horse finishes outside the top spot but within the top three or four. That said, we live in the age of bookmaker promotions so some bookies might be offering extra places paid or more generous returns on places so check here first. The win portion of your each way bet is a To Win single as described above.

Betting Without

When a horse race, or other event for that matter, has an overwhelming short priced favourite, bookmakers can sometimes offer a Betting Without market. This is not the same as, but related to, an Against The Field bet. What this market does is remove the “dead cert” and draw up a whole new market to bet on where the favourite has been taken out of consideration altogether. Assuming the race goes to design and the short price romps home as expected, your horse can come home in second place but still be deemed “the winner” and you get paid accordingly.

Lucky 15

A bet to win bet on the Kentucky Derby will only make up one selection in this four selection bet. A Lucky 15 is a full cover bet, affording horse racing bettors differing sets of accumulators as well as four singles, meaning only one horse needs to win for the bettor to collect a return. A lucky 15 consists of four picks which are counted as singles. Note, if you don’t pay for the singles, the bet is a Yankee which is 11 bets. After the singles, a Yankee and a Lucky 15 are structured as follows, six doubles, four trebles and one four-fold. But, of course, the Lucky 15 has four extra singles, hence the extra four bets.

Race Structure for the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby caps the two week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. It is a Grade 1 stakes race staged over a distance of one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds while fillies will take on 121 pounds. In the USA, this race is often referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports, while it can also be known as the fastest two minutes in sports.


History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby was first run on May 17, 1875 after Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark had visited Europe in 1872. In England, he was a spectator at that year’s Derby at Epsom before travelling across to France to see the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. On his return home, Clark lobbied the Louisville Jockey Club to raise money for building quality racing facilities at a site that would later become known as Churchill Downs.

The inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby went off over 1 1/2 miles, the same distance as the Epsom Derby, but in 1896 it was altered to its current 1 1/4 miles. 10,000 people were in attendance for that first race in which 15 three-year-old horses competed. The winner that day was Aristides, a colt who had jockey Oliver Lewis on board. Despite the success of the race, over the years, the track suffered financially and in 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated but despite new investment failed to improve things.

In 1902, a syndicate of businessmen headed by Col. Matt Winn took hold of Churchill Downs and fortunes began to improve. Over the years, the Kentucky Derby began to cement itself as America’s biggest horse race. Today, the race offers $3 million in purse money.

Past Winners of the Kentucky Derby

2020AuthenticJohn VelazquezBob Baffert
2019Country HouseFlavien PratBill Mott
2018Justify Mike E. SmithBob Baffert
2017Always DreamingJohn VelazquezTodd Pletcher
2016Nyquist Mario GutierrezDoug O'Neill
2015American Pharoah Victor EspinozaBob Baffert
2014California Chrome Victor EspinozaArt Sherman
2013Orb Joel RosarioClaude McGaughey III
2012I'll Have Another Mario GutierrezDoug O'Neill
2011Animal Kingdom John VelazquezH. Graham Motion
2010Super Saver Calvin BorelTodd Pletcher
2009Mine That Bird Calvin BorelBennie L. Woolley, Jr
2008Big Brown Kent DesormeauxRichard E. Dutrow, Jr
2007Street Sense Calvin BorelCarl Nafzger
2006Barbaro Edgar PradoMichael R. Matz
2005Giacomo Mike E. SmithJohn Shirreffs
2004Smarty Jones Stewart ElliottJohn Servis
2003Funny Cide José A. SantosBarclay Tagg
2002War EmblemVictor EspinozaBob Baffert
2001Monarchos Jorge F. ChavezJohn T. Ward, Jr
2000Fusaichi Pegasus Kent DesormeauxNeil Drysdale

Kentucky Derby Key Stats

  • With five wins apiece, Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack are the most successful jockeys in the history of the Kentucky Derby.
  • Ben A. Jones has the most wins by a trainer with six.
  • In 2010, Calvin Borel set a new record, being the first jockey to win 3 out of 4 consecutive Kentucky Derbies.
  • In 2018, Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882, to win the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old.
  • In 2019, Country House won the Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security was controversially disqualified.
  • Over its modern distance, the race’s record time of 2 minutes 35 seconds was set by Spokane in 1989.


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Kentucky Derby FAQs

💡 What Is The Prize Pool For The Kentucky Derby?

The purse put up for the Kentucky Derby is a whopping $3 million with $1.8 million set aside for the winner.

📈 What Are The Other Two Races in The American Triple Crown Then?

The other two horse races to count towards the American Triple Crown are the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, both of which run after the Kentucky Derby.

💸 Can I Bet Ante Post on The Kentucky Derby

Yes, as one of the biggest horse races in the world, bookmakers will offer ante post markets on the Kentucky Derby.

⚠ Any Tips For The Big Day?

Well, three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel was known to favour the rail, noting more traction on that part of the course especially after the track has been watered. So, renowned rail runners are worth considering, especially if the track is sloppy.

📍 OK, so What is The Weather Normally Like in Kentucky in May Then?

In May, you can expect about as close to perfect temperatures as you would want, although only a few spring showers is the norm.



ThePuntersPage Final Say

No matter where they are in the world, bettors will always make time for the Kentucky Derby, America’s biggest race. First running in 1875, the Kentucky Derby makes up the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Make no mistake though, that this race, the most exciting two minutes in American sports, is the horsey highlight of the year. And for good reason too.