The Kentucky Derby is one of the most anticipated race days of the calendar year. It can be an extremely fun and lucrative day of betting as well.
In a pari-mutuel sport like horse racing that means that there is more money to go around to the winners. Taking even a little bit of time to handicap the race and formulate an opinion will immediately separate you from the players who choose to throw $5 on the jockey in the pink silks or the horse with the funny name.
This guide is designed to give you a leg up on the competition.
Pace Makes the Race
Understanding the pace scenario of the race is important. Some horses like to run on the lead while others like to sit off in a stalking position. There are also instances where horses like to sit several lengths off the leaders. After conserving energy they will try to accelerate to pass horses late.
The following is a pace analysis of this year’s runners. These are merely projections based on races to this point. It is not unusual for horses to suddenly take a different tactic to avoid trouble or catch the other jockeys off guard. However, the better idea of pace a player can have, the more likely they are to cash a ticket.
This year’s Kentucky Derby seems to have a handful of need-the-lead types sprinkled in with tactical speed horses. This makes the pace projection a little tricky because you may see a horse on the lead based on opportunity rather than need. The more options horses have, the more ways horseplayers have to be wrong.
One thing that doesn’t seem murky is that two horses in this field will likely do whatever it takes. #4 Summer is Tomorrow should get the best speed trip from the 4 post position while #17 Classic Causeway looks like he will have expend some serious energy to overcome the stalkers sitting in the middle of the gate.
Other horses that could pop to the lead if no one else goes would include #6 Messier and #3 Epicenter. Both of these runners do seem handy enough to win on the lead or as stalking type runners.
This is where many of the most dangerous runners will be located. Depending on the early speed, #6 Messier and #3 Epicenter have already been established as horses potentially in this group.
Others that will look to sit just a few lengths off the lead include the likes of #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, and #12 Taiba.
In a perfect world there are a few outside runners that would like to be closer but may be further back due to post position.
This group is likely to sit anywhere from 4-6 lengths off the leaders. #16 Cyberknife, #13 Simplification, and #19 Zozos would all probably like to be a bit closer but there posts just may not allow for that.
Other runners in this portion of the field will likely include #9 Tiz the Bomb, #10 Zandon, #11 Pioneer of Medina, and #15 White Abarrio.
The rest of the field will likely be back even further. That is not a major concern for a runner like #1 Mo Donegal, but looks to be a bit much to overcome for the remaining closing types.
The rest of the closers are #2 Happy Jack, #5 Smile Happy, #14 Barber Road, #18 Tawny Port, and #20 Ethereal Road.
Final Kentucky Derby Analysis
The key to developing any strategy is to look at overall opinions in the race. In a 20 horse field, this is imperative to making affordable wagers.
One of my first opinions is that the closers have too much today. I will not use any on my tickets. This includes Mo Donegal which I’m hoping provides a little value.
Another opinion I have is that the 2 main speeds will fall apart in the stretch.
My bets will center exclusively on the stalkers and mid pack runners.
Kentucky Derby Picks
- Most Likely Pace Setter: #4 Summer Is Tomorrow
- Most Likely to Hit The Board: #10 Zandon
- Best Value Win Contender: #12 Taiba
- Other Win Contenders: #3 Epicenter and #6 Messier
- Live Longshots: #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb
Kentucky Derby Betting Strategy
Before you place a dollar on the Derby, figure out what your preferred betting style is and craft your bets according to that style. This will ensure that you can enjoy your Derby day experience. No matter how big or small your budget is, this wagering guide has something for everyone.
The following wagers are a combination of handicapping opinion and value estimation. With so many factors in horse racing it is hardly worth the risk to bet $20 to win $22.50. These wagers are designed to ensure that if they hit, the payout will be worth the risk.
Understanding the Wager Types
For those new to betting on horse racing, you may find it helpful to first become familiar with the various types of bets that will be outlined in this article. The wagers provided here will focus on the Double, Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta.
Before placing a bet always make sure you fully understand what is on your ticket and what needs to happen in order to win the bet.
For example, a 1/2/3 Trifecta means your horses must finish in that order. On the other hand, a 1,2,3 Trifecta Box means they can finish in any order. This is more likely to hit but is more expensive because you have to buy every possible combination.
If you’re not sure what your ticket means, it is usually best to cancel it.
Kentucky Oaks/Derby Double
While most will have their sights set on the Kentucky Derby, players can place bets before Friday’s Kentucky Oaks on the Oaks/Derby Double which requires you to have the top finisher in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
With a number of strong contenders in both the Oaks and the Derby, I will look to use a crisscross type of wager on this bet in 2022.
For the following wagers the word “with” will separate Oaks horses from Derby runners.
The total cost of each wager is listed in parentheses at the end of the bet. Total cost represents all combinations within the bet.
- $4 Double #7 Echo Zulu with #12 Taiba and #3 Epicenter ($8)
- $2 Double #4 Nest and #10 Kathleen O. with #12 Taiba and #3 Epicenter ($4)
- $2 Double #1 Secret Oath and #13 Shahama with #12 Taiba ($4)
- $2 Double Echo Zulu with #7 Crown Pride and #8 Messier ($4)
- $10 Double #4 Nest, #7 Echo Zulu, and #10 Kathleen O. with #12 Taiba and #3 Epicenter ($60)
- $7 Double #7 Echo Zulu with #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb, and #10 Zandon ($35)
- $5 Double #13 Shahama with #12 Taiba ($5)
Kentucky Derby Single Race Wagers
The following wagers can be placed at any time prior to the Kentucky Derby. It is usually best to wait until after scratches have come out to make sure there are no late changes to your bets.
The following bets are broken down by risk tolerance. Bets can be scaled up or down depending on your bankroll for the race.
It is important to remember that even conservative wagers are far from sure things. In general, the premise is that the conservative bets focus on maximum coverage of likely outcomes to increase the probability of having a winner that pays more than what you put in.
Aggressive bets are focused on making a score that you will be telling your buddies about for the next decade of Derbies. While these bets undoubtedly will have much higher payouts they are also predicated on significant chaos occurring and there is a much better chance of walking out with nothing but your memories of the Run for the Roses.
Moderate wagers fall somewhere in between with a bit of hedging on more likely outcomes with one or two chances to make a considerable score.
Some of the wagers below use the terms “Box”, “Key”, and “Wheel” which represent assigning multiple horses to a specific placing position.
The word “Box” means that the horses on your ticket can come in any order and you win. This is the most expensive and least efficient way to bet but can have its place in your Kentucky Derby betting strategy because of the liquidity in the pools.
The “Key” and “Wheel”
Keys and wheels are used to include multiple horses in different positions, without having to cover all possible combinations. These can be extremely helpful if you think you know the horse that will finish in a certain spot (key) or if you think a horse has little chance to hit one of the positions in the wager.
Wheels are best when you think a horse has a chance to win wire to wire or will completely fall apart and miss the board completely. Unlike the box which would require you to buy tickets with this horse in every spot, you can wheel them in the top spot and leave them off the rest of the ticket.
With wheels and keys the word “over” is used to separate between placing positions.
Example: Trifecta Key #1 over #2 and #3 over #2,#3, and #4
- #1 must be in first
- #2 or #3 must finish second
- #2,#3, or #4 must finish third
This approach assumes that the winner is one of three major players and sticks mainly to contenders with small savers should a longer shot find the exacta.
- $20 Win Place on #10 Zandon ($40)
- $1 Trifecta Wheel #3 Epicenter, #10 Zandon, #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #10 Zandon, and #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb, #10 Zandon, and #12 Taiba ($36).
- $2 Exacta Wheel #3 Epicenter, #10 Zandon, and #12 Taiba over #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, and #9 Tiz the Bomb ($24)
With the moderate approach #10 Zandon will be paramount to the wagers, keying him in every spot on the tickets.
- $30 Win on #12 Taiba ($30)
- $4 Exacta Key #10 Zandon and #12 Taiba over #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, and #9 Tiz the Bomb ($32)
- $4 Exacta Reverse Key #12 Taiba and # 6 Messier over #10 Zandon ($8)
- $1 Trifecta wheel #3 Epicenter, #10 Zandon, #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #10 Zandon, and #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb, #10 Zandon, and #12 Taiba ($36).
This strategy will be predicated on the fact that Taiba is the most talented horse in the field and is providing ridiculous value at the current price. If he ran the speed figures he has in his 5th start he would be the overwhelming favorite in this race.
It’s boom or bust here, but the wager will yield high value if correct.
- $25 Win #12 Taiba ($25)
- $5 Exacta Key #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb and #10 Zandon ($30)
- $1 Trifecta Key #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb, and #10 Zandon over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb and #10 Zandon ($30)
- $.50 Trifecta Key #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb, and #10 Zandon over #12 Taiba over #3 Epicenter, #6 Messier, #7 Crown Pride, #8 Charge It, #9 Tiz the Bomb and #10 Zandon ($15)
Good luck on all of your Kentucky Derby Wagers!
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