Kentucky Derby Handicapping & Picks

Race Events > Kentucky Derby > Handicapping & Picks

Kentucky Derby banner

| Betting | Future Wager | Odds | Handicapping & Picks | Prep Races | Contenders | Winners | History | Results | Tickets |

Last updated September 3, 2020

Kentucky Derby Handicapping

Scott Shapiro’s Expert Picks for Kentucky Derby weekend:

Expert handicapper Scott Shapiro has exclusive free picks for the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and other major stakes for the first weekend in September!

  • The Kentucky Oaks – Gamine
  • Alysheba Stakes – McKinzie
  • La Troienne Stakes – Monomoy Girl
  • Eight Belles Stakes – Four Graces 
  • The Kentucky Derby – Tiz the Law
  • Pat Day Mile Stakes – Digital
  • Iroquois Stakes – Therideofalifetime
  • Turf Classic – Sacred Life

Handicapping Overview for the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby offers a unique handicapping challenge: can you pick the winner among a large field of three-year-olds, all at different points on the developmental curve, who are facing the biggest test of their careers, at a 1 1/4-mile distance that’s longer than they’ve ever run before?

Several important factors to consider are the contenders’ running styles, BRIS Speed ratings, post positions, track conditions, and pedigrees.

The horses’ running styles help us to envision how the race will unfold, and who stands to benefit. Some are front runners, while others prefer to stalk, and others need to drop back, saving their energy for one big rally in the homestretch. The more early speed on tap, the better the scenario for the closers. But if there’s not much speed, the advantage could go to those who race up front.

The BRIS Speed ratings help to evaluate how fast each horse has run, and which prep races look the strongest. Top contenders have typically earned at least a 100 going into the Derby. While some horses can be on an upward spiral, others have hit a plateau and don’t appear good enough.

Although post position 1 had been successful in the past, when smaller fields were the norm, it is a real hindrance these days. Horses drawn on the extreme inside often end up in a squeeze play early, as their rivals on the outside come over to secure better position.

If it rains on Derby Day, look for runners who are proven on muddy or sloppy tracks. Contenders who have yet to race on an “off” track, but might thrive on it, can be identified by their mud-loving pedigrees.

Pedigree is a key handicapping tool, identifying which horses are bred to excel at 1 1/4 miles. Horses with stout bloodlines who have been finishing well in the preps can be expected to improve with the added ground in the Derby. Conversely, some with iffy ancestry can be effective in the preps, but are worth opposing over the longer trip. 

More information is included in the tips following this opening introduction.


Kentucky Derby Handicapping Tips

The Kentucky Derby offers many angles, situations and information to uncover as you handicap and research the big race. Here are 10 tips to assist you when handicapping the Kentucky Derby. 

  1. Identify speed. While Beyer Speed Figures (BSF) have generally trended down since the turn of the century, it’s still worth noting which 3-year-olds posted at least a 100 BSF in race. Every Kentucky Derby winner since 2000 has posted at least one race with 100 or greater Beyer Speed Figure.
  2. Identify running styles. The last four winners stalked the pacesetter near the front, while the previous five winners were all mid-range closers including a deep one.  
  3. Value. Any wager that involves the Derby will offer some value because of the 20-horse field. While the favorite has won the last five Derby’s, they still paid out at least $10 on a $2 win wager.
  4. Try the trifecta. Big scores can be had in a $1 trifecta, and in 2017 it paid $8,297 despite the favorite winning, as a pair of big long shots finished 2nd and 3rd.
  5. Trifecta strategy. Narrow in on one or two horses to win, and add 5-7 horses in 2nd and 3rd place. This strategy allows you to minimize your wager and risk and still add more horses underneath without boxing 5-8 horses.
  6. 2-year-old curse. Not since 1882 (Apollo) has an unraced 2-year-old won the Kentucky Derby. The training, breeding and strategy has changed in recent decades to race these younger horses less, but even the great Curlin in 2007 could not win the Derby as an undefeated 3-year-old while not racing at age 2. The 2018 Kentucky Derby could have two top choices that did not race at age 2, Magnum Moon and Justify.
  7. Getting up front. 52 of the last 55 Kentucky Derby winners were in first or second place with a furlong to go. Deep closers can help fill out exotic scores like they did in 2017, but too often horses near the back trying to move up encounter troubled trips or other horses to pass in a crowded Derby field.   
  8. Post position. The rail has been a most difficult post to win from, and post positions 1-4 usually end up with tougher trips and a horse having to be their very best to overcome the inside draw.
  9. Pedigree. Identifying horses that are bred to run the Classic 1 ¼ mile distance will assist you in not only narrowing your choices as these 3-year-olds stretch out to 10 furlongs for the first time, but also eliminate others that have little to no chance to sustain.   
  10. Prep Race Winners. The winner of the last seven Kentucky Derby’s was victorious in their final prep race, and the past six won a race that is now a 100-point qualifier.

Kentucky Derby Bet: The Exacta Box Video


Handicapping Products and Information for the Kentucky Derby and Racing

With the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown racing season approaching, it’s important to have the latest and best handicapping information around.  That is why TwinSpires and Brisnet.com have compiled the Official Kentucky Derby reports online

The Official Kentucky Derby reports online include:
  • Triple Crown Pedigree Profiles –  The Triple Crown 2010 Pedigree Profiles Package takes an in-depth look at the families of the contenders’ sire and dam for each leg of the Triple Crown. Written by Avalyn Hunter, Alan Porter, Tom Hall, and Evan Hammonds, the profiles also include a five-cross pedigree chart, TrueNicks ratings, and Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances to help you zero in on the winners. Now Available!
  • Brisnet.com Spotlight Selections (Steve Walker’s Analysis) – The first man to win the NTRA Handicapper of the Year, Steve Walker, handicaps the card! Analysis of each race includes top 4 selections, his personal odds-line and recommended wagers! BOTH OAK’S AND DERBY DAY’S COVERAGE is included in the Saturday file. 2 Days for 1. Now Available!
  • Globeform’s Special USA/UK May 1 Package – In-depth analysis from the popular international source, Globeform. This unique report covers not only the KY Oaks & KY Derby but also the 1000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas run at Newmarket. Each race is covered in detailed and includes Globeform ratings on every entry.
  • Kentucky Handicapper –  No one knows the Kentucky racing circuits better than the Brisnet handicappers. Get expert selections and in-depth analysis every racing day.
  • Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances – offer positive/negative comments on every runner, up to 12 workouts per runner, the exclusive BRIS Prime Power Ratings, track bias information for the week/meet, detailed pedigree and sales data, Class and Pace ratings, and so much more!
  • Wizard Analysis – As expected, the Wizard will live and on the scene at Churchill Down on Friday and Saturday and eill be on top of these races like no other handicapper.  For a professional’s perspective of the Oaks and Derby, tap into his comprehensive coverage with expert wagering strategies!
Also Available from Brisnet.com for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown Races
Kentucky Derby Reports Online From Brisnet.com

With the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown racing season approaching, it’s important to have the latest and best handicapping information around.  That’s why Brisnet.com and TwinSpires.com have compiled the Offical Kentucky Derby Reports Online. 

The Official Kentucky Derby Reports Online from brisnet.com will include:
  • Kentucky Derby Selections & Analysis w/Wagering Strategies – In-depth analysis with expert wagering strategies for all the stakes on Derby Day! This report with expert wagering strategies is available for $15 for this year’s Derby.  Now Available!
  • Brisnet.com Spotlight Selections – Bill Finley’s Analysis – Well known turf writer Bill Finley handicaps the Oaks and Derby! Analysis of each race includes top selections and recommended wagers all in one repor.  Now Available!
  • Triple Crown Pedigree Profiles – Indepth Pedigree Profiles of the all probable starters. The Blood-Horse report includes TrueNick ratings, 5-cross pedigrees, expert pedigree analysis and Brisnet Past Performances! If you purchase the Derby & Preakness reports, you get the Belmont S. Pedigree Profiles for free. Now Available!
  • Derek Simon Kentucky Derby Betting Guide – Handicapper Derek Simon gives his horse-by-horse analysis and wagering strategies on this year’s Derby contenders! Now Available!
  • Full Card Selections –  Full Card Selections with top picks for each race and best bets from one of our professional handicappers at Brisnet.com.  Now Available!
  • Today’s Racing Digest for Churchill Downs – Since 1970, Today’s Racing Digest has been providing horseplayers winning handicapping information that goes beyond traditional past performance products. (Available 36 hours out)
  • Globeform Ratings & Analysis – Get the European perspective! Globeform previews, ratings, analysis, and selections for the Derby and Oaks all in one report. (Available Thursday)
  • The Kentucky Handicapper’s Sheet – Full-card analysis includes best bets, wagers for each races, & comments on every horse. Now Available!
  • Insider Picks & Power Plays – Expert picks, and Power Play angles for each race on car.  (Available Thursday)
  • Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances – complete with BRIS Class, Pace and Speed Ratings. Only the BRIS PP’s have the value-added BRIS ratings, track bias data, digree stats, and the exclusive Prime Power Rating.  Now Available! 

The Triple Crown and Kentucky Derby prep season feature the biggest pools, and Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances give handicappers the edge they need on the competition.

In addition to comprehensive running lines, Ultimate Past Performances feature Speed, Class, Race, and Pace Ratings, Prime Power, jockey-trainer angles, pedigree information, and track bias statistics related to post position and running style.

TwinSpires.com members always get Brisnet.com PPs free when they wager, but to make handicapping this weekend’s Keeneland promotion even easier, we’ve packaged Ultimate PPs for the Makers 46 Mile, Toyota Blue Grass, and Beaumont Stakes together. Click here for Brisnet.com Ultimate PPs for this exciting promotion!