How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Kentucky Derby betting windows

Derby goers line up at the wagering windows to place bets. (Getty)

Betting on the Kentucky Derby is fun and exciting and it’s something that many people look forward to each year. If you want to bet on the “fastest two minutes in sports” and you’ve never done so before, you may be confused by what you see.

Many people will just pick a horse to win the race, but there are several different combinations that you can bet to maximize your experience — and chance of winning. A horse’s trainer and jockey could sway your vote, as could a horse’s post position.

If you’d like to bet on the Derby and it is legal to do so in your state, you can click here.

Here are the basics that you need to know for betting on the Derby:

 1. Win, Place, Show

Nyquist wins the 2016 Kentucky Derby

Nyquist #13, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Gun Runner #5, ridden by Florent Geroux, and Danzing Candy #20, ridden by Mike E. Smith. (Getty)

The win, place, and show bets are the most popular, when it comes to the Derby, and horse racing in general. They are fairly simple to understand and are often referred to as “straight bets.”

A “win” bet is self-explanatory. This is the bet you place on the horse that you think will win the race. You can bet any amount that you wish, from $2.00 up. You can also bet on multiple horses to win, if you’d like. In order to collect money on this bet, the horse (or one of the horses) that you bet on must come in first. If your horse finishes second, third, or last, you will not win.

A “place” bet requires a horse coming in first or second place only. It doesn’t matter whether your horse finishes first or second. As long as the horse comes in the top two, you will get a return on this bet. You have a very good chance at winning a place bet, especially if you choose a horse that is favored to win the race.

A “show” bet pays out when the horse that you are betting on finishes first, second, or third. It doesn’t matter which position the horse finishes in, however. As long as the horse you bet on to “show” is in the top three, you will get paid.

2. Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta

2016 running of the Kentucky Derby

Horses competing in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. (Getty)

The exacta, trifecta, and superfecta are known as “exotic bets” and are the easiest ones in this group to master if you’re just starting out.

The “exacta” refers to the first two horses that finish the Derby in the “exact” order that you bet them. For example, if you think that horse No. 5 will win and that horse No. 8 will come in second place, you would bet an exacta 5, 8.

The “trifecta” refers to the first three horses that cross the finish line in exact order. If you think that horse No. 5 will be first, horse No. 8 will be second, and horse No. 4 will be third, you’d bet a trifecta 5, 8, 4. Those three horses must finish in that exact order for you to win this bet.

The “superfecta” takes the previous two bets to the next level and adds a fourth horse to the mix. In order to win a superfecta bet, you must select four horses and they must finish in the exact order that you bet them. If you believe that horse No. 5 will win, horse No. 8 will finish second, horse No. 4 will come in third, and horse No. 10 will come in fourth, you would bet a superfecta 5, 8, 4, 10. It is extremely hard to win this bet, but if you do, the payout is handsome.

3. Box Your Bets for Ease

Horse race betting

Betting on the Derby 101. (Getty)

Boxing your bets is an easy way to cover your bases if you want to bet multiple combinations of the same horses. As an example, let’s look at the trifecta. For this bet, you need the three horses you choose to finish in the order that you bet them. If you box your bet, those three horses can come in any order and you will win.

A boxed bet saves you time; rather than going in and placing all the different combinations of your top three horses, boxing them will do that for you and will calculate the bet amount accordingly.

If you box a bet, it’s important to note that even if you win on one of the combinations, you will lose the money that you bet on the others. You will only win on one of the boxed bets if your three picks finish the race first, second, and third.

4. Odds & Payouts

Kentucky Derby odds

The odds on the board at Churchill Downs. (Getty)

When it comes to horse racing, you are betting against other people, not against the horse track. The odds are determined by the other bets placed, not by any other factors. The odds in a given race don’t have anything to do with the track condition, a horse’s well being, or the jockey riding him.

If you place a $1 bet on horse that has 10/1 odds and you win that bet, you will be paid $10 for every $1 you spend. The payout for a win in this instance would be $11; that’s the initial $1 you bet and the $10 you won beyond that. On a horse with 3/2 odds, you would win $3 for every $2 you bet. A win on a horse with 3/2 odds would pay you $5 for a $2 bet.

Odds can fluctuate until the start of the race. If you win on any of your bets, you will be paid on whatever the odds are when betting closes.

If you are betting at a casino or track, you must bring your winning ticket to the cashier. If you lose your ticket, you will have no claim to any potential winnings. When betting using an app, or over the internet, your winnings will be sent directly to your account once they are calculated. If you win hundreds of dollars on the race, you may have to pay taxes on your winnings.

5. You Can Bet Online, Through an App, or at a Casino That Has a Race Book if You Are of Legal Age and it’s Legal in Your State

Placing Kentucky Derby bets

A man and a woman placing bets at a wagering window at Churchill Downs. (Getty)

The states that allow horse betting online are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. If you do not reside in one of the above-mentioned states, it is illegal for you to bet on horse racing online.

You can bet on the Derby at a casino with a Race Book (a room with televisions that air the races and windows designated for betting), over the internet via a gambling website, or on a mobile device using a trusted horse racing app such as TwinSpires. Many online race books will allow you to transfer funds directly from your financial institution once you’ve set up a betting account. Sign-up bonuses in the form of betting credits are often offered to first-time users.

You must be of legal age to gamble. You can check this website to see what the laws are in your state.

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