The Kentucky Derby is one of the most beloved sporting events in the United States, an annual race that is the first leg of horse racing’s “Triple Crown.” Held on the first Saturday in May, the Derby is the most-watched, most-attended, and most-wagered-on horse race in the U.S.
Note: Undercard races are held as part of the Kentucky Derby weekend, but for the purposes of this piece, we’ll only be referring to the headline race unless otherwise indicated.
About the Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby is a 1 ¼ mile race held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. First held in 1875, the race is typically run on the first Saturday in May, though the dates changed during World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the United States.
Thoroughbreds who are three years old are eligible to run in the race, meaning each horse gets only one crack at winning. The field typically consists of 20 horses and is dominated by colts, though three fillies have won the race: Regret in 1913, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.
The Derby carries the nickname of “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports,” as most winning times come in right around the 2:00 mark (the fastest win was Secretariat at 1:59.40 in 1973). It is also known as the “Run for the Roses,” as the race winner is adorned with a rose blanket in the winner’s circle.
History of the Kentucky Derby
Here is a brief timeline of the major moments in the history of the Kentucky Derby:
Kentucky Derby racing odds explained
Kentucky Derby racing odds can be represented in several different ways, and this is often a stumbling block for those new to the betting scene. However, with a little preparation, you’ll have the odds mastered in no time.
The most common listing you’ll see, especially when watching the Kentucky Derby on TV, is called “fractional odds.” These would be written out as “15/1,” “15-1,” or “15:1.” All of those representations mean the same thing: for every dollar wagered, you’ll earn $15 on a winning bet.
Outside of the United States, seeing decimal odds listed is more common. Decimal odds list a single number which is the payout total of a $1 bet. Using the same odds from the previous example, a horse at 15/1 odds would be listed as “16” in decimal odds ($1 bet plus $15 profit = 16).
You may also see “implied probability” listed next to the odds lines. Implied probability is the likelihood of a given outcome happening and is calculated by dividing 1 by the decimal odds. From our example, this would be 1/16 for an implied probability of 6.25, meaning a 6.25% chance of that horse winning.
Where can you bet on the Kentucky Derby?
You can bet on the Kentucky Derby both in-person and online in KY, with advantages and disadvantages to each. Most of the time, it will be more convenient to use an online racebook to place your wager. Still, if you’re willing to travel to Churchill Downs to make your bets, you’ll be in for an incredible atmosphere, and a one-of-a-kind betting experience.
Since that may not be feasible for a majority of players, here are some of the top online options.
What kind of bets can you place on the Kentucky Derby?
Horse racing bets use different terminology than the traditional sports betting lingo, but they aren’t nearly as intimidating as they might seem at first. Here are some of the most common kinds of bets you can place on the Kentucky Derby.
Guide for betting on the Kentucky Derby online
Betting on the Kentucky Derby online will be easy wherever you decide to place your bets. The process will look similar regardless of the site or mobile app you use, and these are the steps you take:
Famous past winners of the Kentucky Derby
Each horse that wins the Kentucky Derby carries a degree of fame and prestige. As one of the top races in the world and the first leg of the Triple Crown, all winners are special, but a few have separated themselves from the rest. Here are some of the most famous past winners of the Kentucky Derby.