Kentucky Derby

by Alan Karre Jr

The Kentucky Derby was inaugurated in 1875 and has been raced every single year afterwards. The Kentucky Derby is the oldest horse race in North America that has been running for consecutive years. The Belmont Stakes (1867) and Preakness Stakes (1873) both started a couple years before the Kentucky Derby, but both horse races missed 1-2 years in the early nineties.

There isn’t a more popular horse race in North America and the number of annual viewers exceeds every other US race. In the past the Kentucky Derby has earned a few nicknames including “The Fastest 2 Minutes in Sports”, The Run for the Roses” and “The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports”. With nicknames like this it’s no wonder millions of people bet on the race.

Every year in May (1st Saturday of the Month) the Kentucky Derby is hosted at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is a G1 Stakes race that’s only open to the best 3-year old thoroughbreds. The track is 1 ¼ miles in length and is a great test for the horses. The Kentucky Derby is the 1st race of the three Triple Crown races held annually in the USA.

Kentucky Derby Race History & Information

history of the kentucky derby betting raceThere is a storied history of the Kentucky Derby that dates back to 1872. A few years before the 1st ever Kentucky Derby a man by the name of Meriwether L. C. Jr. went to England and France. When he was in England and France he watched two races called the “Epsom Derby” and “Paris de Grand Prix” before traveling back to the United States.

When he traveled back to Kentucky he decided to set-up the Louisville Jockey’s Club and it wasn’t long before a horse racing track (Churchill Downs) was built just outside of the city limits at the time. Initially the race was 1 ½ miles long, but in 1896 the Derby was shortened to 1 ¼ miles, which is the length that the race has remained at for over 100+ years now.

We could go on for awhile talking about the history of the Kentucky Derby, but we’ll leave you with a few little tidbits. The derby was 1st aired on television back in 1952 (WHAS) and not long after (1954) the purse for the race surpassed $100K. For a long time the purse was split amongst the top four finishers, but in 2005 the rules were changed to reward prizes to the top five horses.

The fastest time that has ever been set at the Kentucky Derby is 1:59.40, which was done by Secretariat in 1973 and the record is still alive to this day. The fact the record is still alive today is incredible in my opinion. An interesting betting fact about the race is that the biggest underdog to ever win the race was Donerail in 1913, as the horse went off as a 91/1 long shot.

Calumet Farm owns the record for the most wins by an owner at the Kentucky Derby with 8 wins between 1941 and 1968. The most successful trainer (Ben A. Jones) won 6 Kentucky Derby’s between 1938 and 1952. Two jockey’s (Eddie Arcaro &Bill Hartack) are tied for the record with 5 wins at the Derby. These have all been longstanding records that won’t be beat soon.

Kentucky Derby Betting Tips

When it comes to betting on the Kentucky Derby my best tip is to always find the value plays. The favorites in the Derby have historically done very poor and would have lost bettors money over the long-run (Despite short-term profits). Looking back at the last 11 years of the Derby (2001-12) we can see that the favorite to win the race has actually won the race 3X at 2.4/1, 4.90/1 and 4.10/1 odds. Betting on the favs in the Kentucky Derby would have yielded 3.4 units of profit if you flat bet from 2001-12.

Finding the value horses in the race is often a much better proposition although more difficult because it actually requires a bit of form research before the race in May. For instance, lots of bettors tipped I’ll Have Another in the Derby and he was at 15/1 before the race went off. In 2011 Animal Kingdom won as a 20/1 long shot and in 2009 Friesan Fire won as a 50/1 underdog. With the level of competition constantly increasing in horse racing I expect underdogs to prove valuable for years to come.

When handicapping the Kentucky Derby many bettors analyze the big pre-Derby warm-up races. The Arkansas Derby, Bluegrass, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby often have deep fields before the Kentucky Derby in May. Years ago it was very common for one of the winners from the races listed above to win the Kentucky Derby, but that’s no longer the case. In the past 11 years the Kentucky Derby winner has won one of the major races above.

Most bettors wait until the week of the Kentucky Derby race before they even look at the odds. Racebooks release odds on a lot of different 3-year thoroughbreds the year of the race and betting as early as possible is ideal. Look for long shots in the 100/1+ range early on before the tune-up races and you could hedge out of your bet before the race even goes off in May with a profit from the odds fluctuating. If your horse wins a pick race prior to the Derby that horse’s odds will begin to shorten.

Where to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

If you live in the US you want to make sure you bet with a legal racebook that’s licensed within the US. Twin Spires is the #1 ranked racebook at HorseOdds due to the fact they’re 100% licensed and also owned by Churchill Downs. If you can’t be on the Churchill Downs tracks to bet on the Kentucky Derby live the next best thing is to bet online at Twin Spires. You’ll be able to wager on all of the bets available at the track plus you get the added bonus of a $200 sign-up bonus when betting online.