Everyone wants a horse in the race on Kentucky Derby day, so it’s never too early to start handicapping or at least familiarizing yourself with the bets offered.
The beautiful thing about an event as big as the “Run for the Roses” is you’re not forced to just pick a winner. With tons of intricate bets and options to choose from, our resident horse racing expert, Monique Vág is here with her favorite alternative ways to wager on the Kentucky Derby betting odds.
1. Kentucky Oaks and Derby Double
This bet is exactly how it sounds: a parlay wager where your goal is to select the race winner in both the Oaks and Derby. You’re able to select multiple horses for each race, but the more horses you include, the more expensive your wager becomes.
The Kentucky Oaks is the female version of the Kentucky Derby for 3-year-old fillies. It’s held on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby and showcases the best female horses across the world competing at a distance of 1 1⁄8 miles. Last year, 9-1 Abel Tasman took down the Oaks and if you were lucky enough to have one part of the daily double down, the potential will pays were ranging from $73 to $1,195 on a base $2 wager. With the favorite taking down the Derby, the double paid $73.
The one to beat in the Oaks is No. 14 Monomoy Girl (2-1). She’s won five of six including a dominating victory in the Ashland Stakes. Distance is not an issue as her preferred distance is going longer. Racing wise, she wants to be on the front end which doesn’t bode well to her drawing the extreme outside post. If she can overcome the post with a clean break and solidify the front early, she may be super tough to catch late.
An interesting longshot play is No. 9 Take Charge Paula (15-1). She will be trying blinkers for the first time which may be helpful to ensure a clean break and help position her upfront early. She’s shown the ability to travel well with wins over multiple tracks, and with a wet track looking probable for Friday, she already has a win on the less-than-ideal surface. If she can handle the distance, she may surprise many in the Oaks.
Take these two fillies along with No. 1 Firenze Fire, No. 2 Free Drop Billy, No. 7 Justify, No. 12 Enticed, No. 14 Mendelssohn for a $2 Oaks/Derby double costing you $20.
2. Trifecta and Superfecta wagers
If you see these enormous numbers for payouts and you’re confused where these come from or what they are, they’re most likely the payouts from a trifecta or superfecta wager.
These fancy terms refer to selecting the order of finish beyond just choosing the winner. To successfully hit either of these two wagers, you’re required to successfully select the Top 3 or 4 finishers in order. Just like the Oaks-Derby double, you’re not limited to just selecting three to four horses. You’re able to select more horses if you’re willing to increase the cost of your bet.
Last year’s payouts for this bet in the Derby were huge thanks to longshots rounding out the bottom half of the wagers. Lookin At Lee (33-1) and Battle Of Midway (40-1). The $1 trifecta paid $8,297.20, while the $1 superfecta delivered: $75,974.50. Not bad for a potential $1 investment.
Try a $1 trifecta with Justify, and Mendelssohn on top costing you $126.
1, 2, 7, 12, 14, 16, 18
1, 2, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18
3. Horse head-to-head wagers
This is a new type of bet not offered directly through a racetrack, but many online sportsbooks will have it available. The bet is exactly as the name states: two horses competing in the Derby are put against one another to see who finishes higher. Often, you’ll see two of the favorites against one another, or two middle-tier horses. Usually the favorite is listed somewhere around the -120 range, however, based on odds and hype surrounding particular horses and the amount wagered, the line can move.
I find this bet to be the most valuable if you think a long shot will outrun their odds. Here are some factors to consider:
- If you feel a horse being sent in from Dubai may not take well to the Churchill Downs surface, take another horse he’s put up against which may already have shown ability to race over the dirt before.
- Racing style is also one thing you may want to consider in selecting a winner of a head-to-head matchup. If there are a lot of horses which seem to be front runners and you suspect there may be a pace duel upfront early, there’s some merit to playing against a horse that looks headstrong and seems to need the lead.
- Fatigue is most certainly a factor and you’ll see horses which may have had troubled trips with a lot left in deep stretch closing late on tired horses which were involved in a pace duel upfront early.
There are quite a few choices with favorite Justify included:
Justify (-170) vs. Mendelssohn (+140)
Justify (-205) vs. Audible (+155)
Justify (-170) vs. Bolt D’oro (+140)
Justify (-205) vs. Good Magic (+155)
Justify (-205) vs. Magnum Moon (+155)
If you think he finishes off the board, you may be in for quite the nice payday by selecting against him in a head-to-head.
4. Will there be a Triple Crown winner? YES (+550) or NO (-900)
It’s incredibly difficult to win all three Triple Crown legs. We’ve been spoiled by a recent winner with American Pharoah in 2015, but he truly was the exception. There’ve been quite a few bids which have come close, however, we’re talking about elite company with only 12 all-time Triple Crown winners going back to 1919.
The odds for No Triple Crown winner are (-1,000). If you’re looking to back a particular horse to win the Triple Crown, Bovada offers Justify at (+850) with Mendelssohn and Good Magic both second choices at (+2,200).
Rather than take the (-1,000) betting “Yes/No” on if there will be a Triple Crown winner in 2018, the smarter wager is: “Will there be three different horses to win each Triple Crown race” with Yes (+100) and No (-130). We’ve heard all year how wide open this year’s field is and how there’s very little that separates this crop of 3-year-olds. It doesn’t promise the big payout of a Triple Crown winner but has a high percentage of cashing in over those three races.
5. Unique proposition wagers
One of the more evenly matched prop bet markets is selecting the race’s margin of victory. These are pretty fair and spaced apart with the chalk being the option of “1 length to 2 ¾ length victory” and the odds get substantially higher the larger the length of victory. The equivalent to this particular option would betting an NFL game to end in a tie. Selecting a “dead heat” offers an amazing +3,000 payout, but history certainly isn’t on your side. There’s never been a dead heat in any of the Triple Crown legs.
Another popular Kentucky Derby race prop is the winning time of the race: Over/Under 122.5 seconds (Under -130). There’s even an option to select if Secretariats’ record time of 1:59.4 will ever be broken (+1000). Let’s get this straight. Never. But the +1,000 sure looks nice.
6. Trainer trends. Experience matters
Winning the Kentucky Derby is the highlight of most trainer’s careers, as having the best horse that day is equally as important as the preparation and work you put in leading up to it. Only a select few trainers have won this race more than once. Two of these trainers will have a horse (or two, in the case of Bob Baffert) to add to their winnings. Here are a couple notable names with multiple victories:
Bob Baffert: He’s trained four Kentucky Derby winners, 12 Triple Crown winners and has seen all four of his Derby winners go on to win the Preakness. Though only American Pharoah went on to win the Triple Crown. This year he will have: #7 Justify (3-1) and #17 Solomini (30-1).
D. Wayne Lukas: Widely considered one of the best to ever train, he’s had assistants go on to be huge names in the industry: Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin and Dallas Stewart. He’s had four Kentucky Derby winners throughout his lengthy career and saddles a huge (50-1) longshot in the race this year with #13 Bravazo.
Preparation is important and knowing what works and what doesn’t is certainly something that comes with experience. Looking into trainers which have had success in the marquee stakes events can often bode well with potentially selecting winners of the Kentucky Derby or any of the other Triple Crown legs.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Covers.com, a site also owned by Tribune.