As the attention and passion for the Kentucky Derby grows, even the casual bettor needs to have a grasp on handicapping. There is little doubt in the eyes of the betting community that the Kentucky Derby represents the perfect storm. The fun, fast and furious event known as the “The Fastest Two Minutes In Sports” generates millions of dollars of betting action both online and at the window. With the world watching, the stakes are getting higher each year.
Understanding the numbers helps immensely when handicapping.
There are always dozens of trends out there. People love to say that “favorites don’t win,” or “horses working well in training are the best bet,” but none of that holds any significant weight. As we say, every dog – or in this case horse – can have its day.
Numbers will shift massively leading up to the race, and popular horses will see their odds plummet the day-of, simply due to public popularity. The 2014 winner, California Chrome, had morning line odds of 5-2, but exited the starting gate with final odds of 2.5-1. California Chrome was posting much more rewarding odds in the weeks leading up to the Derby. This happens for almost all horses over the course of the day, but the favorite horses will see their odds shrink the most.
Thus some suggest the only mantra to follow for handicapping the Kentucky Derby is “the early bird gets the worm.” The further away from Derby you place your, the better the odds will be since the public hasn’t factored in yet.
But which horse do you bet on?
Finding race results isn’t hard in the digital age. four of the last six Kentucky Derby winners also claimed victories at the Santa Anita Derby or FrontRunner Stakes, two of the prep races. Other Derby contenders have shown well in the San Felipe S., the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile tends to carry the most weight in determining an early Kentucky Derby favorite until the prep race season is in full swing at point values of 50 and 100.
Other elements will also certainly weigh in for handicapping. Jockeys like Victor Espinoza, who has three wins including a Triple Crown, and Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, who has recently returned from retirement, with three Kentucky Derby wins. Legendary trainers such as Todd Pletcher, Doug O’Neill and Bob Baffert, the latter of which has won this race four times since 1997. Betting on name value (i.e., you just like the name of the horse) has even been a reason to bet on the Kentucky Derby.
Keep in mind that information is passing through the ether much faster with technology reaching everyone’s fingertips and that there are very few known commodities. The past several Kentucky Derbys held heavy favorites winning the race (Nyquist, American Pharoah, and California Chrome) which may be a growing trend. Whether you’re lobbing a straight bet, or building a massive box exotic wager, getting in early is the best tip for Kentucky Derby handicapping. That’s when the odds pose their best value for the first leg of the Triple Crown.