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How to Bet the 2023 Kentucky Derby

This Saturday, May 6th, the most anticipated day in horse racing will take place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky in the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby. With that in mind, a vast audience will not only be watching the race but, with online betting legal in several states across the country, a huge amount of first-time bettors will be anxious to take part in one of sports’ great spectacles. Here is a guide on how you can place a wager on Saturday’s event.

(If you want to crush the Derby with our free superfecta strategy, click here)

How are The Odds Determined?

Each horse will have odds assigned to it based on the likelihood of winning. Remember, in any bet, you earn back your initial investment plus your winnings. For example, if you bet $2 to win on a horse that is a 3-2 favorite, you win back your $2 and $3 for the win to take home a total of $5. In other words, you win $3 for every $2 bet. Last year, the winner, Rich Strike, went off at 80-1 so a bettor won $80 for every $1 bet on Rich Strike.

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Types of Bets in HOrse Racing

There are two types of bets in horse racing: straight bets and exotic bets. Straight bets are placed on a single horse to either win, place (2nd) or show (3rd). You can also, which I recommend, bet the same horse across the board. This simply means that you can win if your horse comes in first, second, or third. A $2 across-the-board bet on a horse will cost you $6. If your horse wins the race, you get the money paid out for first, second, and third.

Exotic bets are bets placed on two or more horses to finish in a specific order. The level of difficulty increases with more horses involved but the payouts are higher. In the case of Rich Strike last year, with 80-1 odds to win, an exotic bet hit in that race would pay significantly more than it would had the favorite won the race.

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Here are examples of Exotic bets: 


This is a bet on two horses to finish first and second place and they have to finish in that exact order to win.


In this case, you place a bet on three horses to finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and, once again, they have to finish in the exact order you bet them to win the bet.


Now you are betting on the exact finish of the top four horses in the race. Once again, your odds go up but you have to hit this exactly to win the bet.

Boxing Exotic Bets

You can also decide to ‘box’ your bet in order to increase your odds of winning. A boxed wager pays out regardless of the order you bet the horses but is more expensive because you are paying for all the scenarios. So, you can box four horses in an exacta box and win if any two of the horses finish top-2 in the race.

Early Bettors Beware

One thing to keep in mind, you can certainly wager early but the odds you get for the race are the final odds that close at race time. For example, if you place a wager on Thursday prior to the race on Saturday, your horse might have odds of 26-1. However, by race time, the horse’s odds could have dropped to 4-1 based on betting interest. The 4-1 odds will be the odds you get for the race. I generally wait ten minutes or less before race time before I make my wager. This gives me a good idea of where the ‘smarts’ are putting their money and the opportunity to make a more educated bet. Either way, have fun, do some studying, and don’t bet beyond your means!

See our expert Kentucky Derby predictions with exotics betting strategies. A parlay bettors dream!


  • Mark Ruelle

    Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team! He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.