Kentucky Derby betting accounts for a large portion of the total dollar amount wagered on horses every year. This is the one horse racing event that generates widespread interest among racing enthusiasts and the general public alike. Gambling on the big event is just as much a tradition as mint juleps and big hats.
The 2020 Kentucky Derby takes place Saturday, May 2nd at the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack with a guaranteed purse of at least $2,000,000. This was the biggest race of the year in terms of attendance, prestige and betting action. If you’re of a mind to place a bet and make some money on the next Kentucky Derby, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will explain everything you need to know to bet on the Kentucky Derby.
Best Kentucky Derby Betting Sites
Ask enough people about their favorite horse racing sites and you’re going to get all kinds of answers. A lot of it comes down to opinion and personal preference. However, my experience has been that two sites in particular offer a product that is objectively better. That is, these betting sites are better by actual, measurable standards.
Read more about each of our top picks below.
Bonus: 100% up to $300
Why I like it: BetAmerica is US-legal and operates out of the United States. This is my favorite horse betting site of them all because it gets all the most important things right. BetAmerica offers extensive Kentucky Derby betting options, it has simple deposit methods and it pays winners very quickly.
Bonus: $100 bonus if you wager $500 or more in your first 30 days
Why I like it: TwinSpires.com is operated by the Churchill Downs company, which is the ancestral home of the Kentucky Derby itself. You can’t go far wrong by betting at the official betting site of the Kentucky Derby. The only reason TwinSpires doesn’t get my top pick is because of the smaller signup bonus. Aside from that, TwinSpires.com gets everything else right. You’ll have a safe, fun and satisfying experience if you choose this betting site.
It Is Legal to Bet on the Kentucky Derby Online
One of the nice things about horse racing betting is that you’re not obligated to show up in person to place bets. If you’re not one of the 150,000+ people expected to be in attendance, you can still get in on the action from the comfort of home. All you need is a computer and a horse to back.
Our readers from the United States should know that horse racing received an exemption from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. When this piece of legislation was passed, it effectively prohibited almost all forms of online wagering. Horse racing was exempted from the law and that means you can place your bets online in a completely safe and legal environment.
In fact, the Churchill Downs racetrack operates one of the largest horse racing betting sites of them all, TwinSpires.com. If you can’t make it to the event in person, you can visit TwinSpires.com to set up an account, watch the races live on your PC and place all the same wagers online that you would be able to place in person.
Best of all, any wager placed online is paid at full track odds. Churchill Downs pools all wagers taken online and in person. In other words, every dollar wagered in person, online or at any off-track betting (OTB) facility goes to the same pool. This pooling of wagers is an awesome thing because it has helped to grow payouts and purses year over year.
What if My State Doesn’t Allow Online Horse Racing?
Horse racing betting is only legal on a state-by-state basis. Rather than submitting to federal law, each state is able to determine whether or not it permits online horse racing betting. To further complicate matters, not all sites are licensed in all states. Some sites accept players from states that other sites do not. It’s a bit of a confusing mess.
The simplest way to figure out the legal situation in your state is to visit any US-legal racing site and try to sign up for an account. They will prevent you from signing up if you live in one of the states in which that site doesn’t operate. If you have trouble signing up at one site, go try another. You can also see our individual racebook reviews for lists of accepted states at each site.
Avoid offshore betting sites that are not licensed and operate contrary to US law.
How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby
As far as mechanics go, betting on the Kentucky derby is no different than placing a bet on any regular old race. You’ll see all the same types of bets for this race that you’d find any other time of year. The only real difference is in how much money is at stake.
If you have any familiarity with horse racing betting, you’re well-prepared to bet on the Kentucky Derby. The main thing you need to do is make sure you have an account at your favorite betting site and get it funded before the big day. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get an early start now and choose a racing site.
If you don’t have any experience with horse betting, don’t worry. There are a variety of simple bets that aren’t at all complicated. The following bets are all pretty easy to understand and should give you plenty of options to put some money on the line and hopefully win some cash.
Six Simple Bets
You could call these the “no experience necessary” bets of horse racing. I encourage anyone new to the game to start with these wagers. You’ll see below just how simple they are.
- Win: A straight-up bet on a single horse to take first place.
- Place: A bet on a single horse to take first or second place.
- Show: A bet on a single horse to take first, second or third place.
- Exacta: A bet on two horses to take first and second place in that order.
- Trifecta: A bet on three horses to take first, second and third place in that order.
- Superfecta: A bet on four horses to take first, second, third and fourth place in that order.
Beyond these basic bets, there are all kinds of advanced wagers that get complicated in a hurry. If you want to keep things simple, consider these your go-to wagers. You can take a look at our huge horse racing guide here to read a whole lot more about these bets and all the other types of wagers out there.
How the Odds Work
The payout odds on each horse are calculated based on current betting action. As money comes in before the race, the odds are updated in real time (or as close as possible to real time). The odds you see posted are subject to change dramatically as more wagers come in, but generally you should have a good idea of which horses are longshots and which are favorites.
Tracks take all the money that comes in, collect a fee off the top and then distribute the remainder to the winners. Longshot horses pay the most in this system because fewer people bet on longshots, so there are fewer people to split the pool with. Horses perceived as strong pay less because more people bet on the favorites, and this results in more winners splitting the pool when that horse wins.
The actual process of calculating the odds is quite complex due to there being so many different types and sizes of wagers that will need to be paid off at the end of the race. But generally speaking, it all comes down to how much action is put on each horse.
Making a Real Money Deposit
You’ll need to make a deposit if you have any plans on betting real money on the Kentucky Derby online. The first step is to find a horse racing website and sign up for an account. My top three picks are listed near the top of this page, but any site will do (as long as it’s a legitimate site).
After you have a betting account, it’s time to fund it. Each racing site provides several methods for moving money from your bank account to your wagering account. BetAmerica has the most deposit options, so I’ll use that site as my example today. Whichever betting site you use will have a similar list of deposit methods. It’s all pretty easy to get started.
Note: I recommend making a deposit sooner rather than later. Some deposit methods take a few days to get everything set up before your first deposit. Plus, it’s just smart to get it out of the way now in case you have any issues come up.
eCash: Most US-based horse racing sites offer electronic bank transfers of some sort. This is the easiest method to use because it works like an instant, virtual check. Just type in your banking details, choose your deposit amount and the money will be credited to your account instantly.
Credit Card: This is another simple method that works just like any routine online purchase. Type in your credit card number, expiration date and security code to authorize the transaction. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are accepted by all the major betting sites.
Green Dot MoneyPak: If you have actual cash that you’d like to deposit, head to your nearest Wal Mart or pharmacy to purchase a prepaid MoneyPak in person. Hand the cashier your money and she’ll give you a receipt with a number printed on it. Now, go back to your betting site, visit the deposit area and type in the number printed on your receipt. The funds will be credited to your account.
Vanilla Reload: Vanilla Reload cards are basically prepaid debit cards. You can pick them up at gas stations, pharmacies and other locations in every town. Take the card to the checkout counter and hand your money to the cashier. She’ll credit the funds to your card. Finally, take the card home and redeem it online to complete your deposit.
Neteller: Neteller is an online wallet that works sort of like PayPal. This one takes a couple days to set up because you have to sign up for an account, link it to your bank account and then verify your bank account. Once you have this all out of the way, Neteller is extremely convenient. It processes payments instantly and can be used to receive electronic withdrawals.
Wire Transfer: The wire transfer is the most expensive deposit method of them all with a flat fee that ranges from $20 to $40 depending on your bank. However, wires are great for large deposits that would be too big for other deposit methods.
Check or Money Order: If you choose a US-based horse racing site, you can always just write a check or get a money order and mail it to their headquarters. This deposit method takes almost forever because you have to wait for the mail to actually get there, and then your betting site has to wait for the check to clear.
More Information and Resources
The Kentucky Derby is a 1.25 mile race hosted on the first Saturday each May in Louisville, Kentucky. This race is open to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds only. This means that if a horse qualifies to run the derby, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for that horse. Out of all the racing events in the world, the Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious.
The first Kentucky Derby was hosted in 1875 and has been run every year since then. This year will be the 141st running of the event. Today, the Kentucky Derby is open to exactly 20 horses. To qualify, horses must run the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which is a series of 35 races hosted around the world. Points are awarded for first through fourth place finishes in reach race. The 20 horses with the most points at the end of the road earn a spot in the starting gate.
With an average attendance of 150,000, the Kentucky Derby is the most-spectated horse race in the United States. The tradition of betting on the race is as old as the Kentucky Derby itself. Many people are happy to bet just for the sake of having a stake on the outcome, but some people take Kentucky Derby betting very seriously. There are numerous resources that serious gamblers can use for research and planning.
Useful and Interesting Resources