In 2013, Churchill Downs implemented a new method in which horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby, awarding points to the top four finishers in a series of Kentucky Derby “prep races” spanning from September of the previous year through April of the current year.
Prior to 2013, Churchill Downs used horses’ unrestricted stakes earnings to determine the field of 20 for the First Saturday in May. The major difference: horses could earn money in a wider variety of stakes races than those currently designated specifically as Kentucky Derby preps. Horses could earn money toward qualifying in the Derby in sprint races, or races shorter than a one-mile distance. Experts will argue that the new points system has eliminated a considerable amount of horses with early speed, changing the entire dynamic of how the Derby is run.
The main result? There are, of course, differing arguments to be made as to the impact of the points system, but one statistic has proven true in the last five Kentucky Derby’s: the post time favorite has won every time.
My Best Betting Derby
In 2013, I had my most successful Kentucky Derby from a betting standpoint. For reasons both sentimental and strategic, I was high on a horse named Orb, who ended up winning that year. I bet $120 to win on Orb at 5.4-1, which yielded $768, or a $648 return on investment (ROI).
I also bet a series of exactas. I wheeled Orb in first and took ALL in the second position, which cost $19.00. I also wheeled the field in an exacta using ALL in first and Orb in second, which also cost $19.00. With Orb as a somewhat high price as a favorite, and longshot Golden Soul finishing second at odds of 34.5-1, I hit the $1 exacta which returned $490.80, good for a $452.80 ROI.
What I have started recommending to people as an approach to betting the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports, is to pick out one horse that you really like, and use that horse in the same betting strategy I used in 2013. If you’re having trouble picking out just one, history suggests that you take the favorite.
In this case, should (16) Game Winner end up being the post time favorite, you would make the following wagers:
- $1 Exacta 16 with ALL (18 total bets, cost: $18)
- $1 Exacta ALL with 16 (18 total bets, cost: $18)
The hope is that, obviously, Game Winner finishes either first or second, and that a longshot finishes in the opposite position.
The Strategy: Past Six Years
Orb’s exacta was by far the most rewarding in 2013, but if you made this same series of wagers wheeling the favorite with the field and vice versa, you’d still be quite profitable.
The image above illustrates returns if you only did one half of the wager, because the favorite has finished first in each of the last six years. Had you made both bets (favorite with ALL; all with favorite), you still could have made some significant money on average, you just would have spent more on betting.
If you placed both series of wagers each year, it would have cost a total of $222, with the same total return of $915.30, but would have only netted $693.30, still good for an average of $115.55 in profits over the six-year period.
I am recommending making both series of bets, just in case a longshot ends up winning the race, you would still have the favorite in second, and would likely get an even greater return if it hits. The $1 series of bets will probably cost you $36 total. If you’re wanting to bet more, do the same series with a $2 exacta, which would cost $76. Or you could use the same betting sequence of $1 exactas for two different horses, also totaling $76.
Note: If this is too confusing, feel free to submit a question to
Of course, because I am writing this post out of the kindness of my heart, I’m sure things won’t work out in this manner for 2019! Which is why I say do your research, pick out one horse YOU really like (regardless of odds), and hope it finishes first or second with a longshot in the opposite position.
DERBY DAY PICKS
Here’s what I like at this moment. Things will probably change by the time Saturday rolls around. Will have more analysis with these on Saturday. Good luck!
CoxTalks Derby Day Stakes Selections | Churchill Downs – Saturday, May 4, 2019
RACE 6 – $500,000 HUMANA DISTAFF (G1), 4-year-olds & up, fillies & mares, going 7 furlongs on the dirt (1:13 p.m. EDT).
- 2) SPICED PERFECTION
- 7) MARLEY’S FREEDOM
- 4) TALK VEUVE TO ME
RACE 7 – $400,000 LONGINES CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF MILE (G2), 4-year-olds & up, fillies & mares, going 1 mile on the turf (1:55 p.m.).
- 5) DADDY IS A LEGEND
- 6) PRECIEUSE (IRE)
- 8) GOT STORMY
- 9) ENVIRONS (GB)
RACE 8 – $500,000 CHURCHILL DOWNS STAKES presented by TwinSpires.com (G1) 4-year-olds & up, going 7 furlongs on the dirt (2:45 p.m.).
- 12) WHITMORE
- 7) WARRIOR’S CLUB
- 2) LIMOUSINE LIBERAL
RACE 9 – $400,000 AMERICAN TURF STAKES presented by Ram Trucks (G2), 3-year-olds, going 1 1/16 miles on the turf (3:37 p.m.).
- 2) SOCIAL PARANOIA
- 1) A THREAD OF BLUE
- 5) SEISMIC WAVE
RACE 10 – $400,000 PAT DAY MILE presented by LG&E and KU (G3), 3-year-olds, going 1 mile on the dirt. (4:28 p.m.).
- 10) INSTAGRAND
- 1) DURKIN’S CALL
- 4) MR MONEY BAGS
- 14) LAST JUDGEMENT
RACE 11 – $1,000,000 OLD FORESTER TURF CLASSIC (G1), 4-year-olds & up, going 1 ⅛ miles on the turf (5:25 p.m.).
- 5) MARKITOFF
- 12) BRICKS AND MORTAR
- 9) SYNCHRONY
- 8) BREAKING THE RULES
RACE 12 – $3,000,000 KENTUCKY DERBY presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), 3-year-olds, going 1 ¼ miles on the dirt (6:50 p.m.).
- 7) MAXIMUM SECURITY
- 17) ROADSTER
- 8) TACITUS
- 16) GAME WINNER
- 3) BY MY STANDARDS