The Kentucky Derby is the most popular betting race in the United States. It’s the Super Bowl of horse racing and creates considerable media attention and interest from casual sports fans and bettors along with industry insiders and horsemen. Known as “The most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby generates huge betting action as America’s most wagered-on horse race. The Sport of Kings has clearly generated an interest from the casual fan when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, as wagering records, live attendance and Derby telecast viewership are at all-time highs.
NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage has averaged more than 14 million viewers each year since 2008. Fueled by a postrace inquiry and Country House’s controversial win, the 2019 race was the highest-rated Kentucky Derby Kentucky Derby since 2015 and third-most watched Derby since 1989 with 16.34 million viewers.
For the second-straight year, more than 150,000 fans weathered a steady late-afternoon rain at Churchill Downs. Wagering from all sources on the 2019 Kentucky Derby race increased 10% to $165.5 million from the previous record of $149.9 million set in 2018.
The 146th Kentucky Derby was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2020 but has since been moved to Sept. 5, 2020 due to coronavirus concerns. Here is more information and tips on betting the Kentucky Derby, and how you can watch and wager on the biggest race of the year.
- Date: Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020
- Time: 6:50 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC
- Tablet, Online, Mobile: NBC Sports App and streamed live on NBCsports.com/live
- Track & Location: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
- Distance: 1 ¼ miles (10 furlongs)
- Surface: Dirt
- Horses: 3-Year-Old Thoroughbreds
- Track Record: Secretariat – 1:59.40 in 1973
How to bet on the Kentucky Derby
So how do you bet on the Kentucky Derby and get involved in the exciting action? Fans can wager legally at racetracks, simulcast centers such as Off Track Betting (OTB) Centers, and on advanced deposit wagering platforms such as TVG, BetAmerica and TwinSpires, where bettors in 31 states can legally bet on the race from their mobile devices and web browsers. People who bet online at TwinSpires wagered $30.2 million on the 2019 Kentucky Derby, up 23% over 2018. You can also wager on horse racing legally in the state of Nevada at the hundreds of casinos with race and sportsbooks.
Best online horse racing sites
Types of wagers and bets
In addition to the traditional “straight” wagers (Win, Place, Show), fans can also attempt to cash big in the various “exotic” pools. Exacta (first two), Trifecta (first three), Superfecta (first four), and Super High Five (first five) wagering are all offered, and cashing a ticket in any of these pools can produce a bigger payday.
- Win: Bet on the horse you think you will win the Kentucky Derby.
- Place: Get paid the place price if your horse finishes first or second.
- Show: A show bet pays the least, but you win and get paid the show price if your horse finishes first, second or third.
- Exacta: Predict the first two horses in the correct order.
- Trifecta: Predict the first three horses in the correct order.
- Superfecta: Predict the first four horses in the correct order.
- Super High Five: Predict the first five horses in the correct order.
In 2018, Justify became the sixth consecutive favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. But the 2019 winner was 65-1 long shot Country House, who paid $132.40 to win on a $2 bet – the second-highest payout in Derby history. The race had a controversial finish when Maximum Security was disqualified for interference after crossing the finish line first. Code of Honor (14-1) was awarded 2nd place in the 2019 Derby to trigger a $2 exacta payout of $3,009.60.
Many racetracks, online sites and race and sportsbooks accept less than $2 bets on the exotic pools, so you can risk less. For example, you can place $1 exacta bets or .50 cent trifecta or even .10 cent superfecta bets at some locations. This allows you more betting options while including more horses at a lesser cost or risk.
An additional bet of interest is the Kentucky Oaks – Derby double in which you pick the winner of Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (for 3-year-old fillies) and Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby. Those are the guaranteed purses for each race and in 2019 the prizes for the Kentucky Derby were:
- 1st place: $1,860,000
- 2nd place: $600,000
- 3rd place: $300,000
- 4th place: $150,000
- 5th place: $90,000
Kentucky Derby post positions and odds
Post positions and betting odds for the 2020 Kentucky Derby will be posted the week of the race. Check back here for complete coverage of the post position drawing and morning line odds.
Lead-up prep races to the Kentucky Derby 2020
The 15 Championship Series races leading up to the Kentucky Derby will define the bulk of the 2020 Kentucky Derby field. Those races reward more recent form and run from late February to mid-April. There are seven Championship Series races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby that award 100 qualifying points to the winner, 40 points to 2nd place, 20 points to 3rd and 10 points to fourth. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby if they have not already earned enough points. Those races include:
- Louisiana Derby – March 21 at Fair Grounds
- Florida Derby – March 28 at Gulfstream Park
- UAE Derby – March 28 at Meydan Racecourse
- Wood Memorial – April 4 at Aqueduct
- Blue Grass Stakes – April 4 at Keeneland
- Santa Anita Derby – April 4 at Santa Anita Park
- Arkansas Derby – April 11 at Oaklawn Park
The last Louisiana Derby winner to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone (1996). The Kentucky Derby winner has not run in the Louisiana Derby in the last 17 years (Funny Cide, 2003).
Recent Florida Derby winners that also won the Kentucky Derby include Always Dreaming (2017), Nyquist (2016), Orb (2013), Big Brown (2008), Barbaro (2006), Monarchos (2001), Thunder Gulch (1995).
No recenty winners of the UAE Derby winners also won the Kentucky Derby.
Recent Wood Memorial winners that also won the Kentucky Derby include Fusaichi Pegasus (2000).
Blue Grass Stakes
Blue Grass Stakes winners that also won the Kentucky Derby include Spectacular Bid (1979).
Santa Anita Derby
Recent Santa Anita Derby winners that also won the Kentucky Derby include Justify (2018), California Chrome (2014), I’ll Have Another (2012).
Recent Arkansas Derby winners that also won the Kentucky Derby include American Pharoah (2015), Smarty Jones (2004).
The other eight Championship Series races award 50 points to the winner, 20 points for 2nd place, 10 points to 3rd and 5 points to fourth. Those races include:
- Risen Star Division 1 – Feb. 15, 2020 at Fair Grounds
- Risen Star Division 2 – Feb. 15, 2020 at Fair Grounds
- Fountain of Youth – Feb. 29, 2020 at Gulfstream Park
- Gotham – March 7, 2020 at Aqueduct
- Tampa Bay Derby – March 7, 2020 at Tampa Bay Downs
- San Felipe – March 7, 2020 at Santa Anita Park
- Rebel – March 14, 2020 at Oaklawn Park
- Sunland Derby – March 22, 2020 at Sunland Park
Watch how those horses perform and pay attention to their training, times, form and comments by the trainers in the biggest races leading into the Run for the Roses.
Five horses to watch in 2020
The Kentucky Derby points standings will change considerably throughout the month of March and April leading into the May 2 Kentucky Derby. The development of some of the leading thoroughbreds is fascinating to watch as they race into their 3-year-old campaign.
Leading into those Championship Series races are five horses to watch that have had some early success on the Derby trail. Stiffer competition awaits in late February, March and April as the excitement builds towards the first Triple Crown event of the Kentucky Derby. We’ll update additional horses to watch as the competition gets tougher and the biggest races unfold on the Derby trail.
1. Storm the Court
Storm the Court is the highest earner on the Derby trail with $1.13 million after winning the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita wire-to-wire at 45-1 odds. Trained by Peter Eurton with an ownership group that includes Exline-Border Racing, LLC, the son of Court Vision (13th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby) has Thoro-Graph figures that show steady improvement through his five career races. That includes his 2020 debut with a 4th place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) Feb. 9.
With 22 Derby points, Storm the Court has work to do and will be interesting to watch likely in the San Felipe March 7 and perhaps the Santa Anita Derby April 4. There is enough talent and versatility to win quality races on dirt, but his pedigree suggests he may have more success on grass as he develops. Probably not a Kentucky Derby winner, but can get into the field with jockey Flavien Pratt aboard. Not bad for a horse that sold twice at auction for prices of $5,000 and $60,000.
2. Tiz the Law
New York-bred Tiz the Law has the fastest Brisnet Speed Figure (108) this year after winning the Holy Bull (G2) as the favorite Feb. 1 at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut. He showed high-cruising speed throughout with Manual Franco riding a powerful final quarter mile to win by three lengths.
Tiz the Law trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Sackatoga Stable combined to win the 2003 Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide. Tiz the Law has three wins in four starts which includes the 1-mile Champagne (G1) last October when he blew by the favorite in the stretch to win by four lengths. Tiz the Law has a ton of talent and is improving, which is why he was the shortest-priced individual betting choice at 8-1 in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager in early February. He’ll be a favorite in the March 28 Florida Derby.
Enforceable has already run eight races including four Derby preps with a 3rd in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and 4th in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) gaining ground over a sloppy track. This year he won the Lecomte (G2) with a strong burst of speed and rally, and then finished 2nd in the faster division of the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds. He’s a deep closer who lost a little luster with his 2nd place finish in the Risen Star, but he made up ground on a tiring track that was difficult to close from far back.
Trainer Mark Casse is patient and knows how to bring along this son of three-time leading sire Tapit. He’s bred to improve with time and has the stamina-oriented pedigree to be a factor in the 1 ½ mile Belmont. No son of Tapit has won the Kentucky Derby in 10 tries, but Enforceable is one to watch in the Louisiana Derby as he makes his bid to join the Run for the Roses field.
4. Gouverneur Morris
Gouverneur Morris made his 2020 debut off a four-month layoff and just missed the track record in the 1 mile 40 yards allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs Feb 14. The jockey/trainer tandem of John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher has won the Derby recently with Always Dreaming (2017), and will try to finish 1st or 2nd in the Florida Derby with this colt to gain entry to the Kentucky Derby. Gouverneur Morris finished 2nd as the favorite to Maxfield in the 2019 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and just in front of Enforceable. He won his maiden debut by nine lengths at Saratoga after being purchased at the Fasig-Tipton’s 2-year-olds in training sale for $600,000.
Owned by Team Valor International and WinStar Farm, LLC, this classy colt by Constitution really improved in his works leading into his 2020 debut, and a top finish in the Florida Derby will have him peaking as a Kentucky Derby contender.
5. Café Pharoah
Café Pharoah is now 2-for-2 for trainer Noriyuki Hori after winning the 1-mile Hyacinth Stakes Feb. 23 at Tokyo Racecourse. The son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah came from the back of the pack with rider Mirco Demuro aboard to top a field of 14 and take the Japan circuits points lead with 30. The Japan and European roads to the Derby are ranked on leaderboards separate from the domestic preps. Following the March 28 Fukuryu at Nakayama Racecourse, Churchill Downs will extend an invitation to the top points earner. Owner Koichi Nishikawa will have a decision for the lightly-raced Café Pharoah following another strong showing in the Fukuryu. But clearly the Pharoah name and Café’s performance will draw further attention.
Picking a Kentucky Derby winner
Betting on horse racing has never been easier, but selecting a winner and predicting the puzzle in the exotic pools in search of a big payoff takes a little more time, skill and some racing luck. The 20 horses running in the Kentucky Derby is the largest field of any American race, and while the payouts are larger, it can be more difficult to handicap and determine the winner with so many factors to consider including each horse running 1 ¼ miles for the first time in their racing careers.
The Kentucky Derby has up to a maximum of 20 horses in the field, and those horses have qualified through 36 Kentucky Derby prep races in the United States and another seven races in Europe and three races in Japan.
There are many ways to handicap a horse race, and there is no shortage of opinions or angles when it comes to the handicapping the Kentucky Derby and the numerous prep races leading up to the Run for the Roses. From a beginners betting guide to the most sophisticated tools for informed handicappers, there are many pieces of information and betting guides to assist you in identifying a potential Kentucky Derby winner and narrowing the list of top contenders.
- Handicapping horses and the races takes much time, research and intuition. Beyond studying past performance charts and horse stats, speed figures, class ratings, tracks and bias, jockey and trainer stats, horse pedigree and even post position (Kentucky Derby Draw is Tuesday, May 1), a handicapper has to have insight and ability to find various ways to identify horses that are ready to win. You may not have time to study race videos, tracks, surfaces or find horses that had troubled trips in recent races. But it’s important to distill information that can help you identify horses that may offer some value next time out or others in good form or improving that can provide value wagering opportunities.
- Races and horses should be backed based on positive attributes and not as a result of who’s the best of the worst. As you study some of the betting guides and training tools, you’ll become better prepared and equipped to analyze races in a more meaningful way. That includes the Kentucky Derby and the prep races leading up to the Derby. Understanding ‘how’ a horse has run leading up to a race versus the far less important ‘where’ the horse finishes and ‘what’ time he/she completed their recent races will help you become more proficient.
Five biggest Kentucky Derby longshot winners ever
As we witnessed again in the 2019 Kentucky Derby when Country House won at 65-1 odds, there is no sure thing and nothing is certain in horse racing. The winning horse is not always the best horse, and in a field of 20 at the Kentucky Derby, a little bit of racing luck and a good trip makes for a better chance to win. Some of the biggest upsets in the history of the Kentucky Derby have made for some sensational stories.
1. Country House (2019)
In a historical reversal, Country House was declared the winner of the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby after an objection was filed, claiming that Maximum Security, who crossed the finish line first, had interfered with the path of multiple horses at the top of the stretch. Maximum Security was disqualified to 17th place, allowing Country House to be declared the Kentucky Derby winner. At 65-1 odds, Country House became the second-longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby behind Donerail (91-1), who beat a field of eight in 1913. Jockey Flavien Prat and trainer Bill Mott both won their first Kentucky Derby with Country House, who paid $132.40 on a $2 win bet.
2. Go For Gin (1994)
At 9-1 odds, Go For Gin was not one of the biggest longshots to win the Kentucky Derby. But his victory was shocking as the 2-1 favorite Holy Bull looked too good to lose having won eight of nine races entering the Run for the Roses including more than six lengths better than Go For Gin in the Florida Derby. But Go For Gin took to a sloppy Churchill Downs surface following a torrential rain and stole the race on the front with Chris McCarron aboard replacing Jerry Bailey and splashing home to win by two lengths with the heavy favorite Holy Bull finishing twelfth.
3. Giacomo (2005)
Giacomo was able to succeed in the 2005 Kentucky Derby where his sire, Holy Bull, had failed in 1994. The gray colt came from 18th at the three-quarter pole and rallied desperately with jockey Mike Smith aboard at odds of 50-1 to win a thrilling finish in the final strides by a half-length over fellow long shot Closing Argument (71-1). Giacomo actually denied a Triple Crown bid with his late charge as Afleet Alex won the Preakness and Belmont after finishing a close 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Giacamo won the Derby with only a maiden win to his credit and a fourth place finish in his final Derby prep.
4. Mine That Bird (2009)
Mine That Bird was one of five horses at 50-1 odds and sat dead last in the Derby field of 19 through three quarter miles. Then jockey Calvin Borel got the son of Birdstone to rush up along the rail and the Canadian colt blew by the field on a sloppy track to win by nearly seven lengths over Pioneer of the Nile in an epic upset. Mine That Bird went on to finish 2nd in the Preakness and 3rd in the Belmont, but did not win a race in his final nine starts following the shocking Kentucky Derby win, which paid $103.40 on a $2 win bet.
5. Thunder Gulch (1995)
Thunder Gulch entered the Kentucky Derby as an accomplished 3-year old having won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. But a 4th place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes as the favorite three weeks before the Derby had handicappers questioning trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ fine colt. Bettors would regret severely overlooking this live longshot at 24-1. When jockey Pat Day decided to ride the Derby favorite Timber Country (3rd), Lukas turned to jockey Gary Stevens. The rest is history, and at 24-1 odds, it’s shocking a Florida Derby winner could go off at those long odds. Thunder Gulch remained within striking distance at the top of the stretch and put away the field by 2 ½ lengths over closers Tejano Run and Timber Country with the front-running filly and favorite Serena’s Song fading to finish sixteenth. Thunder Gulch finished 2nd in the Preakness before winning the Belmont and Travers Stakes.
Honorable mention: Gallahadian (35-1) in 1940 over 2-5 favorite Bimelech, who went on to win the Preakness and Belmont. Gato Del Sol (21-1) in 1982, Charismatic (31-1) in 1999 and Animal Kingdom (21-1) in 2011 after the favorite Uncle Mo scratched out of the race.
Kentucky Derby history: betting odds and winners
|2012||I’ll Have Another||2:01.83||15-1||$32.60||Fast|
|2009||Mine That Bird||2:02.66||51-1||$103.20||Sloppy|