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Betting on the Kentucky Derby - The Complete Beginner's Guide

Kenyucky Derby 2024

The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious horse race in the United States, taking place annually on the first Saturday in May at the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. As a Kentucky Derby betting beginner looking to get in on the action for the 2024 event on May 4th, here is an in-depth guide on everything you need to know.

✈️ Making the Trip to Louisville for the Derby #

Experiencing the electric atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby in person should be on any racing fan’s bucket list. Here are some tips for traveling to Louisville:

Lodging #

Hotel rooms in Louisville and surrounding areas book up extremely early for Derby week. Reserve a room as soon as possible, ideally 12 months in advance or more. Expect to pay a premium if booking last minute. Popular hotel chains in downtown Louisville near the track include Marriott, Omni, and Hyatt.

Alternative Accommodations #

For more affordable or unique stays, try Derby-themed Airbnb properties in Louisville, nearby Southern Indiana, or across the Ohio River in Cincinnati. These can range from budget couches to luxury homes for large groups. Vacation rental companies like VRBO also list houses perfect for a Derby weekend.

Arriving via Louisville International Airport #

Louisville International Airport (SDF) is just 15 minutes from Churchill Downs, making it the most convenient major airport. Over a dozen domestic carriers offer direct flights into SDF including Southwest, American, Delta and United. Avoid wasting time driving or paying for flights into airports like Cincinnati (1 hour+ away).

Local Transportation #

While having a rental car provides maximum flexibility, much can be seen in Louisville without one. Use rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, which will have dedicated pickup/drop-off zones at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Taxis can be hailed curbside throughout the city as well.

Derby Week Events #

The Kentucky Derby Festival takes place over two weeks leading up to the race, featuring dozens of events like the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show, the Great Steamboat Race river competition, marathons/fun runs, hot air balloon races, and the largest annual fireworks display in North America. Here is a list of all the events.

🏇 An Introduction to Betting on Horse Racing #

Here is a beginner's primer on reading odds and placing bets:

Understanding Odds #

Horse racing odds are displayed as payout numbers based on a $2 bet. Odds of +300 mean a $2 wager would payout $6 ($2 initial bet + $4 profit). The lower the odds, the more likely that horse is expected to win.

Kentucky Derby Odds #

The odds for the 2024 Kentucky Derby were set in the official morning line on April 29th after the post position draw. As a pari-mutuel race, the odds will fluctuate based on how fans are betting leading up to post time. Higher demand results in lower odds for a horse.

Several horses have scratched since the initial morning line odds were set. Cyclone Mischief and Mandarin Hero have drawn into the race off the also-eligible list.

Below are the expected odds to win for each horse:

Horse Trainer Odds
Tapit Trice Todd Pletcher 9/2
Angel of Empire Brad Cox 9/2
Derma Sotogake (JPN) Hidetaka Otonashi 7/1
Two Phil’s Larry Rivelli 7/1
Kingsbarns Todd Pletcher 10/1
Mage Gustavo Delgado 17/1
Jace's Road Brad Cox 32/1
Raise Cain Ben Colebrook 30/1
Rocket Can William Mott 27/1
Confidence Game Keith Desormeaux 16/1
Hit Show Brad Cox 26/1
Disarm Steven Asmussen 24/1
Sun Thunder Kenneth McPeek 30/1
Reincarnate Tim Yakteen 13/1
Mandarin Hero Terunobu Fujita 21/1
King Russell Ron Moquett 32/1

The minimum bet is $2. Bets range from easy Win/Place/Show picks to more complex wagers:

  • Win - Horse must finish 1st
  • Place - Horse must finish 1st or 2nd
  • Show - Horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd
  • Exacta - Pick top 2 horses in exact order
  • Trifecta - Pick top 3 horses in exact order
  • Superfecta - Pick top 4 finishers in exact order

Betting Strategy for Beginners #

Those new to handicapping should keep it simple. Avoid complicated bets like Superfectas that are difficult even for experts to pick correctly. Stick to straightforward wagers like Win, Place or Show until you better understand factors that impact outcome.

Start with small $2 bets and do not break your budget chasing longshot payouts. As you gain experience, you can increase bet complexity and amounts wagered.

🏆 Handicapping the Kentucky Derby: Picking Potential Winners #

With up to 20 horses competing in the mile-and-a-quarter Derby, evaluating contenders can be overwhelming initially. Here is guidance on handicapping the field:

Research Prospective Contenders Online #

Expert analysis from sites like TwinSpires, BloodHorse, Daily Racing Form and more can identify early favorites and rising stars to watch. Moreover, here is a site that has all the contenders for 2024 listed.

As Derby Day approaches, these sites provide updated news, workouts and odds for all entries. Here is a great video on the contenders for 2024.

Review Past Performances #

Analyze a horse's finishes in its most recent prep races leading up to the Derby. Consistently hitting the board against high stakes competition indicates a contender.

Jockey Experience Matters #

While the horse provides the power, the jockey strategizes the race. Veterans like John Velazquez, Joel Rosario and Mike Smith can expertly navigate their mount through Derby traffic.

Assess Workouts at Churchill Downs #

Leading Derby candidates arrive early to train at Churchill. Exceptional gallop times posted during morning workouts signal a horse may be peaking perfectly for race day.

Post Positions & Draw Analysis #

Inside posts (1-5) fare better statistically, saving ground against the rail. If an early favorite draws far outside, it's odds may rise from having a more difficult trip.

Continue researching to further understand factors that shape outcome like breeding, running style, connections, post position draw and more. Then determine if the intangibles line up for your picks when finalizing your betting tickets.

🏁 Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Races #

The Road to the Kentucky Derby consists of a series of prep races that offer qualifying points to determine eligibility to enter the Kentucky Derby. Higher finishing positions earn more points, with races closer to the Kentucky Derby typically having higher point values.

Date Race Track Points Distribution Winner
February 17, 2024 Risen Star Stakes Fair Grounds 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
February 24, 2024 Rebel Stakes Oaklawn Park 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
March 2, 2024 San Felipe Stakes Santa Anita Park 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
March 2, 2024 Fountain of Youth Stakes Gulfstream Park 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
March 2, 2024 Gotham Stakes Aqueduct 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
March 9, 2024 Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Downs 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
March 23, 2024 Louisiana Derby Fair Grounds 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
March 30, 2024 UAE Derby Meydan Racecourse 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
March 23, 2024 Jeff Ruby Steaks Turfway Park 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
March 24, 2024 Sunland Derby Sunland Park 1st - 50
2nd - 20
3rd - 15
4th - 10
5th - 5
TBA
March 30, 2024 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
March 30, 2024 Florida Derby Gulfstream Park 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
April 6, 2024 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita Park 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
April 6, 2024 Blue Grass Stakes Keeneland 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA
April 6, 2024 Wood Memorial Stakes Aqueduct 1st - 100
2nd - 40
3rd - 30
4th - 20
5th - 10
TBA

🍀 How and Where to Bet on the Kentucky Derby #

Finally, once finished handicapping, here is how and where to place your wagers:

On-Track Betting at Churchill Downs #

Join 170,000 raucous fans packed into the home of the Kentucky Derby. Place bets via self-service machines or tellers at over 100 wagering stations and get immersed in the electricity of the event.

Online Racebooks #

Utilize racebook sites legally approved to operate in your state:

TwinSpires - Created by Churchill Downs itself, TwinSpires is the official betting partner. Offers $400 signup bonus.

TVG - Owned by FanDuel, features expert commentary plus live race streaming. $200 signup bonus.

BetAmerica - Provides enhanced security measures and offers a $500 risk-free first bet.

These racebooks let you conveniently bet on your phone/computer up until post time. Compared to on-track, you’ll get expanded wager types, promotional bonuses and analytical tools to inform your picks.

I wish you the best of luck in your Derby betting adventure this upcoming May 4th, 2024 - whether you’ll be under the Twin Spires or watching from afar.

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