Last updated March 22, 2021
How to Bet the 2021 Kentucky Derby
Below, learn about the numerous opportunities for fans and horseplayers to support their favorite horse(s) in the Kentucky Derby!
For faster navigation of the page, please click on a link in the index below.
- Getting started
- Early betting opportunities
- Betting during Kentucky Derby week
- Walk-through in placing a bet
- Best bets to make
- Bet types
- How to bet with a budget
The Kentucky Derby is the most popular betting race in the United States – not surprising given that the Derby is the one horse race nearly everyone can name.
For people who have never bet on a horse, selecting a single standout could prove too daunting to make a wager, especially with 20 horses likely to start. But this is a sport, this is a game and it’s a fun way to have a little extra interest in the country’s most iconic horse race, so let TwinSpires help you join in this moment of Americana.
How do you bet on the Derby?
If you are wondering where to start with how to place bets on the Kentucky Derby, accessing our betting options at TwinSpires with our free registration is where you will want to get started.
For people wanting to start early and possibly secure better odds now, than when horses enter the starting gate at post time, the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is a great option.
The future bet is traditionally open during four different periods– usually in November, February, March, and April –as the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races are running.
The final field of entries for the Kentucky Derby is completed by Monday or Tuesday afternoon of Derby week during the post-position or barrier draw.
Fans won’t have to wait too long before the race is available for wagering at racetracks, smart phone mobile apps, simulcast centers, Off Track Betting facilities and on Advanced Deposit Wagering platforms – such as TwinSpires.com, the only official betting site of the Kentucky Derby.
Advanced wagering becomes available close to 24 hours prior. Typically Thursday morning for Kentucky Oaks day and Friday morning for Kentucky Derby day.
Placing a bet online
- Register or Log-In (be sure to check for Derby week offers!)
- Select the track of Churchill Downs
- Select the race number of the Kentucky Derby (usually the second to last race on the card)
- Select your horse
- Select wager type
- Enter your dollar amount
- Submit your bet slip!
Quick Betting Overview
- New players – stick to the ‘Win’ bet
- Players looking to explore – venture into an exacta or trifecta
- For the adventure seeker – dive into the pick 3s and pick 4s
- Bet on the horse you think you will win the Kentucky Derby.
- This bet gets you a return if your selection finishes first or second.
- Betting that your horse will finish first, second, or third.
- Predict the first two horses in the correct order.
- Predict the first three horses in the correct order.
- Predict the first four horses in the correct order.
- Super High Five:
- Predict the first five horses in the correct order.
- Special bets
- include a double on the Kentucky Oaks (Friday) and the Kentucky Derby (Saturday), where players try to predict the winner of both races.
More in-depth synopsis on Bet Types
In addition to the traditional “straight” wagers (Win, Place, Show), fans can also attempt to cash big in the various “exotic” pools. Exacta (first two), Trifecta (first three), Superfecta (first four), and Super High Five (first five) wagering are all offered, and cashing a ticket in any of these pools is a cause to brag as a maximum field of 20 makes the Derby a difficult handicapping puzzle.
The straight bet is the easiest bet to understand in horse betting. You can place wagers on horses to win outright, “place” in the top-two, or “show” in the top-three. As you hedge the wager, the payout gets reduced but this is a solid way to ensure that you at least get a payback.
With the next rendition of the Derby appearing to be a very close race among the leading contenders, a place bet on the favorite is the safest way to play. The favorite has placed 1st or 2nd in almost ten years of straight renewals. That being said, the win bet is far more satisfying though there’s more risk involved.
Exotic Bet – Exacta Box
What makes betting on horses so enthralling is the exotic bets, or the horse man’s version of a parlay.
There is a great deal in variety in bets to make here, but one of the best wagers is called the “exacta box” and is a personal go-to. An exacta is when you declare the top two finishers in exact order. The “box” part of the bet means that your two horses can finish in any order, which gives you a bit more forgiveness built in.
The payout is difficult to ascertain, because it depends on the two horses that you’re betting on and their odds, but as mentioned earlier, the top horses on the board have been strangely reliable in recent years. Three years ago, the Kentucky Derby went chalk through the first five finishers.
You can absolutely explore other options that are a bit more expensive, but a heavy lean on an exacta box is a top level, introductory play for novice horse players. It’s also a mainstay for veterans of the track as well and might very well become your favorite bet at the track once you see it pay out in real life.
There are many ways to handicap a horse race, and there are no shortages of opinions or angles when it comes to handicapping the Kentucky Derby and the numerous prep races leading up to the Run for the Roses.
From a beginners betting guide to the most sophisticated tools for informed handicappers, TwinSpires.com provides comprehensive pieces of information and betting guides to help you find the winners circle more often.
- Handicapping horses and the races takes much time, research and intuition.
- Data – Speed Figures, Past Performances, Class Ratings and Jockey/Trainer Stats
- Beyond studying past performance charts, speed figures, class ratings or jockey and trainer stats, a handicapper has to have insight and ability to find various ways to identify horses that are ready to win.
- Media – Race Replays, Analysis, Surface Status or Track Bias and Horse Form
- You may not have time to study race videos, tracks, surfaces or find horses that had troubled trips in recent races. But it’s important to distill information that can help you identify horses that may offer some value next time out or others in good form or improving that can provide value wagering opportunities.
- Data – Speed Figures, Past Performances, Class Ratings and Jockey/Trainer Stats
- Races and horses should be backed based on positive attributes and not as a result of who’s the best of the worst.
- As you study some of the betting guides and training tools offered at TwinSpires.com and some of the resources below, you’ll become better prepared and equipped to analyze races in a more meaningful way.
- Understanding ‘how’ a horse has run leading up to a race versus the far less important ‘where’ the horse finishes and ‘what’ time he/she completed their recent races will help you become more proficient.
How to bet the Kentucky Derby on a budget
Bet Big In the 2020 Kentucky Derby With Just $50
You don’t think it’s possible do you? Can someone really bet $50 or $100 and nail a solid return for that wager?
Well the beauty of horse racing is that there are a ton of ways to turn a little in to a lot, even with a normal amount of cash in hand. It may be called the Sport of Kings, but these days it’s a sport for everyone.
One of the big keys about the Kentucky Derby is that the favorite contender usually wins.
That’s especially been true in the past few seasons. Some might say that this wasn’t the case in 2017 when Always Dreaming won with 5/1 odds over 4/1 favorite Classic Empire, but the latter was a suspect preference based on lack of racing in his 3-year-old season.
The sharps targeted Always Dreaming rightfully. Either way, the odds were tight enough to keep the trend on track.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the cost conscious bettor might spend their money on Kentucky Derby day.
The Kentucky Derby Futures Wager
There are four windows throughout the year where bettors can get in on a futures market and the final one arrives near the second week in April.
This is absolutely one of the best ways to get in on the Derby early to maximize odds potential. A bettor could play $50 on a 3/1 favorite to win $150…or you could bet on him very early for something like 6/1 odds to win $300.
The KDFW Pool 4 is where you get the best bang for your buck as the contender picture comes into focus. Plus it takes the guess work and relieves tension of having to play a bet on race day.
Sit back, grab a mint julep and wait for the bell to sound.
Kentucky Derby Betting 101 Video Series
Kentucky Derby Betting Records through 2018
- High $2 Win (since pari-mutuel in 1908): $184.90, Donerail (1913)
- High $2 Exacta (first offered 1985): $9,814.80, Giacomo-Closing Argument (2005)
- High $2 Trifecta (first offered 1994): $133,134.80, Giacomo-Closing Argument-Afleet Alex (2005)”
- High $1 Superfecta (first offered 1996): $864,253.50, Giacomo-Closing Argument-Afleet Alex-Don’t Get Mad (2005)
- Low $2 Win (since pari-mutuel in 1908): $2.80, Count Fleet (1943) & Citation (1948)
- Low $2 Exacta (first offered 1985): $15.20, Sunday Silence-Easy Goer (1989)
- Low $2 Trifecta (first offered 1994): $202.00, American Pharoah-Firing Line-Dortmund (2015)
- Low $1 Superfecta (first offered 1996): $350.00, Silver Charm-Captain Bodgit-Free House-Pulpit (1997)
- Favorites Record (since pari-mutuel in 1908): 109-39-21-10 (Win=35.8%; ITM=64.2%)
- Shortest Priced Favorite (since 1908): 0.40-1, Bimelech (1940-2nd), Count Fleet (1943-1st), Citation/Coaltown entry (1948-1st/2nd) & Honest Pleasure (1976-2nd)
- Longest Priced Favorite (since 1908): 6.00-1, Harlan’s Holiday (2002-7th)
Full Kentucky Derby Betting Offerings…
TwinSpires.com makes it easy, and fun, to get a little extra excitement out of America’s greatest race. Good luck!