Kentucky Derby Betting: How to Wager & What the Bets Mean

Kentucky Derby betting

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Today the sporting world turns its collective attention to Louisville, Kentucky, and its venerated Churchill Downs racetrack, for the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

Dubbed “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” the Derby draws the attention of devoted and casual fans alike every year, as the first installment of horse racing’s yearly Triple Crown. Many new fans find themselves wondering how to bet on the event.

Here’s what you need to know:


Straight Bets

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Known as “straight bets,” Win, Place & Show are perhaps the most popular and straightforward horseracing wagers. Win is exactly as it sounds: betting on an individual horse to win the race outright. Betting on a horse to place means a wager is successful if the horse comes in second or first. A show bet will pay out if the horse finishes third or better.

Some racebooks offer a combination of the three as a convenient option. Betting across the board combines the three bets on a single ticket. If the horse wins, all three bets will pay out. If the horse finishes second, both the place and show will pay out. If the horse finishes in third, only the show bet will pay.


Exotic Bets

Wagers like the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta are commonly referred to as “exotic bets.” Each of these combines different, specific outcomes into a single bet.

An exacta is a bet that involves selecting the first and second place finishers. The horse selected for first place must win and the horse selected for second must place second in order for an exacta to pay out.

A trifecta adds another element to a trifecta; bettors must correctly pick the first, second, and third place horses in order.

A superfecta involves predicting yet another place. Bettors must select the first four horses, in the correct order, in order for a superfecta to pay out.


Box Bets

Exotic bets can be made in different ways as well. Box betting involves making multiple wager combinations.

An exacta box allows the bettor to select the horses he or she thinks will place first and second without specifying the order. As it involves two wagers, specifying that a $1 exacta box would cost $2 to place.

A trifecta box selects three horses to finish first through third in no particular order. With six potential outcomes, a $1 trifecta box costs $6 to place. A boxed superfecta has 24 potential outcomes, thus increasing the cost of the wager by a factor of 24.


Wheel Bets

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A wheel bet is another form of wagering on exotics bets. Some bettors find them preferable to box bets because they involve fewer combinations and, thus, cost less to place. Bettors should place a wheel bet when they are certain about the winner. There are two types of wheel bets: full wheels and part wheels.

A full wheel bet involves selecting a single winner outright, with each of the remaining horses put in the various positions being bet on. An exact wheel selects a single winner and puts each other horse in second place; an exacta wheel in eight-horse race combines 7 different exacta bets. A full trifecta wheel for an eight-horse race combines 42 different trifecta outcomes, with a single option for first place, seven options for second place, and six options for third.

A part wheel involves selecting a single winner and fewer options for the other positions. If a bettor is confident in four horses but is certain a single horse will come in first, a trifecta wheel selects that horse as the winner and fills in the other positions with different combinations. This part trifecta wheel bets on 12 different potential outcomes, as opposed to 24 combinations in a trifecta box.

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