How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

While it may go by in a flash, few things in sports are more exciting than the Kentucky Derby. It’s the biggest horse racing event of the calendar year. As such, it captures attention on a national scale, attracting huge interest from fans and bettors alike. 

Lots of casual fans join the party on Derby DayAlso known as “the Run for the Roses,” the Derby is held annually at Churchill Downs in Lexington, KY. It’s a festive atmosphere and a highly sought-after ticket, but folks in Pennsylvania don’t need to make the trek down south to get in on the action. It’s completely legal to bet on horse racing in PA. You can wager on the ponies online or via mobile app legally and safely.

We’ll tell you how to wager and also examine everything else you need to know to place your horse racing bets on the Kentucky Derby and hopefully cash some tickets.

Best Kentucky Derby betting sites

You don’t need to be a horse racing savant to bet on the Kentucky Derby. New players can get involved with ease. While there are options to consider if you’re looking to do so in person in the Keystone State, it’s pretty hard to beat the flexibility of betting when and where you want.

You can do so online or via mobile legally and safely. The best place to go to wager on horse races is the FanDuel Racing app and website which offers a popular and user-friendly platform.

Through FanDuel Racing, you can place bets on races from around the globe, including the Kentucky Derby. To get started, all you need to do is click on our exclusive links to create an account. From there, it’s just a matter of entering a few simple details such as your name and email address.

Once that’s all set, click on “Complete Registration.” Your new account will be created right away. Mobile Apple users should take the time to download the iOS app from the main website. Afterward, log in on mobile, and you’ll be ready to bet from wherever you are.

Android users aren’t out of luck. The site is fully optimized to work on mobile. After you have created an account via our exclusive links, visit the site on your device and log in for mobile access.

From start to finish, you’re looking at just a couple of minutes of your time. FanDuel Racing is a top-notch operator that offers all the bells and whistles you need to place your bets on the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby 2024 odds and betting favorites

The 2024 Kentucky Derby took place on Saturday, May 4. The post position draw took place a week before and the opening odds, aka the “morning line odds,” were announced as well. Here is how that 2024 Kentucky Derby post draw went and what those opening odds were:

Post PositionHorseMorning Line Odds
2Sierra Leone3-1
3Mystik Dan20-1
4Catching Freedom8-1
6Just Steel20-1
7Honor Marie20-1
8Just A Touch10-1
10T O Password30-1
11Forever Young10-1
12Track Phantom20-1
13West Saratoga50-1
15Domestic Product30-1
16Grand Mo The First50-1
20Society Man50-1
21Epic Ride50-1
Mugatu (Alternate)

Note that once advance deposit wagering opened up, those odds began to shift as bets were placed on the different horses. By the time the race was run, eventual winner Mystik Dan went off at 18-to-1, meaning there had been some betting on the long shot, but not a great deal. In any event, those lucky bettors who picked Mystik Dan to win earned a cool $39.22 for a $2 bet to win.

Horse Racing Bet Types

Once the odds become available, you can pick the horse you think will win the Kentucky Derby, place your bet, and call it a day. While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, you could miss some potentially lucrative opportunities.

There are several wagering types to consider when betting on horse racing. Here are the simplest ones on the list of options:

  • Win: This is a bet on the winner of the race.
  • Place: A wager on a horse to come in second place or better.
  • Show: A bet on a horse to finish in third place or higher.

You can place all the above wagers for as little as $1 at some tracks, while others have a minimum wager of $2. Payouts will vary based on the amount of money in the pool. You can also combine the above bets on a single horse, such as a Win/Place/Show or Win/Place bet.

Next up are the exotic wagers. These are bets that require you to go beyond the winner and also project out top finishers. Here are the wagers that fall into that category.

  • Exacta: A bet on the top-two finishers.
  • Quinella: Similar to an exacta.
  • Trifecta: Wager on the top-three finishers.
  • Superfecta: Bet on the top four horses.
  • Super High Five: A wager on the top-five finishers in the race.

For each of the above bet types, you can place either straight or “box” bets. A straight wager means that you are picking the horses to finish in the exact order as listed on your betting slip. For a box bet, you can group several horses. As long as the horses you box finish in one of the designated finishing positions for the bet, you’re covered.

There are additional variations for these bet types as well, such as a “wheel” bet, which means you choose a single or multiple horses in one leg and do the same down the ticket.

While all the attention on Derby Day is on the signature race, there are plenty of other races for you to consider. Beyond the above bet types, that also opens the door to other wagers:

  • Pick 3: Pick the winner of three straight races.
  • Pick 4: Pick the winner of four consecutive races.
  • Pick 5: Pick the winner of five races in a row.
  • Pick 6: Pick the winner of six straight races.

If you only make one selection for each race, these bets can be entered for nominal amounts, such as $0.50 or $2. When you want to take your chances with multiple runners in each race, the cost of your ticket will rise based on the number of selections.

While these wagers are tough to hit, they’re lots of fun and increase your engagement with the entire card of racing. They can offer up some nice payouts to boot, especially if you pick some long shots to win along the way.

The road to the Kentucky Derby

If a horse qualifies for the Kentucky Derby, that horse has proven to be among the best 2- or 3-year-old runners for the season. How do horses go about doing that?

To make it to the “Run for the Roses,” horses have to go through a qualifying phase and rack up points while doing so. It’s akin to a team going through a regular season with the reward being a spot in the playoffs for the best performers.

There are two phases to be aware of: the Prep Season and the Championship Series.

The former gets underway in September of the year before the actual race and goes through the following February. For races during Kentucky Derby Prep Season, several horses compete with the top-four finishers awarded points on a sliding scale, which is generally 10-4-2-1.

Once it’s time for the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, the stakes rise tremendously. Points are still awarded to the top four in each race, but the amount awarded bumps up to 50-20-10-5.

At the tail end of qualification is a series of races known as the Super Six. Once again, the stakes go up as the top finisher in these races is awarded 100 points.

These races are among the biggest highlights of the spring horse racing calendar. Here’s a look at the events, listed along with the hosting track:

  • Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park
  • Blue Grass Stakes, Keeneland
  • Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park
  • Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds
  • Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Park
  • Wood Memorial Stakes, Aqueduct

Horses who excel in these races will be among the favorites for the Derby itself, so keep that in mind as you prepare to handicap the race. We’ll walk through some other tips to look out for as you break down the race in a bit.

History of the Kentucky Derby

The first running of the Kentucky Derby took place in 1875. A horse known as Aristides won the inaugural race, which was contested over 1 1/2 miles in a time of 2:37:35.

Beginning in 1896, the length of the race was adjusted to 1 1/4 miles. That adjustment has stood the test of time as the Derby is still run at that length to this day. For the 2022 edition, Rich Strike was the winner in a time of 2:02:61.

The Derby has a rich history that has spanned over a century. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits:

  • Triple Crown Winners: Thirteen horses have won the trifecta of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Justify was the last to turn the trick in 2018.
  • Fastest Time: Secretariat completed the 1 1/4 mile run in 1:59:4 back in 1973.
  • Second-Fastest Time: Monarchos was the victor in 2001 at a time of 1:59:97.
  • Largest Margin of Victory: An eight-length victory has been accomplished four times, most recently by Assault in 1946.
  • Biggest Long Shot to Win: Donerail took down the Derby in 1913 at odds of 91-1.
  • Owner with Most Wins: Calumet Farm leads the way with eight, the last of which happened in 1968.
  • Jockey with Most Wins: Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack are tied for the all-time lead with five apiece. Arcaro’s last victory was in 1952, while Hartack last won in 1969.
  • Trainer with Most Wins: Ben A. Jones and Bob Baffert are tied with six victories each, with Jones’ last win coming in 1952, and Baffert’s in 2020.

Horse racing in Pennsylvania

If you are looking to experience the thrill of live horse racing action, folks in Pennsylvania have six racetracks that they can place on their bucket list. Here are the details:

  • The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono: 1280 Pennsylvania 315, Wilkes-Barre
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack: 777 Harrah’s Blvd., Chester
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course: 777 Hollywood Blvd., Grantville
  • The Meadows Racetrack & Casino: 210 Racetrack Rd., Washington
  • Parx Racing at Parx Casino: 3001 Street Rd., Bensalem
  • Presque Isle Downs & Casino: 8199 Perry Hwy., Erie

How to handicap the Kentucky Derby

As mentioned, you won’t be lacking for opinions on how the Kentucky Derby will shake out. There will be plenty of picks to be found online, as well as the preview shows that break the race down from top to bottom.

While there’s nothing wrong with considering advice from sources you trust, there’s also something to be said for doing some of your legwork and handicapping the race.

Like betting on any other sporting contest, there are several factors to consider which can point you in the right direction. Here are a few simple ones to key in on as you work toward handicapping the Kentucky Derby:

  • Lifetime winnings: All the runners in the field will be high-quality horses, but there are ways to separate them into tiers. One of the first things you can look at is lifetime winnings. This is a bottom-line stat, as those that perform the best make more money. However, keep in mind that some horses may have racked up earnings by competing in more events than their counterparts.
  • Performance in races leading up to the Kentucky Derby: The road to the Derby provides us with valuable intel to consider. If you take a look at the points standings, you’ll have a good sense of the horses’ overall strength in the field. Also, take it a step further and see how the runners performed in the key races. Where did they finish? Who did they finish in front of or behind?
  • Power and speed ratings: As with other sports, horse racing is chock full of stars. It can be pretty easy to get lost in the numbers as a result. However, you can still keep it simple and seek out all-encompassing numbers. Known as power or speed ratings, these numbers quantify the overall strength of the horses in the field. Compare them with all the entrants and break them down into tiers to gain a sense of how the field shakes out.

If you can at least go through the above three steps, you’ll be way ahead of those who just wing it on Derby Day. As time permits, you can dig even deeper and further research handicapping strategies that may work well for you.

Kentucky Derby FAQ

The 2025 edition of the Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday, May 3.

There have been 13 horses who have won horse racing’s Triple Crown, which consists of winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. The last horse to do it was Justify in 2018. Prior to that, American Pharaoh did it in 2015, which was the first time it happened since Affirmed did it in 1978.

The amount of the payout for a winning bet on the Kentucky Derby winner varies depending on the odds and the amount of money in the pool. As noted above, 2024 winner Mystik Dan who was 18-to-1 at post time paid out $39.22 for a $2 bet to win.

In 2022, Rich Strike was an even bigger long shot to win at 80-to-1 and thus paid a whopping $163.30. Meanwhile, when a favorite wins like Justify did in 2018, the payout for a winning bet is much smaller. In that case, Justify was 5-to-2 to win, so a $2 bet to win only returned $7.80.

In general, the biggest payouts will come from exotic wagers, which require you to pick not only the winner of the race but also the top finishers. For example, here were the payouts for the exotic wagers at the 2019 Kentucky Derby:

  • Exacta: $3,009.60
  • Trifecta: $5,737.65
  • Superfecta: $51,400.10

While the payouts were huge on these wagers that year, remember that it was a long shot that won the race that year (Country House at 30-to-1) and that these bets can be tough to hit.

Known as “the fastest two minutes in sports,” the race typically takes just a shade over two minutes. In 2020, the winning time for Authentic checked in at 2:00.61, the seventh fastest time in Kentucky Derby history. The all-time fastest finish for the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby came in 1973 when the legendary Secretariat crossed the finish line first at a time of 1:59:40.

NBC is the broadcast home for the Kentucky Derby. You can catch the main race and other races there, while NBCSN will also chime in with coverage of the preliminaries. For streaming, NBC Sports provides coverage online and via its mobile app.

Privacy Policy