The Kentucky Derby has been one of the most popular annual sporting events in America since it started in 1875, and it is one of the most unique American traditions.
Whether you are looking for an excuse to wear an elaborate hat, or you want to watch other people show off their extravagance, or if you simply want to sip a mint julep in the southern sun, the Kentucky Derby is the place for you.
But horse racing wouldn’t be the same without the chance to place a wager on the winning horse. In fact, if it weren’t for the gambling, horse racing would probably cease to exist. Today’s technology means that you can place a bet from anywhere using a variety of different websites, so you don’t have to go to the Derby to enjoy gambling on it.
There are lots of simple and fun ways to choose your winning horse. You may decide based on the name of the horse or because the jockey is wearing your favorite color.
Or maybe you’re a chalk player who always backs the favorites, or you may have a tradition of choosing a chestnut-colored filly. Or perhaps you always place your bet on horse number 7 because that was your great aunt’s lucky number.
If you are just betting for the enjoyment of it, these methods are all perfectly acceptable. However, if you would like to increase your odds of winning, you will want to use a little bit more strategy when you choose your selection.
Below are some tips for selecting a winner. Remember, though, that no wager is ever guaranteed. These tips are meant to help you make your choices strategically, but there is always an element of risk when you are betting. The risk is what makes it thrilling!
Tip #1: Get a Head Start
If you really want to increase your odds of choosing a winner, don’t wait until the day of the Kentucky Derby to start thinking about it. Here are a couple of ways that you can start getting ready even now.
If you can, it is a good idea to watch and wager on a few of the earlier races.
The prep races for the Kentucky Derby start as early as September of the previous year, so there are plenty of opportunities to watch and learn. There are still two prep races that have not yet aired. The Arkansas Derby and Lexington races both take place in mid-April.
If you missed the earlier races, it is usually possible to watch them later on horse racing websites like DRF (Daily Racing Form).
On the opposite side, you can also use the Kentucky Derby as a learning experience. The Kentucky Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown Series.
It is followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, each of which occurs three to five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. To win the Triple Crown, a horse must win all three of these races in any given year. So far, there have only been twelve horses who have won the Triple Crown Series!
As you watch the Kentucky Derby, try to think about your future bets on the Preakness and Belmont races and learn as much as you possibly can about the horses competing.
Watching the early races will help you to be familiar with the horses, the jockeys, and the trainers. An educated guess is better than just a guess, and watching these races is one way to get your horse-racing education. Betting on those earlier races will also give you a chance to practice the other tips and get yourself familiar with the odds.
Another thing that you can do to prepare yourself is to begin studying the form guides. Form guides, or sometimes called racing forms, are merely records of information on each racing horse. We will explain form guides in more detail in the next section.
If you are not accustomed to reading a form guide, it can be overwhelming. Give yourself a chance to explore a few different examples of form guides so that you are ready to learn the form guide on the day of the Derby.
Tip #2: Get as Much Information as You Can
The most important way to make a strategic choice is to have as much information as possible before you begin. Form guides or racing forms are the best sources of detailed, up-to-date information when it comes to horse racing.
Each race will have its own form guide with information about that race, the distance and conditions of the track, and the specific horses that are competing in that race.
You should read the Kentucky Derby racing forms before the race to familiarize yourself with each horse, its trainer and jockey, and its weight and age. They will also tell you the father and mother of each horse, which is very relevant information because horse racing is a sport that often revolves around breeding.
Some information on the horses’ past performances is also included on the form guides. However, they only list the most recent races and the horse’s place in that race.
You need more information about those past performances for this information to be useful.
For example, if a horse has had a good winning streak but lost the last two races, you may ask yourself why. If the winning races were all over a short distance, but the losing races were both long distances, you can use that information to predict the horse’s performance for this distance.
Don’t just pay attention to information about the horse itself. Jockeys and trainers make a big difference in the likelihood of a particular horse winning.
The form guide will tell you who the rider and the trainer are, but if you are not familiar with their stats and styles, you need to do some research before placing your wager.
As you can see, the racing guides are an excellent place to start when gathering information. But they don’t give you the whole picture, especially if you are unfamiliar with some of the other races.
The daily racing program will have some more information, but these are only available on the day of the competition, and they still don’t have all of the information you might want. Use this information to guide your decisions, but look at more details found through horse-racing websites like Brisnet, Equibase, and the Daily Racing Form.
They will give you every possible detail, although some of them require a fee for specific information.
There is an unending amount of information that you can consider when you are choosing a winning horse. Don’t let the abundance of material get you overwhelmed, though.
Once you become acquainted with each of these sources, you will begin to understand which factors are crucial and which statistics you can dismiss. You will also become familiar with the terms, the people, and the symbols used, so it will get easier and easier to understand. This will help you with your horse racing betting in general, not just for the Kentucky Derby.
Tip #3: Watch the Horses
Another way that you can guide your picks is to watch the horses, whether that is in person or through live streaming before the race begins. Horses’ physical appearance, specifically on the day of the Derby, gives you some significant clues to how they are feeling.
- If the horse has pricked ears that are pointed up, it is feeling confident and alert.
- Signs of general well-being like a shiny coat and well-toned muscles are a big positive.
- If the horse is hanging its head or has its ears flattened, it may be either inattentive or anxious.
- If the horse is sweating profusely or is fidgeting a lot, it is nervous and is wasting vital energy that it will need during the race.
- Check for a coat that is dull or if it seems to be carrying extra weight because these are signs that it is not in good health.
Tip #4: Listen to the Experts – But Form Your Own Opinion
As the Derby approaches, more and more experts will start to publish their favorites and the horses that they might bet on themselves. These experts are usually racing analysts that work for the racetracks or the betting companies, and they are often journalists who publish information about the races.
These guys definitely know what they are talking about because it is their JOB to know.
Experts are there for a reason, and while they won’t always be correct, it is a good idea to listen to their perspectives. If it is possible, be sure to know WHY they are making their predictions. This will help you to narrow down the ways that you agree or disagree with them.
Don’t be afraid to bet against the experts or the favorites, though. There is approximately a 70% chance that an outsider will win the race, and outsiders will usually have higher odds which will mean a larger payout. Pay attention to what the experts are saying and the odds that a bookmaker is using, but consider each of them with a grain of salt.
If you have strong reason to believe that an outsider will win, don’t be afraid to trust your own judgment.
To sum it all up, the more that you know, the better your wager will be. Knowing how to read and interpret the information that is available to you is half of the battle. You also need to know what information is the most important, though.
For example, a suitable trainer with a history of wins is probably more predictive of the winner than the horse’s lineage.
The more that you can develop your own system, the more confidence you will have in your bets. There are never any guarantees, but if you use these tips to arm yourself with information, you will significantly increase your chances of choosing a winning horse at the Kentucky Derby, and any other horse race for that matter.
Once you put these strategies to use (and hopefully win!) for the Derby, you will be even more excited to place a bet on the other two races in the Triple Crown Series, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Over time, these techniques have the potential to take you from being a random beginner to becoming a successful bettor. No one wins every time, but you definitely CAN win often enough to make it worthwhile.