Here is your definitive Kentucky Derby beginners guide
Horse Racing

Kentucky Derby Beginners Guide: What You Need To Know

Did you hear the Kentucky Derby is around the corner? It's one of the biggest Grade 1 stake races on the racing schedule. And it's one of the biggest betting events on the calendar. If you're here reading this you're new to the Derby and looking for a guide to betting on the Run for the Roses.

Great. I've got you covered as you get your toes wet on the first leg of the triple crown.

What Is The Kentucky Derby?

Let's start from the very beginning, what is the Kentucky Derby? You've probably figured out the obvious that it's a horse race in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 1 1/4 mile race has been going on for 147 years now. The first derby at Churchill Downs was all the way back in 1875. The Run for the Roses has been going on since Ulysses S. Grant was President of the United States. It's been going on since before flying was invented. And before cars were invented.

It's got staying power. That's why the Kentucky Derby is so popular. Oh and you can make money betting on in.

What Are Some Ways To Bet On

How can you bet on the Kentucky Derby and make that money I referenced? There are a number of options for you.

Win Betting

The easiest way to bet on the Derby is to pick the winner. You bet on the horse that will win the Kentucky Derby. Currently, Forte is favored to win at +310. If you think the favorite will take the 2023 race a $10 winning bet would return a $31 profit. 

Place Betting

Not sure a horse will win it, but you think they might still have a strong finish? Place betting is a good option for you. With place betting you're wagering that a specific horse finishes either first or second. The odds are lower for an obvious reason, but there's a better chance of this wager hitting.

Show Betting

Think of this as the pole in racing. A show bet is wagering that a horse finishes in the top three. Again, the odds will be lower for show betting than win or place betting because you now have three avenues to win.

Exotic wagering

This is where it gets fun, you can bet on the exact order of the Kentucky Derby, these exotic wagers called exacta, trifecta or superfecta wagers and they can pay out massive profits. 

2023 Kentucky Derby Exotic Wager Payouts
Exotic BetOrderPayoutTicket Price
ExactaFirst Two Finishers$2,050.60$1
TrifectaFirst Three Finishers$7,435.35$0.50
SuperfectaFirst Four Finishers$321,500.10$1


If you want even more ways to bet on the Kentucky Derby, you can see our "How to Bet" resource. Maybe you more into prop bets for the Derby, don't worry, we've got you covered there too.

Kentucky Derby Party Games

The Kentucky Derby isn't only a horse race but it's a social event too. Watch parties are all the rage nowadays. Not only do you get to watch and bet on the Derby but you can wear a cool hat!

Here are some fun games you can play with your guests as you watch the Run for the Roses.

The Numbers Game

Put all the post* numbers in a hat and pull them one by one. The number you pull is the horse you have to bet on.

*The post is the numbered gate the horse is in at the start of the race.

The Show Parlay

Remember what I said about Show Betting? It's when you bet that a horse finishes in the top three. You can make a fun game out of it called the Show Parlay. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Pool some money together from the group. A dollar or two each is enough. 

Step 2: Pick a guest to place a show bet for the first race of the day.

Step 3: If they win, the winnings are cashed and added to the pool. The next guest will take that now larger pool to make their own show bet for the next race. 

The idea is to survive as long as possible. It's a low-risk bet but a ton of fun for the entire group. And if you can string a few wins together you might be in for a big payout

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