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Horse Racing: Our Kentucky Derby Betting Guide

The Kentucky Derby is known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports”. For horse race betting fanatics, it’s 120-seconds of wagering bliss that can result in a huge payoff if you correctly predict the winner.

The upcoming “Run for the Roses” (as the Kentucky Derby is sometimes called, since a blanket of red flowers is draped over the winning pony) will be contested at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday, May 4th. Derby crowds often exceed 100,000 and that’s not counting the millions more watching at home. The 2019 race will be telecast on NBC with the post time expected to be at 6:30 p.m. EST.

This page will explore Derby betting and give you insight into the race itself.

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Kentucky Derby Odds and Facts

The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes on May 18th, and the Belmont Stakes on June 8th. In 2015, American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown. In 2018, Justify won the 144th Derby and continued on to take the Triple Crown. Prior to American Pharaoh in 2015, it had been 36 years since a horse – Affirmed in 1978 – had won the Triple Crown. During that span, 13 horses won the Derby and the Preakness but came up short in the Belmont Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby is not only the most famous horse racing event in the world, but is one of the most unique to be contested all year. While most stakes races in the U.S. are restricted to 14 runners, the Kentucky Derby allows 20 entrants turning it into one of the toughest handicapping puzzles horseplayers will face when making their bet. With 20 Derby contenders, you’ll need to keep it locked to our horse racing pages (listed below) to help you make smart picks for the 145th race.

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Derby Betting

In the last 14 years, we have seen two of the biggest upsets in the history of the race. Giacomo rallied to pull off the huge upset in 2005, returning his backers $102.60 for a $2 wager. Just four years later, the crowd at Churchill Downs saw Mine That Bird come up the rail to pull off a shocker, paying $103.20.

A lucky horse racing bettor can have a life-changing score in two minutes. The $1 trifecta with Mine That Bird on top paid $20,750, and correctly selecting the top four finishers in the superfecta for $1 returned $278,503. When Giacomo pulled off the upset in 2005, Closing Argument ran second at +7000 betting odds and the $2 exacta paid a record $9,815.

However, what sets the Derby apart from other races is that bettors can make a huge windfall even if the betting favorite wins the race. In 2014, California Chrome came into the race having dominated his competition in the san Felipe and Santa Anita Derby and was sent off as the +250-betting favorite in a field of 19. Chrome did not disappoint, paying $7.00 for the win (based on the same $2 bet from above).

Derby Facts

  • While the Kentucky Derby is for stallions (males), the Kentucky Oaks race is reserved for fillies (females).
  • 19 of the past Derby winners have names that start with the letter “S”, including the fastest horse in Derby history, Secretariat.
  • The trophy weighs 3.5 pounds and the blanket of roses draped over the winner weighs about 40 pounds.
  • Over $150 millions in bets have been made on the race to date.
  • Post No. 1 is affectionately referred to as the “dreaded rail”.
  • The 2019 Derby purse (what the winners are awarded) is $3 million – the winner takes $1.86 million, second place gets $600,000, third place gets $300,000, fourth place takes home $150,000, and fifth gets $90,000.
  • To compete, Derby contenders must be three or younger.
  • Even though Mother Nature has tried to ruin the race, the Derby has never been cancelled or postponed. The 2018 race was the wettest on record with 2.31 inches of rainfall blanketing the Kentucky track.
  • Originally, the race was 1 ½ miles until 1896 when it was changed to its current length of 1 ¼.
  • The first televised Kentucky Derby was in 1952.
  • Approximately 142,000 hot dogs are eaten during the Derby weekend, along with 8,000 pounds of potatoes – you can’t have hot dogs without fries! Seafood is also a big Derby snack with 32,400 jumbo shrimp and 9,000 scallops consumed by spectators.
  • The mint julep is the drink of choice for Derby watchers with 120,000 sipped at Churchill Downs yearly.
  • Lewis Clark Jr. – the grandson of explorer, William Clark – started the Kentucky Derby after attending the Epsom Derby in England.

Check back right here at Odds Shark for the latest Derby odds, wagering information, betting news and updates on all of the prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby and throughout the Triple Crown racing events.