Kentucky Derby Betting Tips

The first weekend in May is a real cracker when it comes to flat racing. The first Classic of the British season comes in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas, and the second is not far behind with 1000 Guineas taking place on Sunday. Sandwiched in between on Saturday evening is one of the most famous horse races in the world: the Kentucky Derby. If you like your racing with an added dose of razzmatazz, this one is certainly worth staying up for.

Kentucky Derby Betting Tips For 2020

Churchill Downs, Louisville, Saturday 2nd May

Please note that tips for the 2020 Kentucky Derby will be available close to the next running of the race.


About the Kentucky Derby & Festival

British racing has been the inspiration of some of the world's best races, with the Kentucky Derby being a really good example of this. Created. In order to be America's version of the Epsom Derby, it is one third of America's Triple Crown of flat racing. It is part of the Kentucky Derby Festival, which takes place over a period of weeks and involves so much more than just horse racing.

The race itself has been given the tagline of 'the most exciting two minutes in sport', which gives you something of an indication of the fact that it is a high-octane and thrilling event that grips racing fans the world over. Run left-handed over a mile and a quarter, it takes place on a dirt track and is open to horses aged three. In many ways the actual Derby is just a small part of the entire Festival, which includes a fireworks display and a marathon.

The Kentucky Derby Festival

Lasting for two weeks, the Kentucky Derby Festival is one of the highlights of the American sporting calendar. It is the state's largest single annual event and took place for the first time between 1935 and 1937. It was restarted in 1956 and has taken place ever since.

The key moments of the Kentucky Derby Festival away from the race itself include Thunder Over Louisville, which is a fireworks display that boasts the honour of being the largest fireworks display to take place annually anywhere in North America.

There are also other races that happen prior to the one involving horses. The Great Balloon Race and the Great Steamboat race, which features the Belle Of Louisville, are both examples of this. There's also the Marathon and mini Marathon that people can take part in to feel like they're included in the festivities.

The Kentucky Derby in Detail

Typically taking place at the end of a day's racing that comes at the end of a fortnight's worth of celebrations, the Kentucky Derby took place for the first time in 1875. That makes it the youngest of the Triple Crown events, but it is arguably the most prestigious. It is held every year on the first Saturday of May and is run over one mile and a quarter.

In terms of the basics of the race, it is only open to three-year-years and the following weight information is in play:

  • Colts and Geldings: 126 pounds
  • Fillies: 121 pounds

Winners have a blanket of roses draped over them, giving the race the nickname 'the Run for the Roses'. It is one of the most watched events in North America and often gains more viewers than any other stakes race. That includes the other races in the Triple Crown as well as the Breeders' Cup.

Race Origins

Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. travelled to England in 1872 and ended up going to Epson Racecourse in Surrey where he watched a race take place that had been founded nearly a hundred years before. He enjoyed the race and had that sense of enjoyment furthered by a trip to Longchamp afterwards to watch the Grand Prix de Paris. He saw the two events as examples of top-notch racing that his own state of Kentucky deserved to enjoy.

As a result, he formed the Louisville Jockey Club when he returned to the United States of America, planning to use it to raise money in order to build a racecourse on the outskirts of the city. He got his way and on the seventeenth of May in 1875 a race for three-year-olds that was run over exactly the same distance as the Epsom Derby took place for the first time. Its length changed in 1896, but the prestige of the race only increased with every passing year.

Success Didn't Breed Financial Stability

Ten thousand people turned up to watch the first iteration of the Kentucky Derby, with more coming every year thereafter. Yet the evident success of the race didn't necessarily secure financial stability for the course and the company founded to build it. In 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated and offered an injection of cash to proceedings. Even so, the financial issues continued to dog the racecourse and the future of the race itself was threatened.

In 1902 Colonel Matt Winn gathered together a group of businessmen who bought the facility and injected cash. Churchill Downs soon became one of the best racecourses in America and the Kentucky Derby flourished alongside it. The best thoroughbreds from all across the country soon began to travel to Kentucky to take part in the race, which earned its place as one of the USA's finest races. Coverage of the event was broadcast for the first time on the radio in 1925 and then on television twenty-four years later.

Noteworthy Moments

As you can imagine for one of the country's most prestigious races, the Kentucky Derby has enjoyed its share of headline grabbing moments over the years. In 1968, for example, controversy reigned when Dancer's Image won the race but was later disqualified when traces of a banned anti-inflammatory drug named phenylbutazone was found in its urine during a standard test. The race was instead awarded to Forward Pass.

In more positive terms, Secretariat became the fastest runner of the race when completing the course in one minute and fifty-nine point four seconds. It is a record that has yet to be beaten and is part of the reason why the race is known as the 'most exciting two minutes in sports'. Monarchos came close to beating it in 2001 when finishing with a time of one minute, and fifty-nine point nine seven seconds.

In 2019 the purse for the Kentucky Derby was confirmed to be $3 million, of which around $1.89 million went to the winner. It makes it one of the richest horse races run in North America and perhaps explains why crowds of more than one hundred and fifty thousand often turn up to Churchill Downs to watch the event take place. It is also part of the reason that more than two hundred million dollars was wagered on the race in 2017.


Before you head to the bookmakers to place your bets on the Kentucky Derby, there are a few things you might want to bear in mind. Most of the records for the event were set decades ago, such as Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack sharing the honour of more wins than any other jockeys with five apiece between 1938 and 1969.

Similarly Ben A. Jones' six wins as a trainer came between 1938 and 1952, whilst Calumet Farm's record of eight wins as owners occurred between 1941 and 1968. The longest odds of a winner is a relatively recent phenomenon, though, given that Donerail won as a 91/1 outsider in 2013.

Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only horses to have won the Kentucky Derby despite not having raced as two-year-olds. So if a horse you're considering having a flutter on only started racing when it was three then do bear in mind that the stats are against you.

Race Traditions

The American's love their traditions, especially when it comes to sport. The Kentucky Derby is no exception to that, so don't be surprised that there are a few things that people love to do and see done when the race is due to get underway.

A good example of this comes in the form of the mint julep, which is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby Festival and is made up of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup poured over lashings of ice. It is usually served in a silver julep cup, though most people at the course tend to have an historic souvenir glass instead. These were first offered in 1939 and have been adapted every year since.

From burgoo stew through to the Call To The Post, few races in North America have the same number of traditions around them as this one. Even the blanket made up of five hundred and fifty-four roses that is presented to the winner of the race is done so because a socialite named E. Berry Wall gave ladies a rose at a post-race party in 1883. The gesture was seen by Colonel M. Lewis Clark who then decided to make the rose the race's official flower and it grew from there.

Kentucky Derby Weekend Race List

In terms of racing, the main body of the racing is held over two days, the Friday and Saturday. Just as the English Derby also has The Oaks to run alongside it, so too does the Kentucky Derby have an Oaks that is scheduled to take place the day before the big race. It's all part of the excitement of a thrilling fortnight that surrounds the racing at Churchill Downs. There are a mammoth 27 races across Friday and Saturday, with the card as it was in 2019 shown below.

RacePrize MoneyAges
Day One – Kentucky Oaks Day
#1 Starter Allowance $50,000 3 Years Old
#2 Allowance Optional Claiming $109,000 3 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
#3 Allowance Optional Claiming $75,000 3 Year Old Fillies
#4 Maiden Special Weight $100,000 3 Years Old +
#5 Eight Belles Stakes $250,000 3 Year Old Fillies
#6 Edgewood Stakes $250,000 3 Year Old Fillies
#7 Alysheba Stakes $400,000 4 Years Old +
#8 La Troienne Stakes $500,000 4 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
#9 Allowance Optional Claiming $106,000 5 Years Old +
#10 Twin Spires Turf Sprint $250,000 5 Years Old +
#11 Kentucky Oaks $1,250,000 3 Year Old Fillies
#12 Allowance Optional Claiming $103,000 3 Year Old Fillies
#13 Maiden Optional Claiming $100,000 3 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
Day Two – Kentucky Derby Day
#1 Allowance Optional Claiming $109,000 3 Years Old +
#2 Allowance Optional Claiming $110,000 5 Years Old +
#3 Maiden Special Weight $100,000 3 Years Old +
#4 Allowance Optional Claiming $103,000 3 Years Old +
#5 Maiden Special Weight $100,000 3 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
#6 Humana Distaff Stakes $500,000 4 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
#7 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile $400,000 4 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
#8 Churchill Downs Stakes $500,000 4 Years Old +
#9 American Turf Stakes $400,000 3 Years Old
#10 Pat Day Mile Stakes $400,000 3 Years Old
#11 Old Forester Turf Classic $1,000,000 4 Years Old +
#12 Kentucky Derby $3,000,000 3 Years Old
#13 Allowance Optional Claiming $103,000 3 Years Old
#14 Maiden Special Weight $100,000 3 Years Old +

The Triple Crown

As well as looking at the race itself and its part in the overall Festival, we also have a look at the Triple Crown. Its proper title is the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing and it includes the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. It is specifically limited to three-year-old thoroughbreds and it takes place in May and the early part of June each year.

Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three Triple Crown races, doing so in 1919 even though it wasn't known as the Triple Crown back then. That phrase didn't really come into being until a selection of journalists started using it in 1923 and even then it was still limited in its usage. Charles Hatton is credited with bringing it into more common usage when he wrote about Gallant Fox's win of all three races in the Daily Racing Form in 1930.

It is a prize that has numerous points of interest attached to it, such as the fact that Gallant Fox and his son Omaha are the only father and son duo to win it to date. At the time of writing Eddie Arcaro is the only jockey to have won the Triple Crown more than once, doing so on Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948. By 2019 just thirteen horses had managed to win the Triple Crown.

This page is obviously focused on the Kentucky Derby, so a quick word here for the other two races that make up the Triple Crown. The Preakness Stakes takes place at Pimlico Racecourse in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. A Grade 1 race open to three-year-olds, it takes place over a distance of nine and a half furlongs, which is just over a mile. It usually takes place two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.

The third race in this trio of thoroughbred outings is the Belmont Stakes. Unsurprisingly it is also Grade 1 offering that is open to three-year-olds, taking place over a mile and a half. It has two nicknames, which are The Test of the Champion and The Run for the Carnations. It is usually run three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. It took place for the first time in 1867 and is the oldest of the three races, given that the Preakness Stakes was inaugurated in 1873 and the Derby in 1875.