One of the most famous horse races in the world, the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875. A few of the more famous horses to win the race include Seattle Slew, Secretariat, and War Admiral.

While many enjoy simply watching the races, the more adventurous fans often wish to bet on the races. If you don’t live in Louisville, however, the how of making bets on races may prove a little unclear.

Keep reading and we’ll give you the essentials for how to bet on the Kentucky Derby.

Understanding the Odds

A typical Kentucky Derby includes a field of around 20 horses, which is more horses than most races. Each horse receives odds based on the total amount bet and how much you’ll get if the horse wins.

So, a horse with 2-1 odds will pay out $2 for every $1 you bet. Betting occurs until very nearly the moment of the race, so the odds shift until betting closes. As a rule, though, the likely winners receive the most bets and get the shortest odds.

A horse with long odds, such as 20-1, pay out more if they win. Horses get these odds because past performance suggests they won’t win, so people don’t bet on them.

Types of Bets

For anyone new to betting, you’ll want to stick with straight wagers. Straight wagers are bets that a horse will do one of three things:

  • Win
  • Place
  • Show

While wins are obvious, place and show might sound mysterious. Place simply means a horse comes in first or second. Show means a horse comes in first, second, or third.

Most bets will be for a horse to win. If you’re uncertain, you can make a win/place, place/show, or across the board bet.

A win/place bet is really two bets on the same horse. One is that the horse will win. The other is that the horse will come in first or second.

A place/show bet follows the same pattern.

An across the board bet is three separate wagers that cover your bases. If the horse comes in first, second or third, at least one wager will pay off.

Where to Bet

You get three legal options for placing horse racing bets.

Option one is that bet at the track through a betting machine or with a teller.

You can also place bets at off-track betting sites. Off-track sites also use tellers to take your money and place the bet.

Your final option is through online betting sites. Take care that you only use legitimate betting sites that adhere to the federal and state gambling laws that apply where you live.

Parting Thoughts on How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

Asking how to bet on the Kentucky Derby is just another way of asking how to bet on horse races in general. What separates the Kentucky Derby is the sheer volume of bets and fame of the race.

Placing the actual bet depends on understanding the odds, picking your wager type, and using a legitimate betting venue. Stick with on-track sites, off-track betting businesses or websites the conform with applicable law.

Considering bets on other sporting events? Check out the sports section of our site for more info on betting.


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