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Insider Kentucky Derby Tips

The Kentucky Derby is America’s best-known horse race. Every year, more than 100,000 people pack Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., to see 20 3-year-old thoroughbreds run 1 1/4 miles (about 2,000 meters).

The event also, of course, includes as much betting as you’ll see on an American horse race all year long. Let’s take a look at ways you can get involved in the race known as the Run for the Roses.

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Types of Kentucky Derby Bets

The easiest Kentucky Derby bets you can make are win, place, and show. Win bets, logically enough, pay out if your horse finishes in first place. Place bets pay out if your horse runs first or second. Show bets pay out if your horse runs first, second, or third.

Should you want to get more creative, you can also dive into what are known as exotics wagers. These include the exacta (predict the top two finishers), trifecta (predict the top three finishers), and superfecta (predict the top four finishers). You can “box” these wagers, which involves using all combinations of a certain subset of runners.

For instance, a three-horse exacta box would be six bets (three possible winners, two possible runners-up). A £1 exacta box with those runners would, therefore, cost £6.

The Kentucky Derby is also not the only race that day at Churchill Downs. It’s part of multi-race sequences such as doubles, Pick Threes, Pick Fours, Pick Fives, and the Pick Six. These wagers involve picking the winners of several races in a row.

Maximize Your Winnings: Kentucky Derby Betting Strategies

The Kentucky Derby is unique for many reasons. From a betting standpoint, 20-horse fields in American horse races are very rare. With so many ways for betting money to go, payoffs are typically higher for certain wagers than they would be in other races throughout the year.

This makes for golden opportunities for bettors that have strong opinions. Instead of being 4-1 or 5-1, horses with legitimate chances to win the race could be double or triple that price.

Other popular strategies include group tickets targeting exotics wagers. Many groups, for instance, will play large superfecta tickets with hundreds of combinations and split the cost of the ticket in hopes of catching a huge payout.

2023 Kentucky Derby Odds and Favorites

The favorite to win the 2023 Kentucky Derby is Forte. Trained by American horse racing Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Forte won the 2022 Eclipse Award as the country’s top 2-year-old male after winning three Grade 1 races. One of them was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, seen by many as the most prestigious race in the division.

Forte is 2-for-2 as a 3-year-old. He won both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. As a result, he’s been installed as a 3-1 morning line choice.

Forte’s biggest opposition could come from a stablemate. Pletcher also trains Tapit Trice, the 5-1 second choice. Most recently, that one captured the Blue Grass at Keeneland, and he’s also annexed the Tampa Bay Derby.

Other American contenders include Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire and Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move. The American contingent is joined by a pair of Japan-based runners, including Derma Sotogake, who most recently led every step of the way to win the UAE Derby at Meydan on the Dubai World Cup undercard.

Winning Combinations: Horse, Jockey and Trainer Analysis

Pletcher has won the Kentucky Derby twice. He captured the race in 2010 with Super Saver, and did it again with Always Dreaming in 2017. In addition to the top two betting choices, he’ll also saddle Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns on Saturday afternoon.

Angel of Empire, meanwhile, is one of four Kentucky Derby runners trained by Brad Cox. Cox most notably saddled Mandaloun, who crossed the wire second in the 2021 Kentucky Derby behind Medina Spirit. That runner tested positive for an overage of a substance, and the result is still being disputed through the American court system.

Several other barns represented in this year’s Derby have won it in the past, too. John Shirreffs conditioned 2005 winner Giacomo, and he’s back with Skinner this year. Hall of Famer Bill Mott, meanwhile, trained Country House, who was placed first in 2019 after the disqualification of Maximum Security. He trains Rocket Can, who ran second to Forte in the Fountain of Youth.

Mistakes to Avoid when Betting on the Kentucky Derby

Bet with your head, not over it. If you’re a seasoned horse racing bettor, don’t alter what makes you successful solely because of the pageantry associated with the Kentucky Derby. Stay true to your core handicapping principles. If you have a strong opinion, put yourself in the best position possible to make money if you’re right.

In addition, be mindful of your bankroll. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the Kentucky Derby, but don’t bet beyond your limits just because of one event. Be disciplined, have a clear idea of your strong opinions, and stay within what you budget.

More on Churchill Downs and Derby Week

The 2023 Kentucky Derby is the 149th renewal of the race. It goes as the 12th of 14 races on Saturday’s Churchill Downs program. Post time is 6:57 pm local time, or just before midnight for UK horse racing fans.

This year’s Derby doubles as the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s legendary victory. In 1973, the eventual Triple Crown winner ran each quarter-mile faster than the one before and set a new Churchill Downs track record. His time of 1:59.40 is still the fastest 1 1/4-mile time in track history, and only one other Derby winner has broken the two-minute barrier (Monarchos ran it in 1:59.97 in 2001).

The Kentucky Derby caps off a full week of festivities in Louisville. Notable events also include the Kentucky Oaks, the Derby’s sister race. It’s reserved for 3-year-old fillies and is held on the first Friday in May. One popular wager linking the two races is the Oaks-Derby Double, where bettors are tasked with picking both winners.

The 2022 Kentucky Derby was won by Rich Strike. He pulled off an upset at odds of greater than 80-1. He will make his 4-year-old debut in Friday’s Alysheba Stakes, which boasts a purse of $600,000.