2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Guide

How to bet on the Kentucky Derby in New York

At Churchill Downs on May 1, the 147th running of the historic Kentucky Derby will take place.

This is your Kentucky Derby reference page, examining the history, New York horse betting options, the road to the Derby and handicapping variables for the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.

The Kentucky Derby, dating back to 1875, assembles 20 of the nation’s top 3-year-old thoroughbreds. It’s also called The Run for the Roses as a nod to the garland of 554 red roses draped over the winner.

This event is the first jewel in racing’s Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes (May 15) and the Belmont Stakes (June 5).

The Derby is thoroughbred racing’s signature showcase, although its $3 million purse has been eclipsed by some Breeders’ Cup races in the fall. This event has brought the sport a rich national and international audience.

In the meantime, the proliferation of mobile betting and media attention keeps the Derby in the limelight.

Best Kentucky Derby betting app in New York

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Betting on the Kentucky Derby via TVG

The TVG app offers several features.

Tap “Live” and you can stream both the TVG Networks in HD, handicap and bet all on the same screen. Tap the track and race number to navigate upcoming races on the applicable network.

Other aspects include a complete redesign to put upcoming races and results in one spot. You can now filter by breed or region. Plus, get to the race you want faster with the “Up Next” slider and improved favorite tracks prominence.

On a race page, use the arrows to toggle between races or tap the drop-down, which gives you race condition info. In My Bets, tap the track to go back to the track that wager is on.

A highly functioning app enriches the tracks by enticing players and helps gamblers avoid the frustration of long betting lines that result in the occasional shutout at a live facility.

In many ways, TVG has earned the right to call itself the home of horse racing in the US. Active since 1999 and now the leading online horse betting site in the country, TVG is as regal as the sport of kings itself. Part of the FanDuel Group, which, in turn, is part of the mighty Flutter Entertainment, TVG is reputable and safe.

2021 Kentucky Derby odds and betting favorites

Derby prep races in March and April provide excellent betting insight.

They will determine whether early contenders like Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie pan out. Essential Quality won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year, while Hot Rod Charlie was a strong second.

Highly Motivated, Life is Good and Brooklyn Strong also attracted interest during the winter season.

Will they be there on Derby Day? Or will others emerge? The prep races will reveal that.

What are the Derby preps?

The Kentucky Derby has several tiers of qualifying races, with points, to determine the 20-horse field. The following events have the most value, with 100 qualifying points to the winners and 40 points for second place.

Louisiana DerbyMarch 20Fair Grounds Race Course$1 million
Florida DerbyMarch 27Gulfstream Park$1 million
UAE DerbyMarch 27Meydan Racecourse, Dubai$2.5 million
The Blue GrassApril 1Keeneland$1 million
The Santa Anita DerbyApril 3Santa Anita Park$750,000
The Wood MemorialApril 3Aqueduct$750,000
The Arkansas DerbyApril 10Oaklawn$1 million

Of the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners, nine have finished first or second in one of the prep races. These events have become an excellent reference for sizing up the Kentucky Derby field.

After observing the prep races and picking a Derby horse, what are the betting options?

Common Kentucky Derby bet types

There are a number of common bets when it comes to the Kentucky Derby.

  • Win: As it sounds, select the top horse. Odds are reasonable for any winner in this race, given the top competition. The minimum bet is usually $2.
  • Place: Choose a horse to finish second or higher. This will pay less than the win bet, but it provides a payout in the first and second slots.
  • Show: Bet on a horse to finish third or higher. This pays lower than win or place, but it pays out if your horse finishes first, second or third.
  • Exactas: Select the order of the top two finishers. It’s always good to box them. You’d hate to have the right two horses in the wrong order, especially in the Derby, with a 20-horse field.
  • Trifectas: Pick the top three finishers in order. Wagered via straight bet, this type of bet is a box of three or more horses, or a partial wheel.
  • The Box: A $1 trifecta box with three horses costs $6. Any combination of these three horses in the top three positions becomes a winning ticket.
  • The Key: For the same $6, bettors can place a horse in the first spot, followed by three others in the second and third slots. For example, a $1 trifecta key with the “1” over the “2-3-4” means the 1 horse must win and any combo of the 2-3-4 in the next two slots is a winning ticket. For $12, you can take that 1 horse in the first AND second position with the other three horses.
  • Superfecta: Pick the top four horses in the correct order. Same combinations as can be used for trifectas. The superfecta is often lucrative, but extremely hard to hit. The $1 Derby superfecta last year paid $7,925.80.

Other bets include Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5 and Pick 6. These involve bettors picking the winner in three, four, five and six straight races, respectively. If you make only one selection for each race, these bets can be entered for small amounts, such as $0.50 or $2.

Seasoned players will try to expand the ticket, taking multiple entries in most of the races. The key to this strategy is finding at least one race to have a “single.” That means you make just one selection in that race.

How to handicap the Derby

Combine the recent history of the race structure and modern technology. This has resulted in favorites usually winning the Derby or running very well.

A few years back, racing officials began disregarding sprint races in the qualifiers. That means Derby horses have to prove themselves at a distance.

For the Derby, this format eliminates the “speed” horses who set a blistering early pace and occasionally drew other horses into what’s known as a “speed duel.” This weakened the frontrunners and set up other horses, usually longshots, to rally from far back and win down the stretch. No more.

Now, the eventual race winner is usually close to the lead early on, and times are slower than in the past. Favorites now run well in the Derby. Recent winners (and pre-race odds) include:

  • 2014: California Chrome (5-2)
  • 2015: American Pharoah (5-2)
  • 2016: Nyquist (2-1)
  • 2017: Always Dreaming (9-2)
  • 2018: Justify (5-2)
  • 2019: Maximum Security (9-2); Country House (65-1) was later awarded the victory
  • 2020: Tiz the Law (3-5) was nipped in a thrilling stretch duel with Authentic (8-1)

Handicapping tips

First off, respect recent history. The Florida Derby has been on a roll regarding Kentucky Derby winners. Consider that three of the last five Florida Derby champions went on to capture the Derby.

There is no acknowledged reason for Florida Derby horses converting so well to Kentucky Derby form. One possible explanation, however, is the five-week time between races, which may be ideal for some horses. In any case, this is a worthy handicapping variable.

Second, watch the prep races. You don’t even have to do this live. Simply watch a replay on YouTube. You want to evaluate the running style of the winning horse. Was he near the lead early or did he move late? Did he have an easy trip around the track or did he have to weave through a wall of horses to get top position? There is no prep race that exactly matches the 1¼-mile Kentucky Derby. It may be asking a lot from a horse that was fading at the end of a 1 1/8-mile race to improve at a longer distance.

Next, obtain a daily racing form, usually available online. This details a horse’s full history and may reveal matchups against other Derby participants.

Watching the early races on Derby day could also pay dividends. How is Churchill Downs playing that day? Are the frontrunners winning or are the winners coming from off the pace? Is there an edge on the inside, the middle or the outside of the track?

Beware the conditions. If there is a sudden downpour or rain throughout the day, all handicapping angles may become moot. Check the weather throughout the week.

Lastly, don’t put everything on one horse. The Derby is famous for horses being trapped in logjams and never finding racing room. Have a backup ticket in case your favorite horse gets what’s known in the industry as a “bad trip.”

Where to bet in NY

Aqueduct11000 Rockaway BlvdOzone Park
Belmont Park2150 Hempstead TurnpikeElmont
Buffalo Raceway5600 McKinley ParkwayHamburg
Finger Lakes5857 NY-96Farmington
Monticello Raceway204 NY 17 BMonticello
Saratoga Race Course267 Union AveSaratoga Springs
Tioga Downs2834 W. River RdNichols
Vernon Downs4229 Stuhlman RdVernon
Yonkers Raceway810 Yonkers AveYonkers

Kentucky Derby highlights

Legendary Secretariat set the Derby record in 1973 with a time of 1:59.40. Secretariat had the all-time Triple Crown run in 1973, establishing records in the Derby, the Preakness (1:53) and Belmont Stakes (2:24) that still stand nearly 50 years later.

The biggest Kentucky Derby longshot win came in 1913, when Donerail paid out at 91-1 odds.

The highest attendance ever was in 2015, with 170,513 people.

Thirteen horses have gone on from the Kentucky Derby to win the Triple Crown. They are:

Horse (Year)
Sir Barton (1919)
Gallant Fox (1930)
Omaha (1935)
War Admiral (1937)
Whirlaway (1941)
Count Fleet (1943)
Assault (1946)
Citation (1948)
Secretariat (1973)
Seattle Slew (1977)
Affirmed (1978)
American Pharoah (2015)
Justify (2018)

The last two Triple Crown champions have been led by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. He is tied with Ben Jones for most Derby wins (six) and will likely have horses entered again this year.

Kentucky Derby FAQ

Can I bet on the Kentucky Derby online in New York?

Yes. The TVG horse betting app provides an option for New York bettors to wager on the Derby, and there are other horse betting apps to choose from, as well.

Where can I watch the Derby?

NBC is the broadcast home for the Kentucky Derby. You can catch the main race and other races there, while NBCSN will also chime in with coverage of the preliminaries. For streaming, NBC Sports provides coverage online and via its app.

How long does the Kentucky Derby take?

Approximately two minutes.

What is the largest known winning ticket on a Kentucky Derby?

Nearly $1 million, courtesy of the era of superfecta payouts for the top four finishing spots and a longshot race for the ages. In 2005, Giacomo prevailed at 50-1, followed by Closing Argument at 71-1 and Afleet Alex at 9-2. Don’t Get Mad completed the superfecta at 29-1. The ticket paid an unbelievable $864,000 for the $2 superfecta, still the largest Derby payout ever.

How much money does the Kentucky Derby winner get?

Barring any late changes, the winning connections earn $1.86 million, or 62% of the $3 million total purse. Second place is $600,000 Third place is $300,000.

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