Brandon A. Quick | Fri 05/05/2017 - 08:12 EDT

2017 Kentucky Derby Betting Strategy

2017 Kentucky Derby Betting Strategy
Handicappers who convince themselves - and anyone else who will listen - that the Kentucky Derby is just another race probably haven't cashed too many tickets on the first Saturday in May. The truth is people should bet the Derby differently because of just how unlike any other race it is.

Derby Betting: The Big Picture

With 20 horses and colossal wagering pools, the Kentucky Derby is one of the best money-making opportunities of the year in thoroughbred racing. Making things even sweeter is the reality that the pools – all pools – are greatly diluted by novice bettors. In theory this means those with an informed opinion are at a great advantage and that the one-day-a-year Derby bettor is ready to be fleeced.

But fear not if you are among the uninformed. Plenty of wagering experts on the web are ready to provide solid horse racing picks for a small fee or free of charge. There’s a fundamental paradox to understand about horse racing for all those planning to invest.

Year after year, the betting favorite wins approximately 33% of the time, but those who bet only favorites are sure to lose money over a period of time. The key, obviously, is to determine which favorites to bet and which to dismiss in search of a horse with more generous odds.

Lukewarm favorites who go to post at odds of 2/1 or higher win less than a horse with shorter odds. Watching the odds is not a reliable wagering tactic, but it does provide an idea of who the sharp bettors like and who they are ignoring. A horse who is 7 or 8 to 1 in the program might open up at 3/1 and continue to take money until the horses reach the starting gate. This is usually a clear indicator of where the “smart money” is going. 

Now back to the Kentucky Derby itself. The post time favorite has won each of the last four Derbys. Of those four, each had impeccable credentials. Nyquist (2016) and American Pharoah (2015) were unbeaten, while Orb (2013) and California Chrome (2014) had not lost a race during their three year-old year. The 2017 renewal of the Run for the Roses lacks such a horse, although Always Dreaming is unbeaten in three starts this year (note that two were against vastly overmatched allowance fields). After Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Irish War Cry and McCracken, none of the Kentucky Derby contenders sport resumes worth mentioning. 

So how do I bet?

Betting is a very nuanced affair that often undergoes many iterations in a serious handicapper’s lifetime. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on just three types of bets that can pay huge dividends on Derby Day: the exacta, the trifecta and the superfecta. As the names suggest, the exacta means to pick the top two finishers of a race in order, the trifecta adds the third-place finisher to the mix and the superfecta gets wild and wooly by adding a fourth-place horse. 

The exacta is a simple, but wildly popular bet at any racetrack that was introduced during the 1970’s. The Kentucy Derby is a true bonanza for exacta players, but those who truly understand the bet may be in the minority. Most casual bettors think of the exacta as a simple two-horse “box.” This means they select two horses from the field and wager that those horses must finish first or second in either order. So, an exacta box using the 4 and 12 horse means that the bettor would win if the race comes in 4-12 or 12-4. A “straight” or “cold” exacta would cover just 4-12 or 12-4. The bet may be played on a $1 minimum and boxing two horses doubles the cost. 

Kentucky Derby Odds 2017 at Bodog

To be clear, we do not recommend boxing. It’s an overly simplistic approach that does not allow a bettor to cover very many combinations. Obviously, we also do not recommend playing straight or cold exactas as this is akin to playing a more limited version of the lottery. What we do endorse is the concept of “wheeling” the exacta. A wheel allows the player to isolate one or two runners in a specific slot while spreading in the other slot.

Let’s say we think Classic Empire is a strong bet to run first or second in the 2017 Derby, but we are less sure about where others may finish. An exacta wheel can be built on such an opinion using multiple horses with Classic Empire as shown in the example below:

EXACTA WHEEL Sample For 2017 Derby

So let’s address the obvious. This wagering strategy is based on a simple opinion and allows the bettor more chances to cash an exacta if that opinion is correct. 

Bet 1 Bet 2
1st: Classic Empire 1st: Always Dreaming, McCracken, Sonneteer, Hence, Irish War Cry
2nd: Always Dreaming, McCracken, Sonneteer, Hence, Irish War Cry 2nd: McCracken 
$2 cost = $10

$2 Cost = $10

If McCracken runs first or second in the example above, the bettor has five live shots to run first or second with his remaining selections. While the cost of such a bet exceeds the $4 cost of simply boxing two horses, it drastically enhances the chances of actually hitting the bet. If we were to box all six horses instead of keying McCracken in the wheel the cost jumps up to a whopping $60. It’s simple: the wheel saves money while allowing more playable combos. 

In short, the trifecta and superfecta are also bets best played by keying or wheeling horses within the various rungs of the bet. The strategy is simple and effective. Pick a horse you like and build the ticket around this horse using multiple others. While hardly a secret, this simple strategy will give you a leg up on much of the amateurs betting the Kentucky Derby. 

Category : Archives

More articles...
Archives - 03/09/17
Scotiabank Buys Maple Leafs Naming Rights For Record $800M 
Air Canada was getting a bargain for Toronto Maple Leafs arena naming rights all along. Scotiabank and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment agreed to a record-breaking, 20-year deal to rename the Air Canada Centre. Starting July 1st, 2018, the ACC will be known as Scotiabank Arena. The third largest bank in Canada will pay $800 million for the privilege, raising the bar for naming rights across North America.
Archives - 29/07/17
Meet Dee Devlin, Conor McGregor’s Girlfriend 
Behind every great man is an even greater woman. She might not seem like that thanks to keeping a low profile but Dee Devlin, girlfriend to Conor McGregor and mother to his son has arguably been the greatest factor to the Notorious one's success. A woman of few words, her placid nature hides a deep passion, one she shares with McGregor. Take a closer look at their storybook relationship.
Archives - 28/07/17
Breaking Down How Much Floyd Mayweather is Worth 
The inimitable Mayweather Jr. is his generation's greatest boxer. But his boxing prowess even pales in comparison to the wealth he's accumulated over his 49-fight career. Mayweather is reportedly worth over $340 million and has generated at least $700 million in his career. Despite financial and court issues, he continues to rack money. We take a look at how and why he's this rich.
Archives - 21/07/17
Eight Funniest Tweets from Conor McGregor’s Twitter 
Outside Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor is combat sports' biggest star and his twitter account has a lot to do with it. Before "Mystic Mac" became the trash-talking megastar he is today, he was an ambitious UFC signee looking to make as much noise as possible. No one was safe from the Notorious one's scathing and funny commentary, not even celebrities or WWE superstars.