The Kentucky Derby is not just a sporting event. It is an American institution filled with pageantry and tradition, a celebration of man’s partnership with the horse.
Every year since 1875, the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds in the United States (and increasingly, the world) line up in the starting gate at Churchill Downs for what is colloquially- and accurately- known as “The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports.”
As the 2024 event will be the race’s 150th edition, it promises to be an even greater spectacle than usual, and is sure to draw in not only experienced horseplayers and long-time fans, but casual bettors and, hopefully, even those who are witnessing their very first race.
The thought of wagering money on a horse race is thrilling, but the actual process can be very daunting to those who are unfamiliar with placing bets or choosing horses beyond picking the one with the funniest name. You can check TwinSpires guide here for extra help: https://www.twinspires.com/edge/racing/betting-info/horse-racing/
Furthermore, here are some tips for new bettors that will prove profitable as the 150th Kentucky Derby approaches!
Can The Bloodlines Get The Distance?
The Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles long, which is longer than any of the Kentucky Derby prep races (races that horses run in to gain experience and entry into the Kentucky Derby) or, in fact, any race created for Thoroughbreds of that age. It can therefore be a challenge to determine which horses will have the stamina to hold on at the end.
One of the most reliable predictors of stamina, however, is a horse’s pedigree. If a horse’s sire, dam, or damsire has either had success at 1 ¼ miles (or longer) or has a record of producing horses who succeed at longer distances, it is most likely that the horse has the capability to run that distance as well.
Let’s look at Mage (the 2023 Kentucky Derby winner) as an example. Mage’s sire is Good Magic, who finished a good second to Triple Crown winner Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, and is himself a son of notable stamina source Curlin. Mage’s dam, Puca, is by Big Brown, who won the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
It is unfortunate that most horses nowadays do not run as frequently as they used to. However, the Kentucky Derby is a very energetic and unpredictable event, with a larger field, a louder crowd, and a longer distance than any of the horses have ever experienced before. Horses that are more mature, and have more experience in races, tend to be safer bets.
Let’s look at ten of the most recent Derby winners (eliminating 2021 due to ongoing cases regarding the outcome of the race, and 2020 because it was held later in the fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic) to get a better picture of how much experience is necessary to win the Derby. Coming into the Derby, those horses had an average of 5.8 starts. In addition, all except for Mage and Justify (the least experienced Kentucky Derby winners) had raced at the age of two.
Follow The Numbers
“Numbers” in this case refers to speed figures that are calculated by horse racing experts. These speed figures are often used to compare the quality of races that are held at different tracks, and are an attempt to analyze the actual speed of the horses in those races while accounting for issues such as surface and track bias. There are a number of different figures available; some of the most popular include Beyer Speed Figures, Brisnet Figures, and Thorograph Numbers.
Prior to the 2023 Kentucky Derby, Mage’s best Beyer Speed Figure was a 95, which tied him for fifth best in the field alongside Grade II Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns. That 95 came from Mage’s most recent race, the Grade I Florida Derby, in which he finished second to Forte. Not only did Mage have a speed figure that showed he belonged among the top of his crop, his most recent race producing his highest figure showed that he was improving. The highest Beyer in the field belonged to Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Two Phil’s, who finished second to Mage in the Kentucky Derby.
Use A Betting Calculator
Some bets are relatively simple. If you are only betting a single horse in a single race, the process is relatively straightforward: you go to the betting window or app, select the horse you want, and pay the amount of money you are wagering. Then, when your horse wins the race (or finishes second or third if you bet them to place or show), you collect your winnings.
However, exotic wagers, in which you bet multiple horses in a race, can be more complicated. Some of them can wind up being more costly than expected, and it can be easy to accidentally overspend before the race even begins.
Betting calculators can help you figure out exactly how much money you are spending, and some can even help you calculate your potential winnings.
Author: Lindsay Griffin