How to Bet the Kentucky Derby: A Beginner’s Guide

horses bet, horses betting

Good luck racing fans!

Like all sports, horse racing has its own language that can be confusing to casual watchers. For a superfecta you pick the top four finishers in the right order. Give that a good look to see who’s done well recently.

Look for a horse that has won most of his races by a good length. Here’s a quick guide:

Exacta: You pick the two horses you think will come in first and second, in that order.

Trifecta: Pick the three horses you think will come in first, second, and third – in the right order.

Superfecta: You guessed it. Like it’s name implies, the superfecta pays out big bucks if you manage to get it right.

Now it’s off to the races. Each horse will have a record of recent races he’s run, what place he finished, and how far ahead of the other horses he was. Conversely, betting on a horse with bad odds will pay out a lot of money if they do win. You’ve got your mint julep and your fancy hat ready for the Kentucky Derby, but are you ready to place your bet on the horse you think will win?

Picking a Horse

There are 20 horses in the field for the Kentucky Derby, though as of now only 19 will be running Saturday (#11 Hopportunity was “scratched.”) All the horses are 3-year-old male thoroughbreds, which means they’re young horses with lots of talent that is still developing and not a ton of experience.

Many casual bettors will pick a horse based on name or looks, but there are better ways to judge the odds for whether a horse has a shot at winning. What’s a superfecta anyway, and how do you bet one?

Here’s our guide to making sense of the Run for the Roses. Or you can bet that he will “show,” — that is, come in first, second, or third. He’s dominated all the races he’s run so far and all eyes will be on him. Saturday. Therefore, betting on him won’t yield a big payout. Horses with lower first number (10 and down) are considered top contenders.

Betting on a horse with good odds will not pay out much money if they win. You can place your bet anytime up until about 20 minutes before the race goes off at 6:24 p.m. The Kentucky Derby is one and a quarter miles long, longer than any race these horses have run before, so the winner will need stamina.

Odds and Favorites

When you look at a race form there will be a number in parentheses after each horse’s name. Say, “I’ll bet $2 on (horse’s name or number) to win.”

If you’re done with the beginner stage of betting, you can up your odds of winning by doing more complicated bets that yield bigger payouts: exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. A horse that goes into the race with 50-1 odds but comes in first place will pay out the most money to the bettor. If you’re in it for the thrill of victory alone (and not the money), he’s a good bet.

Betting on Your Picks: “I’ll take $2 to win on the four horse, please.”

In horse racing, you need to bet on what place the horse will come in. That number shows what the odds are that the horse will win. The words “first, second, and third,” are replaced by “win, place, and show.” If you think your horse is pretty good but not going to come in first, you can bet that he will “place,” — that is, come in first or second. If your horse comes in any of those positions, you’ll get money.

If you’re sure you’ve got the winner and you only want to place a simple bet for him to come in first, go ahead and bet your money that way. If you’re not going to be in Louisville for the big day, you can head to your local racetrack or off-track betting outlet and place a bet there.. It looks something like this: Vicar’s In Trouble (20-1).

Horses with a high first number (like 20-1 or 50-1) are considered unlikely to win the race. You’re trying to hit the sweet spot: a horse with okay odds who you think has a shot at winning.

The favorite going into this weekend is California Chrome, with 5-2 odds

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How To Bet at the Horse Track

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If you fully understand these three basic bets you’ll be prepared. Knowing how to bet properly makes a day at the track even better. If you are going to place a ‘win’ bet I highly recommend you check the odds to make sure the payout will be worth the risk. You can have fun betting at the off-track facilities, especially if you go with a group. For example: “For race 3 I want to bet $2 on horse number 7 to win.”

Making a ‘show’ bet means you are predicting the chosen horse to come in either first, second or third. This bet won’t pay much unless your horse has long odds. At most racetracks they make the ‘place’ & ‘show’ bets visible on the scoreboards. Good luck!

Tips & Warnings

Remember to begin betting with small amounts of money to help get an idea of the odds, payouts and chances of winning.

Also, betting on horse races is only meant to be recreational. Like the ‘place’ bet, you need to make sure the odds you get are specifically for a show bet. Most prefer to make this bet for horses they don’t totally trust.

Basic Bets

Win

The ‘win’ bet is simply that: a bet to call the winner of the race. However, I highly recommend visiting your nearest horse track since the live experience is unmatched in it’s excitement.

Place.

Show

A day at the track is a ton of fun. The following will outline the most basic bets you can make at the track.

Things You Will Need

Most off-track betting facilities offer $2 dollar straight bets. If your chosen horse has 7-1 odds and you make a ‘place’ bet you will not get 7-1 odds if you win. If you go to the race track it is likely they will offer 5 & 10 cent bets on more exotic wagers. It’s important to remember that odds given are mostly for ‘win’ bets. For the risk, that’s really not much of a payout. When I use the ‘place’ bet, it’s typically for horses with longer odds.

To make a ‘win’ bet at the track you’ll need to give the teller this information: race number, horse number, type of bet, amount of bet. Very few dedicated professionals throughout the country can count on handicapping horse races as a source of income.

If you are at the off-track betting facility then you will also need to indicate the location (which horse track) of the race.

When you make a ‘place’ bet you are predicting the chosen horse to come in either first or second place. Again, this bet will not pay much when the odds are too good. For instance, if you choose the favorite to win and the horses odds are 2-1 that means you will get $2 or every $1 you bet. Win bets will be worth the risk if the odds are a little higher.

A day at the horse track is a great time. You will only win this bet if your horse places first in the race. If you bet the smallest amount allowed ($2) your payout will only be $4