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How To Bet The Kentucky Derby If You're A Sports Bettor

If you never bet the ponies but you’re going to bet the Kentucky Derby (y’know, because it’s on TV and all), first understand this: You are going to lose. 

One of the big reasons horse betting is dropping in popularity all the time is that the gambling crowd is getting younger and wiser – which I realize may sound like a contradiction – and this crowd doesn’t like losing. 

In short, the gambling games with better odds for the player are getting more popular while the ones that favor the House are seeing less action than they used to. Horse betting belongs in the latter category. 

Betting on horses typically results in a return for the House of 15 to 20 percent. Sports? Sports is more like between five and seven percent during a good month for the book. 

Last May, for example, Nevada sportsbooks won $5.3 million on horses for a hold of 14.6 percent while sports betting won $5.9 million for the books for a measly hold of just 1.9 percent.  

It’s really not that complicated to figure out why racing wins at a higher rate for the House – many horses in a race; just two teams in a game. 

And I don’t have the stats here but in my experience there just seems to be a more degenerate mentality in horse betting. 

Races last only a couple of minutes and there are more of them. There are bigger payouts when you win. 

It makes sense.  

So what should you do if you’re a sports bettor and you get caught up in the hoopla of the Derby on Saturday? (And you know you will.) 

The first thing I always do is manage the bankroll, which is where you should begin with every bet you make. 

I’m not willing to throw away more than a unit on these clippity cloppers so I won’t bet more than that. It’s really about minimizing the loss here and figuring out what my price point is on this entertainment expense rather than crossing my fingers and hoping for a win. 

Then I pick one horse among the faves (for a payout that has to be more than at least one unit) and I take two or three other horses with longer odds. 

I shit you not, this is a strategy I use when I sit around the Sigma Derby table in Las Vegas for a few giggles. I never seem to have to go back for more quarters and I always seem to cash out a little something. 

Entertainment expense. 

If you want to know more about horse betting beyond that despite being a once-a-year pony bettor, then hit up our horse racing page where our expert Mike Dempsey can give you some tips on which horses to look at this weekend.

2017 Kentucky Derby Post Position and Odds
Post PositionHorseJockeyTrainerOdds (as of May 2)
1Lookin At LeeCorey LanerieSteve Asmussen+2800
2Thunder SnowChristophe SoumillonSaeed bin Suroor+1600
3Fast and AccurateChanning HillMike Maker+6600
4UntrappedRicardo Santana Jr.Steve Asmussen+5000
5Always DreamingJohn VelazquezTodd Pletcher+400
6State of HonorJose LezcanoMark Casse+4000
7GirvinMike SmithJoe Sharp+1600
8HenceFlorent GerouxSteve Asmussen+2200
9IrapMario GutierrezDoug O’Neill+2500
10GunneveraJavier CastellanoAntonio Sano+1200
11Battle of MidwayFlavien PratJerry Hollendorfer+2800
12SonneteerKent DesormeauxKeith Desormeaux+3300
13J Boys EchoLuis SaezDale Romans+3300
14Classic EmpireJulien LeparouxMark Casse+425
15McCrakenBrian Hernandez Jr.Ian Wilkes+650
16TapwritJose OrtizTodd Pletcher+2500
17Irish War CryRajiv MaraghGraham Motion+650
18GormleyVictor EspinozaJohn Shirreffs+1600
19Practical JokeJoel RosarioChad Brown+1600
20PatchTyler GaffalioneTodd Pletcher+3300

Odds as of May 2 at Bovada

Post Position Winners Since 1900
Post PositionWins