How to Bet On the Kentucky Derby
Betting on horse racing is a lot more complicated than betting on hands of War, but out guide will prevent you from looking like a horse’s ass.
By Doug Barry
The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, and more than $100 million will be bet on the day’s races at Churchill Downs (the Derby is technically one race, but there are several races that go off over the course of the day). If you’ve never been, go; infield tickets are relatively inexpensive, and you don’t need to be wearing seersucker in order to drink beers (or mint juleps) and cheer on the ponies in the midst of what amounts to a gigantic party.
But it’s all but pointless to go if you don’t bet on the races. And it’s all but pointless to bet on the races if you don’t know what you’re doing. So even if you stick to $2 minimum bets, use this easy guide to hit the superfecta … or at least, not piss off everyone behind you in line at the betting window.
TYPES OF BETS
To Win: We think you can figure this one out.
To Place: Your horse will place first or second; your odds of winning improve, but the amount of cash you’ll win decreases.
To Show: Your horse will place in the top three; again, the returns are worse.
Across the Board: You can choose win, place, and show, or a combination of two of the three. But you have to dish out money for three separate bets (you can bet different amounts on each).
Exacta: The two horses you bet on come in first and second, respectively.
Quinella: The two horses you bet on come in first and second, and the order doesn’t matter.
Trifecta: You bet on three horses to finish first, second, and third, respectively.
Superfecta: The four horses you bet on will finish first, second, third, and fourth in an exact order.
Now that you can at least sound like you’re a betting pro when you speak with a teller or bookie, here’s how the 2012 Kentucky Derby field stacks up …
The Favorites: Bodemeister (4 – 1) and Union Rags (4 1/2 – 1) are this year’s favorites, and betting on them isn’t a bad idea; favorites win the Derby 33 percent of the time. Your payoff, however, will be lower than with less favored horses.
The Longshot: Sabercat has an awesome name, but with 30-1 odds to win, nobody thinks much of his chances. However, nobody thought much of Mine That Bird (50-1) back in 2009 before he won the Derby and won some daring bettors a lot of money.
The Maybes: Alpha has been plagued by poor starts but finishes strong. Hansen is the bizarro Alpha; he has great starts but can burnout over the span of the race. Still, both horses are considered contenders.
The Overlooked: I’ll Have Another won both the Santa Anita Derby and Robert B. Lewis Stakes, and many analysts have him poised for a major upset.