How to bet the 2023 Kentucky Derby

Author: Tony CavalloPublished: 05/04/23
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Ah yes, the first Saturday in May has arrived and with it, our vague interest in the world of horse racing. This year, 23 horses will lineup in the starting gates and race around the 1.25 mile track at Churchill Downs hoping to write their name in history.

It's time for the Kentucky Derby!

How to bet the Kentucky Derby

If you're reading this, it is very likely you have little to no knowledge of horse racing - and that's OK! Neither do most of the millions who will place a bet for this year's Derby. While there are some strategy and trends that you can pour over in order to give yourself an advantage, in the end, it's down to which horse has the best two minutes of their life.

With 23 horses competing, there are an infinite amount of ways this race can turn out, and even more ways to make money on it. So let's dive into some of the bets you can make this Saturday.

Straight bets

These types of bets are pretty straightforward. You're predicting a horse will finish in a certain spot at the end of the race. How much you win depends on which horse you decide to hitch your wagon to.

To Win

Betting a horse to win is as simple as it sounds. You're picking a horse to win the Kentucky Derby. They cross the finish line before everyone else, head to the Winner's Circle and have some fancy flowery wreath put around their necks. I'm sure the horses love it?

What varies here are the different odds that the horses have to win. The favorites usually have odds around 3 to 1. Which means you triple your bet in they cross the finish line first.

Some of the horses who aren't expected to win can have very long odds. Usually this is capped at 50 to 1. Any amount you bet on a horse to win at 50-1 is multiplied by FIFTY if they win. These longshots are unlikely to cross the finish line first, but if they do, you'll be calling your accountant.

2022's Derby Champion, the aptly named Rich Strike, had odds of 30-1.

To Place and to Show

You can also bet on a horse to come in first or second at the Kentucky Derby. This is betting on a horse to place.

Betting on a horse to come in first, second or third is called betting on them to show.

The payouts get progressively worse on these but it is a lot easier to guess a horse in the top three than it is to predict which one wins the whole thing.

Combination bets

This is where the fun begins. With combination bets you're picking a handful of horses and hoping that all of them finish at the front of the pack. The odds here are exponentially higher, leaving you with a chance to turn $2 into tens of thousands. No, seriously.

In 2009, a certain combination bet called a trifecta would have cost you $2 and would have won you $41,500.

Some examples of combination bets for the Kentucky Derby

  • Exacta - predict the first two horses in correct order

  • Trifecta - predict the first three horses in correct order

  • Superfecta - predict the first four horses in correct order

Now, these bets are extremely difficult to hit, but with the risk being so low and the payouts so large, they are some of the most popular bets every year.

A popular strategy when betting combination bets in horse racing is called boxing the bets. When you box a combination bet, you are placing a different bet for every possible outcome of the horses you selected.

For example: You place an Exacta bet for $2 that has Horse A coming in first place and Horse B coming in second place.

If you take an Exacta Box that means you are placing the $2 Exacta bet as shown above and also placing a $2 Exacta bet that has Horse B coming in first place and Horse A coming in second place.

Altogether, you've bet $4 dollars on Horse A and Horse B to come in first and second in any order. That is called an Exacta Box. Two separate $2 Exacta bets boxed together as one.

You can do this for all of the combination bets listed above. If you want three horses for a $2 trifecta bet, a trifecta box will cost you $12 (six separate $2 trifecta bets) and make so that no matter how the three horses finish, as long as they are in the top three in any order, you win some big bucks.

Predictions for the 2023 Kentucky Derby

Predicting the Derby is a fool's errand. Anyone who says they know what's going to happen is lying to you. Whoever you pick and for whatever reason, go into it knowing that anything can happen. Most importantly, never bet an amount of money that you aren't willing to lose. Betting the Kentucky Derby is meant to be a fun, exciting event. Not a devastating loss.

My old friend Uncle Milty, who bets horses like it's his job, told me one piece of advice. He likes taking horses that are starting off next to each other in the starting gate. This year, two of the favorites - Angel of Empire and Forte - are starting in spots 14 and 15. Add in the hands-down best name in the entire field - SUN THUNDER - who is starting in spot 13 and you have one juicy trifecta to box up and serve on a silver platter.

Gaming Society's bet

A trifecta box of Sun Thunder, Angel of Empire and Forte. Game, blouses.

Create your own horse name!

Ok, this is just for fun. But it's accurate, right?