The Run for the Roses is just three days away, and by the time you read this, I’ll be making my way to the Bluegrass State for a bourbon-soaked week unlike any other. Along the way, I hope to cash a winning ticket or two. Whether you will be at Churchill Downs, another track or OTB, or wagering with an online account, hopefully you’ll cash a ticket too.
The Kentucky Derby offers some unique wagering opportunities that don’t exist in your everyday horse race. For one, twenty horses will go to the post, which means twenty unique betting interests, otherwise unheard of in North American racing. Secondly, because of the deep field, a good portion of these colts will go off at higher odds than they ever have, or likely ever will. That, in and of itself, provides solid value for your standard win, place, and show wagers. If that’s your cup of tea, by all means, go for it. However, I’m here to suggest a few other wagering strategies that very well might result in a jackpot payoff.
One wager I’d recommend considering is an “all” exacta wheel. Just as the win, place, and show pools offer unusual value, so does the exacta pool. As such, even a payout with two favorites will result in a pretty decent payday. The idea here is to make your pick for top choice, and then use him as both the top and bottom of an exacta wheel with the entire field. In a 20-horse field, with a $1 wager, this will cost you $38.00. The advantage here is that your horse has to finish first or second, and you don’t need to worry about who fills out the exacta. A good example of how this strategy can result in a very sweet return is the 2009 Derby. Pioneerofthenile was the 2nd choice in the field of 19, and a very logical choice to use for a bet of this type. He finished second behind 50-1 bomb Mine That Bird. the result: a $1037 payout on a $36 bet.
Another wager to consider is the Oaks/Derby Double. The Kentucky Oaks , for three-year old fillies, is run the day before the Derby, and has become nearly the level of extravaganza as the Derby. This bet is just what you would expect — in order to cash, you need to pick the winner of both races. This year’s Oaks field has 13 entries, and Joyful Victory looks like a solid favorite. You could try pairing her up with the entire Derby field for a $40 investment; if she wins, then you can root for a mega-longshot to win on Saturday. Or, conversely, you could pair up your Derby choice with the entire Oaks field for a $26 imposition. Or, just pick a few horses in each race. Either way, it’s a fun bet that has become extremely popular among the Churchill Downs crowd.
Finally, how about a group wager? Over the past few years, there have been some enormous trifecta payouts, even when a favorite like Barbaro in 2006 wins. For this, get together a group of 5 or 6 people and have everybody pick a horse. Then box all the selections in a $1 trifecta. For 6 people, it’s a $120 price (20 bucks a person), or for 5 people it’s $60 ($12 per person). This is an exercise that some of my friends and I have engaged in for many years now, sometimes to great success, and sometimes to excruciating failure. That 2006 result…we had Bluegrass Cat and Steppenwolfer, the 2nd and 3rd place finishers…but no Barbaro. Yes, we needed to be punched in the face, as that trifecta returned a cool $5709.
Shortly, Derby post positions will be drawn. Once I’ve had a chance to digest what effect the draw might have on the race, I’ll be back Friday with my race preview and selections. In the meantime, grab a racing form, make yourself a mint julep, and get ready for Saturday’s race. I know I will!
Follow me on Twitter @KyDerbyJay.