2019 Kentucky Derby Wagering Strategies
The Kentucky Derby is the world's greatest horse race, and it's not even close. Owners, trainers and jockeys spend their whole lives obsessing about winning this race, and as soon as the Derby ends one year the focus starts shifting towards the next year's race. But as great as the race is, it can also be a total mess for bettors. A massive field of horses at their peak is asked to run further than ever before while almost certainly running into crowds and dealing with contact - all while a massive, drunken crowd screams their heads off. Crazy things can, and often do, happen. It's the only race that a lot of people bet on each year, and it's also the toughest race to bet on each year.
To give yourself the best possible chance you need some good Kentucky Derby wagering strategies. And that's just what we have here - five of them, in fact:
Go deep: Only one horse can win the Derby, so a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that they should only bet on one horse. That works great if you pick the right horse, but that is extremely hard to do - at least in years when one of the horses isn't as clearly dominant as Justify was last year. The good thing about the Derby is that the big field typically leads to some pretty big payouts. That means that you can afford to bet on more than one horse and still have a chance to come out with a solid profit. And if you look towards some of the exotics - even the relatively simple ones like the exacta - you can go even deeper because the payoffs have the chance to be even higher. In a race like this year, you almost have to go deep. Deciding which horse is clearly better among Omaha Beach and the three Baffert runners is very rough, and there are other horses you could easily like to win as well - like Tacitus , Maximum Security or Vekoma. You could kill yourself decided which one of those relative equals is best, or you can find ways to bet on all of them and still give yourself a good chance of coming out on top.
It's all about prices: Bad bettors only think about who is most likely to win. Successful long-term bettors know that what is more important is that the odds on a horse are attractive. If a horse has, in your eyes, a 20 percent chance of winning, then you wouldn't want to bet him at 2/1 because you would lose money over the long term. But at 20/1 you would throw money at the horse. The more effectively you can think in terms of value as opposed to pure results, the better off you are going to be in the long term.
Draw a picture of the race: Before you spend a lot of time looking at odds and crafting bets, you need to think about how you expect the race to turn out. You need to look at things like how fast you expect the early pace to be, who is likely to be setting the pace, how that pace will impact the horses in the middle of the field and at the back, and so on. By figuring that out, you can decide which horses you expect to have a big day and which ones are likely to struggle. For example, this year we know that Maximum Security will be looking to lead early on, that Omaha Beach should be close to the lead as well, and that War of Will, Tax, and perhaps Spinoff and Gray Magician will be looking to be close to the lead early, too. We know that the early Derby pace can be totally insane, but that's often due to a horse with little hope trying to make something happen. At least four of those early pace horses are very classy and will be looking to win the race, so they won't want to do anything too stupid early on. But the environment is insane, and horses often do things that aren't ideal in such situations. So, do you expect reasonable fractions? Or will they be really aggressive? Or somehow lethargic? Depending on what you expect, that will inform how you like those leaders, the horses that will likely be in the pack behind them, and the deep closers in the field.
Get exotic: This race is tough anyway, so you might as well use the exotic bets to improve your chances of a big payoff. Exotics make it tougher to get a payoff than a win bet does, but they also offer a higher return - and the potential payout is often proportionately higher than the added risk. My favorite bet in a big field like this is the trifecta - picking the top three finishers in the correct order. The payoff can be pretty good - last year it paid $140 for a $1 bet even though heavy favorite Justify won, and two of the other four top favorites finished second and third. And in 2017 the picture was much different - a $1 bet paid almost $8,300. You can afford to include a lot of horses in a trifecta bet, and it makes for a good, and potentially rewarding, puzzle.
Relax: It is really easy to take this race too seriously. People think that they are experts and that they are smarter than the race. They aren't, though - no one is. There is a good chance you are not going to cash a ticket on this race. And that's okay - it happens to the best of us, and far more often than most would want to admit. The first rule to have fun. Winning is just a bonus.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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