The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports
Hi, I’m Matthew Wallace
I’m a horse racing enthusiast and owner of TheTurfSpeculator.com. I have been betting horses off and on since 2005. Every year leading up to the derby, friends and family ask me the same question…
“Who do you like in the Derby?”
A text from my father starting in on the Derby questions…
It’s March 31st.
Why Write A Free Guide?
I wrote this free guide for all of those people wondering who I like, big race day bettors like you – Fans of horse racing who are looking to have a winning bet in the Kentucky Derby.
I’ve met many professional horse bettors, weekend warriors, big day bettors, and casual players who have invested time, energy, and of course money into betting the Derby in the hopes of making life changing money.
But even the best have off days… walking out of the track, OTB, or logging off their online wager account feeling like the day was a total waste of their time.
Does that sound familiar?
If You’ve Ever Made A Bet And…
- Kicked yourself for having the short priced winner but not the exacta or trifecta…
- Said to yourself, “I should have bet that other horse because…”
- Said to yourself, “Man, that was a stupid bet. What was I thinking?”
… then this guide is for you.
Betting the Kentucky Derby should be a fun and rewarding endeavor… no matter how big or small your bankroll is!
The Run For The Roses
There is no doubt about it…
The Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports.
And over the past few years we have had some close calls with a triple crown winner…
Big Brown took the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2008, as did California Chrome in 2014…
Unfortunately, in the Belmont (the third leg of the triple crown) Big Brown was pulled up on the turn for home and California Chrome didn’t quite have that extra punch for the stretch drive to run down his foes.
It wasn’t until 2015 where American Pharoah stormed into the Derby and swept the triple crown… making a mockery of his competition while breaking a 37 year drought
Here we are in 2017. Another year and another crop of talent three year old horses will be entering the starting gate.
Kentucky Derby History
In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England, visiting the Derby, a famous race that had been running annually since 1780. From there, Clark went on to Paris, France, where in 1863, a group of racing enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club and had organized the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, which at the time was the greatest race in France.
Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities just outside the city. The track would soon become known as Churchill Downs, named for John and Henry Churchill, who provided the land for the racetrack. Officially, the racetrack was incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937.
The Kentucky Derby was first run at 1 1⁄2 miles (2.4 kilometres), the same distance as the Epsom Derby. The distance was changed in 1896 to its current 1 1⁄4 miles (2.0 kilometres). On May 17, 1875, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the first Derby.
Thoroughbred owners began sending their successful Derby horses to compete a few weeks later in the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore, Maryland, followed by the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. The three races offered the largest purse and in 1919 Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races.
The term Triple Crown however, didn’t come into use for another eleven years.
Derby Fun Facts
- On May 16, 1925, the first live radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby was originated.
- On May 7, 1949, the first television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place.
- On May 3, 1952, the first national television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place.
- In 1954, the purse exceeded $100,000 for the first time.
- The fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set in 1973 at 1:59.4 minutes when Secretariat broke the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964. Not only has Secretariat’s record time yet to be topped, in the race itself, he did something unique in Triple Crown races: each successive quarter, his times were faster.
- In 2010 Calvin Borel set a new record, being the first jockey to win 3 out of 4 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
- Only three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).
The mint julep, an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and a sugar syrup, is the traditional beverage of the race.
“Millionaire’s Row” refers to the expensive box seats that attract the rich, the famous and the well-connected. Women appear in fine outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats.
As the horses are paraded before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” a tradition which began in 1921.
The Derby is frequently referred to as “The Run for the Roses,” because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year.
Throughout the world, The Twin Spires are a recognized landmark and have become the visual symbol of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs Tale of The Tape
- Main Track: 1 Mile oval, dirt
- Turf Course: ⅞ of a Mile oval, turf
- Largest Kentucky Derby Attendance: 170,513 in 2015
- 2016 Kentucky Derby Handle (money bet on Derby): $123.3 Million
Triple Crown Winners
The Curse Of The Wood Memorial
The Wood Memorial, a prep race leading up to the Kentucky Derby, run at Aqueduct in New York, has not produced a Kentucky Derby winner since Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.
I remember back in 2005, Bellamy Road romped in the Wood Memorial, sealing his fate at the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. This horse looked legit.
Bellamy Road broke sharply in the Derby and was put on the pace from the start, took the lead on the far took, and then…
Folded like a cheap suit, finishing a distant 7th.
I bet Bellamy Road that day. I had only learned how to handicap races a few months before. I was a rookie when it came to the Derby…
I got owned that day.
Looking back, I wish I had known the back history of the Wood Memorial. The race does produce fine horses, just ones that don’t win the Derby that often.
I did receive some solace, as back handed as it was… Giacomo, whose most recent race was the Sunland Derby in New Mexico, roared down the stretch to win at over 70/1.
Not a horse I would even look at, at that time.
Back to the Wood Memorial…
In December of 2016 The Wood Memorial along with the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland were both downgraded from Grade I stakes races to a Grade II stakes races.
Fields for the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass have not been very productive over the last five runnings. The American Graded Stakes Committee members look at several factors, including the number and level of graded stakes wins by a race’s participants during their entire careers.
Other races have risen to prominence including the Pennsylvania Derby, The Sunland Derby, and the Tampa Bay Derby.
We’ll look at derby winners by last race in the next section.
Potent Prep Races For Eventual Derby Winners
Races that have produced the most Derby winners over the past 13 years
2016: Nyquist – 1st Florida Derby (gr. I)
2015: American Pharoah–1st Arkansas Derby (gr. I)
2014: California Chrome–1st Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)
2013: Orb–1st Florida Derby (gr. I)
2012: I’ll Have Another–1st Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)
2011: Animal Kingdom–1st Spiral Stakes (gr. III)
2010: Super Saver–2nd Arkansas Derby (gr. I)
2009: Mine That Bird–4th Sunland Derby
2008: Big Brown–1st Florida Derby (gr. I)
2007: Street Sense–2nd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I)
2006: Barbaro–1st Florida Derby (gr. I)
2005: Giacomo–4th Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)
2004: Smarty Jones–1st Arkansas Derby (gr. I)
Look at the prep races that are producing the most derby winners of recent…
- The Santa Anita Derby
- The Arkansas Derby
- The Florida Derby
It would appear that these races have a high grade of talent coming from them.
But keep in mind that this data applies only to horses that won the Kentucky Derby–all bets are off when it comes to the exotics!
For example, take a look at this second chart, which shows the last thirteen Kentucky Derby runner-ups, along with their finishing positions in their respective final prep races:
2016: Exaggerator – 2nd Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)
2015: Firing Line–1st Sunland Derby (gr. III)
2014: Commanding Curve–3rd Louisiana Derby (gr. II)
2013: Golden Soul–4th Louisiana Derby (gr. II)
2012: Bodemeister–1st Arkansas Derby (gr. I)
2011: Nehro–2nd Arkansas Derby (gr. I)
2010: Ice Box–1st Florida Derby (gr. I)
2009: Pioneer of the Nile–1st Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)
2008: Eight Belles–1st Fantasy Stakes (gr. II)
2007: Hard Spun–1st Lane’s End Stakes/Spiral Stakes (gr. II)
2006: Bluegrass Cat–4th Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I)
2005: Closing Argument–3rd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I)
2004: Lion Heart–2nd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I)
Second Place Finishers, by prep race:
- Blue Grass Stakes – 3
- Santa Anita Derby – 2
- Louisiana Derby – 2
- Arkansas Derby – 2
- Sunland Derby – 1
- Florida Derby – 1
- Fantasy Stakes – 1
- Lane’s End Stakes/Spiral Stakes – 1
This list seems to be all over the board but if you look at the top 4, you’ll notice that 9 of the last 13 finishers have come from those prep races. It’s always good to look at all the horses in the past performance for the derby and making a note of which races each horse is coming from.
Debunking Derby Fallacies
Fallacies are made to be broken.
You may have hear people say:
- Horses don’t lead all the way in the derby…
- No horse has come off a five week layoff to win the derby…
- No horse has won from post 20…
- No horse, no horse no horse…
Every year someone is spouting off this, that, or the other thing about a horse who has never done x, y, or z and won the derby.
Horses do lead all the way in the derby. Early speed is good if you’re the only speed. The most recent gate-to-wire winner was War Emblem in 2002. The filly Winning Colors did it in 1988. Riva Ridge, Secretariats stablemate did it in 1972.
Is it common, no… but it does happen.
One story line back in 2006 was that a horse has never won the derby after a five week layoff. Barbaro debunked that myth. Was he a contender? For sure.
Then there is the big talk about post position. No horse had ever won from post 20 in the derby… until Big Brown did it in 2008. Let me be honest, Big Brown was a freak. It didn’t matter which gate you put him in, he would have won.
We are going to hear a lot of talking heads on the television during the Kentucky Derby broadcast spouting off percentages and probabilities, and history of post position, this prep race was a weak field, that prep race was a strong field, and so on.
The thing is, and I have to keep reminding even myself…
The Kentucky Derby is a race unlike any other, and here’s why:
- 20 horse field
- ALL the horses are 3 years old
- ALL the horses have never run this distance
- ALL of these horses will probably never run this distance again in their career, unless they turn out to be superstars
- The usage of Churchill’s auxiliary gate because of the field size
- The jostling of horses during the break will most likely happen
- Horses will be checked, stopped, and blocked, while attempting to weave their way through the field to get a better position
- Horses will experience more dirt in the face than ever before
- Jockey’s will have to make snap decisions to put their horse into the race
- The track will be lightning fast
- There will be a raucous crowd of 160K+ people in the grandstands and in the infield
- The opportunity for a chaos race skyrockets because of all of this
I’m getting worked up just typing this!
Yes, we have the past performance data and historical evidence that will point us in a certain director but that leads to blind spots.
The whole idea is handicapping is weighing the things we know and addressing them with our selections.
Derby Contender “Types”
There are a number of types of derby runnings and I think going over them will help with contender selection
The Freak or the Push Button Horse
This is the type of horse who comes storming into the derby and everyone knows it. This is your Big Brown, your California Chrome, your American Pharoah. They just seem to have that larger than life presence. They also seem to be able to find that extra gear when they are set down for the stretch drive. It’s like they are floating on air, putting 3-4 lengths on his rivals within just a few strides. The jockey asked him to roll, and the horse responds with a rush.
The “It” Horse
This is the horse who is hot right now. A past derby winner that reminds me of this was Orb (2013). Orb was coming into the derby with a 4 race win streak. Leading up to the derby he had won a Maiden Special Weight race, an Allowance race, The Fountain Of Youth Stakes (G-2), and the Florida Derby (G-1). He was undoubtedly on a huge roll. He was difficult to bet against. Ultimately, the derby was his final win. He did have some in the money placings but never regained they type of form in his derby performance.
The “Wise guy” Horse
They are long odd “overlays” whose odds are “out running it chances of winning.” Nobody likes this horse… save your money. Bet at your own peril.
The Foreign Horse
Inevitably there will be at least one foreign horse that looks like a stud. Usually appearing from Japan, Great Britain, or Dubai. They somehow earn a berth into the Kentucky Derby. Pay them no mind, foreign horses are not cut out for this race. Take the Dubai runner Mubtaahij, who ran in the derby. Truly a very solid horse whose record looked magnificent in Dubai. He ended up finishing in 8th place, behind eventual triple crown winner American Pharoah. I cannot knock this horse, because he has had some big in the money placements since then. He finished second to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup in 2016. Your money should go on a non-foreign horse.
The Speed Merchant
here will be without any shadow of a doubt at least one, if not three or four one dimensional front runners entering the derby. This type of horse has never not been on the lead. Dortmund comes to mind. Let’s look at a few of his running lines…
ALWAYS on the lead. Now for giggles, let’s look at his derby running line…
On the lead as usual… hounded by another foe, Firing Line. Ending up finishing third by a neck.
When there is more than one front running, that does not bode well for the early speed types. Some might hang on for a minor placing, but in general they fizzle out at the top of the stretch.
The Deep Closer
As the type states, this is a horse coming from very far off the pace. Typically lumbering around near the back of the pack, the jockey is biding his time waiting for the right moment to let his horse unwind, and unfurl those legs, scrubbing him, weaving in and out of traffic in a furious drive for the wire. This is your Giacomo, your Mine That Bird, your Ice Box type horses. Make one massive move in hopes to get to the wire first. In most cases, and I mean most, they don’t quite get there in time but when they do you can…
Giacomo paid 50 to 1 odds. Mine That Bird paid 50 to 1 odds.
That means for every $2 you bet, you would get back $102.
SHOW ME THE MONEY!
The Rest of the Field
So far we have covered the Freak/Super Horse, the “It” Horse, the wire guy horse, the foreign horse, the speed merchant, and the deep closer. Now we come to the rest of the field. We should break these horses down even further.
There will typically be a pack of horses on the pace. Not on the lead but more like a few lengths off those front runners. It seems like that’s where most of the winners have been coming from as of late. They just kind of sit idling if you will, waiting for the jockey orders to get after it. These horses are typically defined as early pace.
Next there will be some horses strung out, maybe a few sets of two side by side.
Finally there are the plodders.
They are not front runners, not are they closers. They are pack horses. They run in a pack further back, but in front of the dead closers. I think a good example of this type of horse would be Summer Bird, who ran okay in the derby and eventually went on to win the Belmont at 11 to 1. He didn’t have enough speed to keep up with the front runners or early pace horses, but he did have a plodding style that was suitable for longer distances and could wear rivals down during a prolonged stretch drive.
What Is That Funny Looking Thing The Horses Break From?
Because the derby attracts such a large field of contestants, Churchill Downs has to dust off its auxiliary gate and get it ready for the derby. The primary gate holds 14 horses (1-14), while the auxiliary gate holds an additional six (15-20).
Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Here is the primary thing to note about the auxiliary gate:
Horses that are in the 14 and 15 have a few feet of room in between each other during the break. Mine that gap! While not super critical, it is worth mentioning. You’ll hear the talking heads on the television discussing it. You’ll also hear them discuss how terrible the inside post positions are on horses which will be in our next section.
The post position draw happen the Wednesday before the derby, where you can watch a bunch of old geezers rumble up to the board and hang their horses silk colors on a board on stage when their number is picked… yes, at random.
Yes, it is televised. I suggest you pass on it… unless you into that kind of thing.
Post position can make or break a horse’s chances in the Kentucky Derby.
Post #1 is look at as a disadvantage primarily because of the horse’s chances of hitting the inner rail during the break. There will be plenty of jostling, bumping, and squeezing so the rail draw is not ideal.
I would dare to say post #1 through #4 are usually difficult spots to be starting from in the derby.
Post #15-20 seems to be in their own little race so to speak. Because of the use of the auxiliary gate, there is a few feet of space in between posts 15 and 15 as I spoke about above.
Recent winners from post #15 to #20:
- Big Brown, 2008
- Animal Kingdom, 2011
- I’ll Have Another, 2012
- American Pharoah, 2015
Not a bad statistic.
In 2016, Nyquist won the derby from post 13.
I think post #13 through #20 have a good chance for a solid break at the start, with more of the hustle and bustle in the inner post positions.
For horses that show up in the money (second, third, fourth) it appears that post #5 through #10 show up the most.
- Inner posts are not great
- Closer to the gate gap on either side are good
- Auxiliary gate best
In the next section, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of through horses out and selecting our contenders…
Contenders vs. Pretenders
In this section we’ll discuss different ways to select contenders. In horse racing there are a number of ways to come up with a horse, and your final contender may not be the same as mine because of that.
What makes for good contender selection? Just as important as the contenders you select are the horses you throw out.
Read that again.
The horses that you cross out as non-contenders are just as important as the ones you save as contenders.
If you can throw out a low priced horse, you open up opportunity for value.
Let us back up a little big and find out how horses get into the derby in the first place.
Previously, horses were able to obtain a berth into the Kentucky Derby based on their earnings from graded stakes races (worldwide). Now there is a point system in place which by horses qualify for a position in the starting gate. There are roughly 35 stakes races for 2 and 3 year old thoroughbreds.
As we’ve touched on earlier, the quality of horses in grade stakes races varies. At bigger tracks you generally have a better class of horses. For smaller tracks, you generally have trainers sending their B-grade in hopes they lay over the field, win some points, and gain entry to the derby with a win.
Selecting contenders can be as easy as:
- I like the grey horse, I’m going to bet him…
- I like the number 4 horse, I’m going to bet him…
- I like the silks on that jockey, I’m going to bet him…
- The jockey gave someone “the nod,” that a sign, I’m going to bet him…
- I’m going to throw a dart at the past performances, and whichever horse the dart sticks into, I am going to bet him…
All valid ways to select a horse to bet.
But I think in this case, we want something more… meaningful.
In the next section we will look at certain handicapping factors that will play into your derby selection.
Factors That Play Into Contender Selection
I am going to go over a few ways we can look at a horse and you can decide which way works best for you. I’ll cover some factors, which you can use by themselves, or in conjunction with each other.
Handicapping Using Speed Figures
In the past performance of the derby there will be speed figures. They will look something like this:
|2 Race Back||76|
|3 Races Back||68|
|4 Races Back||58|
|5 Races Back||66|
These speed figures were developed by Andy Beyer back in the 1970’s and have been in the Daily Racing Form for over twenty years. So, pretty mainstream but handicappers do win with them.
Here’s How They Work
Every performance by every horse in North America is assigned a Beyer number which reflects the time of the race and the inherent speed of the track over which it was run, permitting easy comparisons of efforts at different distances. A horse who earned a 90 ran faster than one who ran an 80.
How Can I Apply Them To The Derby?
Invariably there will be one or two horses who stick out speed figure wise in the derby and then there will be horses with unimpressive speed figures.
Remember the types of horses I talked about before? Do the speed figures match the type of horse? We are looking for a horse who either has one more good race in him, or a horse who is coming to a race and today is the day.
Are a horse’s speed figures improving from race to race? For example, his last three speed figures are 89, 97, 102 (most recent).What will it take to run beyond a 102? Do you think this horse can do it?
Handicapping Using Pace
The pace of a race is primarily determined by each horses running style in any given race, with a smaller focus on distance, condition, class, and racing surface. As most handicappers say, “Pace makes the race” and “Pace wins the race.”
Often times the betting public confuses pace with speed. With pace, you are trying to get an overall feel for a races shape and dynamic.
Itʼs like taking a bird’s eye view of a race before it happens, determining who will be leading and the quarter and half, who will be making a middle move, and which horses have the best chance to either take the lead and keep it to the wire or who will be closing in the stretch drive.
Pace also has a little to do with the jockeys on the horses. Itʼs said that a thoroughbred can produce a top speed for about three furlongs (660 yards or 3/8ʼs of a mile).
It is up to the jockey on how he or she uses the horses speed depending on itʼs running style. On any given mount a jockey is limited to the horse’s running style, the surface and distance of today’s race, and his or her opponents in the race.
Pace handicappers look primarily for horses that are able to set the pace or overcome a fast early pace without becoming too tired in the stretch drive. They concentrate all their attention on the two to four horses in a race that seem to deserve the highest pace ratings. Once ratings are assigned the single out the best of the bunch, ignoring other factors such as class or distance.
Successful pace handicappers focus on the running style of well conditioned horses that are best suited to the distance and are not outclassed by the competition. Pace analysis simple becomes the means of separating one contender from all the others.
Handicapping Using Class
Class is easily recognized and hard to define. Champions of the highest caliber have class, horses such as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. They have a maximum quality about them, speed, stamina, physical soundness, and a competitive willingness which enables them to beat all the competition thrown at them. The truly classy horse will win while “under attack,” while giving their competitions weight by carrying more than anyone in the field. They win while subject to a bad trip around the track They win on sloppy and off tracks, and they win by flat out exhausting their opponents in the first six furlongs in most race.
Having superior speed is one of the hallmarks of a classy horse. Itʼs been said that most good horses set records when they are challenged by another horse or a zealous jockey of another horse. Otherwise, they run just fast and hard enough to win. Most all horses have some semblance of “class” we are discussing. Horses move up and down in class everyday, and while most of them are not Graded Stakes caliber horses, they do run around at their best level of Competition.
Weʼve defined class as a willingness to win. Even lowly 5k claimers have a willingness to win. Itʼs in the horse’s blood, they have the herd mentality. Some horses love to whip clear and play catch-me-if-you-can, and some horses love the battle of holding another horse off a half a length for the whole race – itʼs a game to them!
Other Factors To Take Into Consideration
Usually with a higher caliber horse, such as the ones entering the Kentucky Derby, they have a regular rider. A jockey who has been riding the horse for a number of races.
Jockeys, like horses have a win percentage. The higher the win percentage, the better the jockey.
Just like horses and jockeys, trainers statistics are also tracked. High percentage and big name trainers usually get the best horses.
“I Got The Horse Right Here… The Name is Paul Revere”
In order to handicap the race, you’ll need the past performances for the Derby. Here are a couple sites that I use to download PDF versions of the races.
The Daily Racing Form: http://www.drf.com
When you go go drf.com and sign up, you’ll then want to purchase the “DRF Classic PDF PPs.” You can find that link under “HANDICAPPING & PPs” on the top menu bar.
When you go to Brisnet.com, you’ll look for the “Ultimate Past Performances with comments (or without), your choice. Those run around $3.00.
Worth Mentioning: You’ll have to create accounts and set up a payment method no matter which company you sign up with.
The track you’ll want to download is Churchill Downs.
I usually get mine a day or two before the Derby so I can soak it all in.
On the next few pages, you will see what a typical race past performance looks like. Each horse, their running lines, and all that jazz…
Handicapping A Race
Here is how I go about handicapping a typical race:
- I circle horses I would bet, usually based on speed and pace
- I mark them as contenders
- I cross out horses who I think have no chance of winning
Here is a race that I bet. Laurel Race 2 on 2/26/17. Look at how I marked this race: (see image on next page)…
Starting from the top… I crossed out the #1 as a win bet contender. The horse had not won since mid-2016. This race didn’t seem like a good spot for him despite his back class (running in tougher races).
I kept the #2 horse as a contender, he has a good lifetime record and I thought might be able to handle this distance even though he had been running in route races lately.
I crossed out the #3 as a contender despite him being the Morning Line Favorite. He is coming back to the races after a 2 month layoff. I didn’t think this horse would run well in the race today.
On page 2, there were two more horses….
I crossed out the #5. Although he has early speed, he didn’t look fast enough to compete with the #4 Rowd E Allie.
I circled the #4 because this horse had a lot of things I like. It was making it second start off a layoff. It had plenty of back class. It was cutting back in distance, from 7 furlongs to 5.5 furlongs. It has a great record. What really stuck out was it’s early speed. No other horse in this race has this type of early foot. I expected this horse to take the lead and go gate to wire. There wasn’t another horse in this race that could keep up.
- I take an in depth look at how my contenders win
- Does today’s pace scenario match their running style?
- Are any of my contenders moving up or down in class?
- Are any of my contenders making their second or third start off a layoff?
- I develop an odds line. What I think their odds should be. I ask myself, “if this race was run 100 times, how many times would each horse win?”
So now I am left with the #4 Rowd E Allie and the #2 Enterprising Lady as my win bet contenders. Now on my second pass, I see that Rowd E Allie wins by front running. Enterprising Lady seems to sit a few lengths off the lead, waiting to make her move.
My thoughts were, since Rowd E Allie is going to be alone on the lead, why would she stop? No one is fast enough to run with her, especially at 5.5 furlongs.
The pace scenario favors Rowd E Allie. She is dropping in class after that last race which was a graded stakes race. She is making her 2nd start after a layoff and should improve off of that last race. Finally if this race was run 100 times, I thought she would win probably 40 times based on the other horses in this race.
Now that I am done handicapping the race, I move on to structuring my wagers. In some cases it is simply a win bet, and in other cases I will play exactas and trifectas.
In this case in the Laurel race, at 40%, that would roughly make Rowd E Allie’s odds in between 7/5 and 8/5. When I bet her, she was 7/2… and ended up being bet down to 2/1. Still an overlay based on my observations.
Rowd E Allie ended up being my win bet.
Here are the results of that race:
So, for every $2.00 I bet on Rowd E Allie, I got back $6.80.
Hopefully seeing how I mark my race is helpful!
My derby handicapping resembles this, however I tend to put more thought into it because of the field size and other factors.
In the net section we will look at the various types of wagers available to us in the Derby…
Give me $50 to win on the 6… $25 Exacta Key Box 6 with 2, 3…
It doesnʼt matter if you are a “couple times a year” race track goer or
a weekly regular. The way you wager and handle your money will directly
effect whether you win or lose and how much you win or lose.
According to Barry Meadow in Money Secrets at the Racetrack, “Picking winners is overrated. You can make money at the races even if you pick very few winners. You can lose money even if you pick plenty.”
For the sake of keeping this simple and basic, we will run through the
various wagers that race track offer. After that, We will talk about the
various bets you personally can make.
At most tracks in North America you will have a buffet of wagers that
you can make on any given race.
Here is a rundown of what is available:
|Win||Betting a horse to come in first.|
|Place||Betting a horse to come in second.|
|Show||Betting a horse to come in third.|
|Exacta||Betting on the first to finishers of a race (A-B).|
|Trfiecta||Betting on first three finishers of a race (A-B-C).|
|Superfecta||Betting on first four finishers of a race (A-B-C-D).|
|Pick 3,4,5,6||Picking 3, 4, 5, or 6 winners in a row.|
|Daily Double||Generally the first and second race of the day as well as the final two races of the day. Like the Pick-X, you are picking two winners in a row. There are tracks in North America that have Rolling Doubles, which means there is a daily double in every race. Races 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, and so on.|
Your standard bet is $2.00. That is the minimum bet for most wagers. In some cases you can make 10-cent trifecta and superfecta wagers at some tracks.
Win, Place, & Show wagering are pretty straightforward to begin with. If you bet a horse to win, you expect it to come in first place. Place, you expect it to come in first OR second, and Show you expect it to come in first, second, OR third.
Just making any wager, it would sound like the following:
WIN: “Sunland Park, race 6. $100 to win on #4.”
PLACE: “Churchill Downs, race 3. $100 to place on the #8.”
SHOW: “Belmont Park, race 8. $100 to show on the #2.”
The exacta can be bet several ways:
The Exacta, Straight: A over B
The Exacta Box: A over B, and B over A
The Exacta Part Wheel: A over B, C, D, E
The Exacta Wheel Key Box: A over B, C, D, E AND B, C, D, E OVER A
If I want to make an exacta box wager, itʼd sound like…
“Give me a $50 exacta box 3-7” … This bet would cost me $100.
Just like exacta wagering, trifecta is very similar:
The Trifecta Straight: A-B-C
The Trifecta Box: A-B-C, A-C-B, B-A-C, B-C-A, C-A-B, AND C-B-A
The Trifecta (Part) Wheel: A with B, C, D with B, C, D or… B, C, D with A with B, C, D and so on…
The Trifecta Key: A with B, C, D with B, C, D. Keying the A with other horses
* Superfecta wagering follows the same strategy as trifecta. Youʼre just adding another layer of horses that you think will come in fourth place.
Pick-X is picking several winners in a row. A Pick-3 is selecting three winners in a row. The Pick-4, is four in a row, and so on. The Pick-X follows the same structure as the other methods above.
For instance if the Pick-3 starts in race 1, youʼd have to pick the winners in races 1 through 3. It could look something like:
Race 1: A, B, C
Race 2: A, B
Race 3: A, B, C, D
This 3 X 2 X 4 ticket would cost you either $24 for a dollar minimum or $48 for a two dollar minimum. In some instances, you will have multiple tickets put together. Maybe a ticket of favorites and a ticket with long shots. There are applications you can get for your computer and iPhone that will help you build your tickets.
Wagering Strategies & Formulas
Here are a few wagering formulas Iʼve come cross over the years. They will help you keep your bets skinny, and put come coin in your pocket with some thoughtful handicapping.
While it is nice to have some formulas to exotic wagering, every race is different and using the same exacta structure for every race you bet is not the best route to go. Exotics will arise from your analysis of a race
That being said, here are some exotic structures that will get you on your way, and help you formulate your own. You can single horses and float them through the bet structure. There are no rules to handicapping and wagering. You can be as creative as your bankroll will allow!
The A B C Exacta Example
$2 exacta box A-B-C = $12
$2 exacta box A-B = $4
$4 exacta straight A-B = $4
The A B C Trifecta Example
$2 trifecta box A-B-C = $12
$2 tri-key A with B-C with B-C = $4
$4 trifecta straight A-B-C = $4
- A-B with A-B with C-D-E with C-D-E = $12
- A-B with C-D-E with A-B with C-D-E = $12
- A-B with A-B-C-D with A-B-C-D-E-F with A-B-C-D-E-F = $72
The Daily Double Example
$2 double part wheel A with A-B-C = $6
$2 double part wheel A-B-C with A = $6
$2 double part wheel A-B with A-B = $8
Wagering can be as simple as betting a horse to win, place, or show.
Maybe you like betting exotics for their bigger payoffs, so your structure is
more in depth. As you handicap and wager youʼll find your strong suit,
areaʼs of horse racing where you excel and make the most money.
FUN FACT: In 2016 the TOTAL money bet on the derby (on-track, off-track, OTB, and ADW) totaled…
$129.6 MILLION DOLLARS… ON ONE RACE
In the next section I’ll tell you where you can bet the derby…
Where Can I Bet The Derby?
- Well, if you are close to Churchill Downs and don’t mind paying to get in… and hanging around 160-thousand people then by all means go to the race track.
- If you like the track ambience but would rather it be more low key, and you are in Kentucky, I suggest you go to Keeneland Park. They will be simulcasting the derby on the big infield screens. There will be a much smaller crowd and it will be more manageable.
- In addition to Churchill and Keeneland, ALL tracks in the United States simulcast Churchill Downs, and will be able to take bets. So if you live in a state where there is a thoroughbred track, you are in luck.
- If there is a casino nearby WITH a racebook/sportsbook, you can bet the derby there as well. I would call the casino first before going to ensure the ability to bet.
- There are also OTB (Off Track Betting parlors) in certain states where wagering is available.
- Finally, my favorite… bet from the comfort of your own home by signing up for an account with an ADW (Advanced Deposit Wagering platform). This allows you to transfer money to your ADW account and bet and watch right online.
Here is a list of major ADW Platforms:
NOTE: It will take time to set up the banking!!! You’ll have to email or fax information to the ADW. Once your account is approved, you can set up a bank account with them and begin wagering. If you have the time, try to get it set up a week before the derby to ensure you’ll have the proper access to wagering.
My personal favorite is Xpressbet and here’s why…
- Account setup was simple.
- The interface is clean.
- You can customize your page and what you see on it.
- Transferring money to and from the account is simple.
- They offer live video and free race replays, so you can select a horse and go back to watch a number of races in his past performance (useful not only for the Derby but in all other instances).
- They offer free past performances.
- They offer conditional wagering, which means submit a bet such as “make this bet if the horse is 2/1 at 0 minutes to post” and if the horses odds are 2/1 at 0 MTP then the bet will be made. If the horse’s odds are lower than 2/1 at 0 MTP then the bet is canceled.
My second favorite ADW is Premier Turf Club.
PTC has a simple interface and is easy to use, and they also offer rebates. A rebate is money given back to you off of your bet. You will generally get around 3-5 % back on win bets. If you become a big bettor, they may up your percentages.
One thing I don’t like, is your money is not available right away. Last time I bet there, it took a couple days for my deposit to clear. With Xpressbet, your money is available to bet with immediately.
NOTE: Some ADW providers do not operate in some states. You should check to see if you are able to open up an account. For me, because I live in New Mexico, I can have an Xpressbet account however, I am unable to bet any tracks in New Mexico from it. Which means, I either have to go to a casino with a race book, or go to the track in Albuquerque to place bets on New Mexico tracks.
What To Do Next…
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