Betting is one of the main factors drawing new fans to the Sport of Kings- and it’s a good thing, as well, because that is how the sport is funded. People who are even just casual bettors clamoring to make a quick buck look forward to cashing tickets on the first Saturday in May.
However, for all of the history of betting on the Kentucky Derby, no one has discovered a foolproof method for picking winners.
Even the most famed horse racing handicappers have been positively embarrassed by the results of the Run for the Roses. No one proved this better than Rich Strike last year: not only was he a whopping 80-1 shot, he wasn’t even entered the race until five minutes before entries closed.
If even the experts are sometimes at a loss, how can a beginner hope to make a profit? Well, while there is no exact formula for picking winners, there are certainly observable patterns. Let’s take a look at some betting tips beginners might want to consider before making their wagers.
Table of Contents
Although racehorses are overall more lightly raced than they were in years past, having racing experience at age two is still incredibly important for Kentucky Derby winners. In nearly a century and a half of history, only two Derby winners had made their racetrack debut at age three: Apollo in 1882, and Justify in 2018.
Not only that, but three-year-olds have to have the right kind of experience. If a Derby hopeful wishes to even make it into the field, he must earn points in qualifying Derby prep races known collectively as the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
These races are designed to emphasize class and stamina and ensure that the twenty best-prepared three-year-olds have priority in the race. If you are currently considering making a futures bet on the Derby but your horse is not pointed toward prep races with Derby points, you will definitely want to rethink that.
What Have You Done For Me Lately
A good Derby choice must have a solid foundation of experience. However, their form must be improving as well.
A top quality runner at age two does not necessarily always evolve into a Triple Crown competitor at three. Some horses are precocious and take to the races sooner than their peers, only to find themselves overtaken by talent later on. Some struggle with stamina limitations as they mature and the races lengthen, while others were simply sour on racing altogether.
A horse who is unable to be competitive in the final group of Derby prep races is a horse to pass on, even if they dominated at age two.
Bridesmaids Over Brides
However, being competitive does not always mean winning. A good second or third place can provide just as much information about a horse’s condition and quality, especially against a good field of opposition.
In fact, three of the most recent Kentucky Derby winners came into the big race after losing their final prep. Rich Strike was third in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks, Mandaloun was fourth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby, and Country House was third in the Grade II Arkansas Derby. (It’s worth noting, of course, that the latter two horses were promoted to victory via disqualifications, but even so, Medina Spirit, who finished ahead of Mandaloun, also saw defeat in his final Derby prep.)
As long as a horse was not completely outmatched in their final Derby prep race, they may be worth considering at the betting window. These horses often provide better odds- and therefore more cash winnings- than horses who won their preps.