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2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Guide

On Saturday, May 1, 2021, the most exciting two minutes in sports will take place. For horse bettors, that 120 seconds can mean the difference between a huge payday or a devastating loss. Here at Odds Shark, we don’t want you to lose. We want you to bet on the Kentucky Derby and win.

The “Run for the Roses,” as the Kentucky Derby is also known, happens at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville. If you can’t be there in person to wager, you can take part in Kentucky Derby betting online from the comfort of your own home. We’ll give you the goods to ensure you can make smart picks on the ponies at your favorite online racebook.

2021 Kentucky Derby Betting

The first leg of the three Triple Crown races is followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In 2018, Justify became the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown. Secretariat is the most famous winner and not only holds the record for being the fastest horse in the history of the races but also has the honor of being featured on a U.S. postage stamp. He is also the subject of a 2010 Disney movie that doesn’t hold a candle to 2003’s Seabiscuit.

Moving on. The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse racing event in the world with 20 steeds vying for the title. It doesn’t mean you have to handicap all 20 horses, it depends on the type of wager you’re making. This brief Kentucky Derby betting guide will help you find your best bet and pick a winner on race day, but Odds Shark also has a more comprehensive How to bet on the Kentucky Derby guide to browse for further advice.

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When Derby betting, you have the following options:

Kentucky Derby Betting Tips: Futures

At the wagering site of your choice, you’ll see futures odds laid out like so:

Lilla Gubben -175

Beau +240

Trigger +380

Henry the Horse +600

Pie +850

Shadowfax +1000

Hippocampus +1300

We use American odds but you can use Fractional (1/5) or Decimal (1.20) if you want. Where you live will usually dictate the kind of odds offered. Bettors in the U.K. generally use fractions, those in Australia and Europe favor decimals, and North Americans use their namesake odds.

In this fictional Kentucky Derby betting scenario, Lilla Gubben is the favorite. You can tell this by the minus sign (-). The horses with the plus signs (+) next to their odds are the underdogs.

If you had $100 to bet on the horse with the best chance of winning, in this case Pippi Longstocking’s steed, you would get a payout of $157.14 – your original money is returned coupled with your winnings of $57.14.

On the other hand, if you believe Hippocampus, the seahorse that pulled Poseidon’s chariot, is going to surprise everyone and win the Kentucky Derby, that same $100 would give you $1,400 – you get your $100 back along with your prize of $1,300.

To find out what you’d win based on the odds and amount bet, check out our Odds Calculator.

Win, Place, Show: Betting in the Right Order

For a win, place, show bet, you’ll have to select a horse to win, one to place (come in second), and one to show (come in third). If even one of your chosen horses doesn’t come in the position you chose, your entire bet is a loss.

Exacta, Trifecta and Quinella Bets: Top Finishers

When you first try Kentucky Derby betting, you will see several options to guess the top finishers. To place an exacta bet, you need to predict the top two horses in the race in the correct order. To make a trifecta bet, you’ll need to guess the first-, second- and third-place horses. Finally, a quinella bet is the simplest of the three since you only need to forecast two horses to come in first and second but they can be in any order.

Matchup: A Mini One-on-One

To make a matchup bet, you have to select two horses to go against each other. Your chosen steeds do not need to win the Kentucky Derby outright, they just need to finish in the order you picked. For instance, if you bet that Tony the Wonder Horse will finish ahead of Shamrock and he does, you win your bet. Neither of the horses has to come in first, they only have to beat the other.

Kentucky Derby Betting: Past Winners

YearWinnerTimeOddsTrainer
2020Authentic2:00.61+800Bob Baffert
2019Country House2:03.93+6500William I. Mott
2018Justify2:04.20+300Bob Baffert
2017Always Dreaming2:03.59+450Todd Pletcher
2016Nyquist2:01.31+250Doug F. O'Neill
2015American Pharoah2:03.02+300Bob Baffert
2014California Chrome2:03.66+250Art Sherman
2013Orb2:02.89+500Claude R. McGaughey III
2012I’ll Have Another2:01.83+1500Doug O'Neill
2011Animal Kingdom2:02.04+2100H. Graham Motion
2010Super Saver2:04.45+800Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby Betting Facts

In recent memory, we’ve seen two of the biggest upsets in the recent history of the horse race. Giacomo rallied to pull off a large upset in 2005, returning his backers $102.60 on a $2 wager. Four years later, Mine That Bird came up the rail to create a shocker, paying $103.20.

Horse bettors can see a life-changing win in two minutes. The $1 trifecta with Mine That Bird on top paid $20,750. It’s the upsets like that that set the Derby apart from other races. You could make some major cash even if you don’t bet on the favorite.

Kentucky Derby Betting and Horse Racing Links:

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    Kentucky Derby Odds and Ends

    • While Kentucky Derby betting is on stallions (males), the Kentucky Oaks race is reserved for fillies (females).
    • Nineteen 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 million in bets have been made on the race to date.
    • Post No. 1 is affectionately referred to as the “dreaded rail.”
    • While you can win some money on your Kentucky Derby betting, the race purse (what the winners are awarded) is around $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.
    • When you are betting on the Kentucky Derby, all contenders are three years or younger
    • Originally, the race was 1 ½ miles until 1896 when it was changed to its current length of 1 ¼.
    • 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. If you want a free bet winner, take the over on hot dogs consumed on race day!
    • The mint julep is the drink of choice for Derby watchers with 120,000 sipped at Churchill Downs yearly.