What 5 Races are Best to Bet on Kentucky Derby Day?

Kentucky Derby Trophy
Kentucky Derby trophies at Churchill Downs (Horsephotos.com)

The Kentucky Derby generates a tremendous amount of coverage and interest from the media and horse racing industry. But with 14 races on the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Day card, there are six other stakes races that also generate strong wagering interest.

With the requirement to bet a minimum of 4 races on Kentucky Derby day for the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship, there may be questions to which races to utilize in your wagering strategy. Find a quick look at five of the quality stakes to have betting selections in, below.

Here are the 5 best Kentucky Derby Day stakes races to bet.

The $2 million Kentucky Derby and ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’ is certainly one of the best five races to bet on as the historical payouts have proven to be substantial at times. Despite the favorite winning each of the last five 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby’s since 2013, the favorite may still be near 5-1 in a 20-horse filed like Always Dreaming was in 2017 when he paid $11.40 on a $2 win wager. But when a pair of long shots at 33-1 and 40-1 finished 2nd and 3rd, it triggered payouts of $336.20 on a $2 exacta and $16,594 on a $2 trifecta. So you can see that if you’re playing a simple heavy win bet even on a favorite and you come up with the winner, your return is likely to be quite good. Prior to the recent run of favorites winning the Derby, the median win payout since 2000 in the Kentucky Derby was $23.00, or essentially 10-1 odds.

The $250,000 Pat Day Mile for 3-year-olds draws large fields often of at least 12 horses, and has had some bigger payouts in recent years. In 2017, Wild Shot (8-1) paid $19.40. In 2016 Sharp Azteca (13-1) paid $28.20 to win while an 8-1 horse finished second. In 2015 Competitive Edge (7-5) paid $4.60 as the favorite, but the long shot in the field (27-1) finished 2nd for a $2 exacta payoff of $118.60.

The $300,000 American Turf is another race for 3-year-olds and contested at 1 1/16 miles. Since 2014, long shot odds have won the race starting with Global View (2014) at 6-1 for $14.00, Divisidero (2015) at 8-1 for $19.20, Camelot Kitten (2016) at 18-1 for $39.00 and Arklow (2017) at 15-1 for $32.00.

The $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes presented by Twinspires.com also draws large fields and in 2017 long shot Limousine Liberal (13-1) captured the 7 furlong sprint for 4-year-olds and returned $28.40 to win in a field of 14. In 2016, Catalina Red (14-1) was another long shot winner and paid $30.20 while the favorite finished eighth. In 2015 Private Zone (5-2) won and paid $7.40 but just six horses raced and the 4-5 favorite finished last. The long shot in the field (29-1) finished 2nd to trigger a $2 exacta of $191. In 2014, another long shot Central Banker (10-1) won and paid $23.60 to win.

The $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic has returned the least payouts of these Derby Day races in recent years, but still draws bigger and strong fields. In 2017 Divisidero (7-2) won his second consecutive Turf Classic and paid $9.00. In his 2016 victory in the same race, Divisidero (6-1) returned $15.40. In 2015 Finnegan’s Wake (7-2) went last to first to win and return $9.40 as the favorite.

Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs offers plenty of strong races and big payout potential, and Twinspires.com is a best bet for legal wagering online or on a mobile app.

by Fairway Jay

Strategies for Betting in Tournaments

Betting Parlour
Betting Parlour (Photos by Z/TwinSpires.com)

What to think about in horse racing tournament betting strategy

Despite the dire statistics about the overall horse racing handle’s steady decline, horse racing tournament participation has grown steadily, especially the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) held each January in Las Vegas. While there are a number of variants on tournament play, most involve a one-time buy-in followed by regulated, simulated bets on a number of races.

Strategy varies based on the type of tournament you play, including online qualifiers. While the basic principle of selecting contenders and then deciding among those contenders who to bet is a preferred pattern, a tournament player must be able to look ahead. You don’t want to be making selections as you go because you need to be setting up the endgame even in the very beginning.

There are certain races within the sequence of races that you’re playing that are key. You should try to identify a few races where the favorite is real vulnerable. Your tournament results will often hinge on a couple of your longer-priced plays, and identifying vulnerable favorites in a race increases your chances to have you’re longer-priced horse win or place to award you points and money.

In nearly every race there will be one or more horses that are dropping from a higher Class race or moving up from a lower Class race. Many of the long shot winners in a contest are horses moving up or down in Class. The biggest drop in Class is often from Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming, but understanding the true difference in class and being able to identify horses that are ready to run better or against a weaker group will allow you to select more long shots and higher-priced horses for a bigger payoff.

You may be able to pad your score with some favorites in selected races, and if the favorite looks like the most likely winner and you cannot find a suitable alternative, then pick the favorite. It’s better to collect $10 (win plus place) on a 7-5 favorite then to get nothing. However, you’ll ultimately need to identify some long shots that can win or place to improve your standing in a tournament. A tournament has a finite ending point, and so being aggressive while identifying value with longer-priced horses against false favorites that are more vulnerable will reward you in tournament play.

TwinSpires.com is a common stop for tournament players and their Kentucky Derby Betting Championship is a must.

by Fairway Jay

The Super Bowl of Horse Betting is the NHC

The National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) precedes the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship (KDBC) and is the Biggest Betting Event of the Year.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby may be in full stride with 16 Derby prep races completed and the biggest races coming in March with the Championship Series. But this weekend in Las Vegas is the horse handicapper’s largest event of the year. THE “Super Bowl” of horse racing where horse players participate in the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Feb. 9-11, before taking on the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship in May.

The NHC is the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament of the year for horseplayers. The event culminates following a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities, and horse racing handicapping websites. Each of which sends top qualifiers to the national finals in Vegas. There are no “buy-in” entries at the NHC, but getting into the field through qualifying events is a big accomplishment.

Tournament play has been the fastest growing segment in the horse racing industry. The NHC was first held in 2000 at the MGM Grand and has been held in Las Vegas every year since. And big money is played for during the NHC at the Treasure Island (TI) Hotel in Casino on the Las Vegas strip. In 2016, the NHC purse was $2.77 million with a first place prize of $800,000 going to Paul Matties. In 2017, the 18th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) boasted a record field of 654 entries who competed for the largest purse in horse handicapping tournament history – $2,900,600 in cash and awards. First place was again $800,000 and Canadian Roy Arsenault, a 64-year-old transportation broker, was the winner and awarded horse racing’s official title of “Horseplayer of the Year.”

I was on site at the 2017 NHC in Las Vegas, following and listening to the excitement as the ballrooms were buzzing. By Sunday, the field had been paired down to the top-10 percent of the field, and the top 66 players earned a minimum cash prize of $5,000 with 50 players earning $10,000 or more.

But in talking with horse players and other handicappers including Las Vegas-based Richard Eng, who writes and reports on horse racing for various publications and online outlets, it’s clear that tournament play is a skill set far different from playing the races daily. It requires a strategy in which the tote board is your friend. The higher the odds on a horse you like, the more likely you are to play it.

You can’t rely on $6 and $8 horses as you might in real life. You need $20 winners and up to compete with the best tournament players. Thus, playing it safe in a tournament is playing to lose. Even the best horse players and handicappers can struggle with that concept.

The 2018 NHC will be another superb success as the horse players watch their horses storm down the stretch on numerous TV’s and video screens at the Treasure Island.

“We are delighted to once again host many of the pre-eminent horseplayers, and coolest people, in the world,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “It is only through the support of so many horseplayers and participating organizations that we are able to realize another record year of growth for the NHC – by far the single largest promotional program in Thoroughbred racing.”

A full scoreboard will be updated regularly at NTRA.com, where fans and players can also find each day’s contest race menu and news updates. Additional news and exclusive content will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.

News updates also will be available throughout the contest on At the Races with Steve Byk, who will broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio from Treasure Island during the show’s regular hours, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. EST, beginning Friday morning.

Many of the NHC bettors will appear again during the biggest weekend in Thoroughbred Racing. The next tournament on player’s radars is the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship (KDBC) presented by TwinSpires, which encapsulates Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days. With a real money handicapping contest that awards prizes, including the chance for seats at the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) in the fall, the opportunity to wager big on an already pool friendly card is enticing. Find more information on the TwinSpires Tournaments website.

by FairwayJay

Dan Shugar Shows Experience With Conservative Strategy Bets For KDBC

by Alastair Bull

Dan Shugar has learned quite a big in eight years playing horse racing tournaments, which included a victory in the Wynn Handicap event a few years ago.

He leaned on that experience when choosing a conservative strategy for the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship on March 26.

“With only 20 entries, I looked for low priced horses in most events,” Shugar said.

He got to the last race in a good position, but wasn’t sure how he was going when his selection, Edwards Going Left, crossed the finish line second at Santa Anita Park. But he benefitted when the winner, Passed By Paul, was disqualified and placed second for interference with Edwards Going Left.

“The last race was tough because of the DQ,” Shugar said. “I was in the lead and not sure who the second place participant had. But when they put my number up, I knew I was Derby-bound for the first time!”

The Kentucky Derby Betting Championship runs on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby day, May 5-6. Contestants – apart from those who win qualification – put forward $12,000, of which $8,000 is their betting bankroll and $4,000 goes into the prize pool.

The prizemoney will depend on the number of entries. If there are 75 players entered, the winner receives $140,000, the runner-up $80,000, and the third-place finisher $30,000. All three, plus the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, also receive entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, which is worth $10,000.

All players get to keep their remaining bankroll at the end of the tournament.

Shugar, who says he loves wagering on TwinSpires.com because of how easy it is to use, says earning a place in the KDBC is one of his biggest moments in racing, but there’s one other highlight that’s special to him.

“My most memorable moment was being on track at Saratoga to watch my horse break its maiden on the turf!”

Learn about more betting options for the Kentucky Derby.

2017 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship Qualifier Mike Kappel Looks Forward to Competing

by Alastair Bull

Retired computer store operator Mike Kappel has been a horseplayer for 48 years, but nothing has matched the thrill of qualifying for the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship.

Kappel, 69, of Belleville, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, earned his spot after finishing second in a qualifying tournament Feb. 19.

His prize: a $12,000 prize package guaranteeing him entry to the second Kentucky Derby Betting Championship, which otherwise would have cost him $12,000 to enter, and a competition seat at Churchill Downs for the Oaks and Derby May 5-6 if he wishes (he also has the option of competing online via TwinSpires.com).

Kappel began well the day he qualified for the KDBC, but fell back a little before changing his plan and placing a winning bet at Oaklawn Park. However, he fell back prior to the last race, a maiden claiming at Santa Anita Park, where he backed favorite Hook’ Em Kurt, who he decided was very likely to win.

“I saw I could not catch the competition leader, but I could make second depending on what the others above played, so I thought Hook ‘Em Kurt was my best chance to get second.

“Hook ‘Em Kurt won (rallying from well back to win by a nose), and I was thrilled.”

Kappel said he became interested in horse racing from the time his father took him to the track. He’s taken part in tournaments for 15 years, and said his biggest moment had been finishing first to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship at Kentucky Downs’ first all-turf contest – until now.

“My biggest win is the entry to the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship,” he said. “I look forward to competing.”

The Kentucky Derby Betting Championship runs on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby day, May 5-6. Contestants put forward $12,000, of which $8,000 is their betting bankroll and $4,000 goes into the prize pool.

The prizemoney will depend on the number of entries. If there are 75 players entered, the winner receives $140,000, the runner-up $80,000, and the third-place finisher $30,000. All three, plus the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, also receive entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, which is worth $10,000.

All players get to keep their remaining bankroll at the end of the tournament.

(Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)