How to Win Big Betting the Kentucky Derby Favorite

Tips
A racing fan celebrates a winner at the 2016 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

For the last five years, there’s been one constant about the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. If you wagered on the betting favorite to win, you cashed. You got lucky last year, since Irish War Cry, who was 10th, checked in at odds of 4.80-1, falling just shy of the victorious Always Dreaming at 4.70-1. Yet you cashed nonetheless.

Can it happen six years in a row? If you plan on picking Justify, you’re definitely saying “sure, why not?”

And if you are, keep in mind that there are much more lucrative ways of collecting some cash on the favorites in the race than betting them to win.

Consider this, thanks to 33-1 shot Lookin At Lee finishing second, the exacta with the favored Always Dreaming on top paid an outstanding $336.20.

Toss in another longshot, like 40-1 Battle of Midway who was third, and a trifecta with the favorite on top paid an astronomical $16,594.40 for $2. Oh, and for good measure, let’s take the superfecta, which was capped by 6-1 Classic Empire, the third choice. It paid an utterly ritzy $75,974.50 for $1.

Realistically, getting 33-1 and 40-1 horses to round out the trifecta once again might be asking a lot of Lady Luck. Plus, picking the right longshots is no simple task in a race like Derby, where there were 10 horses at 25-1 or more in last year’s field.

Instead, you can focus on the races surrounding the Derby, and the 20-horse field in the run for the roses will unlock the door to some very attractive payoffs in the horizontal or sequence wagers, such as the Pick 3.

As an example, there was the double of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Derby. With Divisidero ($9) winning the Turf Classic as the second choice in the wagering, the double with Always Dreaming paid a highly rewarding $51.

Think about that. When was the last time you hit a double with a second choice and the favorite and got $51 back for your $2?

In the Pick 3 leading up to the Derby, a longshot entered the equation and blew up the prices. Thanks to Limousine Liberal ($28.40) winning the Churchill Downs Stakes as the sixth choice, the Pick 3 surpassed $800.

Comprised of a sixth choice, a second choice, and a favorite, a 6 x 2 x 1 $2 ticket that cost $24 paid $830. Not bad at all for singling a favorite, eh?

Another Pick 3, using the Derby as the middle leg, saw the third choice win the race after the run for the roses. In that case it was a rather logical 2 x 1 x 3 or $12 ticket and that combo paid $272.60.

So if you’re rolling the dice with the favorite in the Derby, don’t let 3-1 or 4-1 odds fool you. When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, even if you like the chalk, there’s a multitude of ways to cash a ticket that will leave you with a rosy feeling.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!