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I’ve been known to bet on the ponies a time or two and I’ve been known to win a time or two as well. But, in the 16 years that I have lived here, I really don’t know what I am doing.  I mix a little luck, a sprinkle of superstition and some of my kooky logic together to make my bets.

How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs is open and ready to take all my money.

But, what if you really knew what you were doing?  If, when you read the program, you just weren’t looking at the jockey silk colors like I do.

Racing program

I enlisted the help of a friend (who shall remain nameless) to guide me through the racing program. So here is his guidance below–refer to program sheet from Keeneland above. Read through it. Marinate on it. And then when you are at the track, pull this up on your smart phone to review it again.

After his very sage advice, you can read on to “alternative betting options.”



How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

The Original StyleBlueprint Gals waiting to bet.

What is the type of race (Stakes, Allowance, Claiming) and the purse.  I try to look at the race history of those entered. Example: If you look at Race 8 at Keeneland it is a $100,000 Stakes race.  A number of horses in the race have been running for $100,000, $150,000, or even $1M.  Other horses have been running in much cheaper races.  Those running for higher purses and finishing well, would be more apt to be a better bet.

How long has the horse been off?  When was the most recent race.  Generally, if a horse has not run in the past 6 months or more, they may need a race under their belt.  I tend to bet a little lighter in these situations.  Its more for conditioning.

How many races has the horse had in 2012, 2011 and how did they finish?

Have they run at the track you are betting?  If so, how did they do?

Have they run at the race distance before? How did they perform?

Who are the Owner, Trainer and Jockey?  These combinations carry some weight.

How has the horse been working recently? Have any had a “bullet” work on the track? That would be the best time of the day at a particular distance for all of the horses working.

What track surface has the horse been running on? Dirt, Alternative, or Turf.  Turf horses tend to run better on Alternative than dirt.

Is a key Jockey shipping in just to ride a particular horse? That is usually a good sign.  How many times has a Jockey ridden the horse?  How much weight are they carrying?

Has the horse run on Lasix (for definition read here) before?

What is the horse’s Speed Rating for the race?  If a horse is running more consistently in the 90’s to 100’s it would be a good bet.  The higher the number the better.

Does the track favor a particular type of runner? Is it Speed favoring or are horses coming from “off the pace”?

Has the horse run against other horses in the race?  How did it do?

Review the notes regarding how the horse did in the race. If you look at Race 8 Keeneland – Dayatthespa, it says “all out, lasted.”  The horse won the race by a neck (nk).  Some key notes regarding how a horse faired in a race would be “bobbled start,”, “bumped at start,” “swung wide,” 5 wide at turn, “faltered.”  There are days where the best horse doesn’t perform due to a variety of reasons.  Some horses don’t like adversity.  They tend to loose interest when something out of the ordinary happens.  If they get a clean trip, they could win with better odds.

Some races are tougher to bet than others.  Maiden Races (horse has never won, or run before).  They are tough to pick.  Cheaper races are often more difficult due to the quality of the horses involved.  There is not much consistency.  I have tried to do a much better job of picking better handicapping races.  Some don’t set up well, and you just need to pass on it.

*If all else fails, spend $10 and buy a few handicapping sheets*


And a big thank you to our anonymous betting expert.


How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

Let me tell you how I would bet this race.  First, look at program to appear educated.  All I see is “Blah, blah, blah, numbers, stats, blah, blah.” 

So I utilize one of my several betting coping skills.  Here they are:

1.  Names:  Do any of the names mean anything to you?  In the above program, I’m totally betting on the Last Sadie horse because Sadie is the name of my babysitter.  Logical connection, yes.

2. Jockey silks:  Always bet on the pink silks.  Or if their monogram is the same initials as yours … sign from God.

How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

Two PINK jockeys. Hard decision.

3. Trainer:  Always bet on Bob Baffert because I love the Silver Fox, baby.  Heart attack or not.

How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

The Silver Fox.

4.  Jockey:  I’m not loyal to any jockey, but I do bet on Leparoux a lot because I sound so cultured when I say his name.

How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

5. Post number:  Everyone has a lucky number, right?  Bet that.  You can in fact, bet this way all day and be rather successful.

6. Horse color:  I always bet the grey horse; it’s good luck!  My friend NEVER bets the grey horse; it’s bad luck!

7. “Excavation”:  The horse that “excavates” his bowels before the race is ready to win.  I’m leaving this one alone.

8. Dancin’ and prancin’:  The horse that prances, dances or is really frisky in the post- parade is ready to win.  “Hyper” would be an appropriate term here.

How to bet at the Kentucky Derby

9. Owner:  Louisvillage is a small place.  You are bound to know someone who owns a horse in some race–right?

10.  Reverse psychology:  This is one my favorite tricks.  I bet the horse that NOBODY is talking about in the media.  Especially for Derby.  Never bet the favorite.


But here is my cardinal rule:  NEVER EVER TELL ANYONE WHAT YOU BET UNTIL THE RACE IS OVER.  Go to another line away from your friends, write your numbers down somewhere private, take the tickets and shut your yap.  Don’t jinx it!


I wish everyone the best of luck, the best of bourbon and the best of weather for the next two days.  See you there!



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