The Kentucky Derby is the showcase of horse racing in the United States. As such, it is the most anticipated horse race of the year. The race is still over four months away but as early as now, conversations about the prestigious race have begun. In fact, Bovada and several other betting sites have already opened its betting lines for the said event.

Betting on horse races is very popular but for the benefit of beginners and those who are unfamiliar with it, let’s discuss about the Kentucky Derby and the take an early look at who the betting gods currently think will win the race.

What Is The Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 stakes race for three year old thoroughbreds held annually during the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky. The race is ran over one and a quarter miles with colts and geldings in the race carrying 126 pounds (57kg) and fillies in the race carrying 121 pounds (55kgs).

The race is also known as the “Run for the Roses”, in reference to the blanket of 554 red roses draped on the Kentucky Derby winner each year. In the United States, it is also dubbed as the “Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” or the “Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” due to the estimated duration of the race itself.  The Kentucky Derby is also the first leg of the Triple Crown in American horse racing as it precedes both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby has been run every year since its first race in 1875. Hence, this year’s installment of the race is the 145th edition of the Kentucky Derby. It will be held on May 3 and 4, 2018 with the big race scheduled for May 4th. This year’s race will have the highest purse ever in the history of the Kentucky Derby.

Earlier this month, Churchill Downs announced that the purse for the 145th Kentucky Derby will be raised to $3M. The Derby purse had been $2M since 2005 and $1M from 1996-2004. As a result the winner of the race will now receive a mammoth $1.86M in prize money while the 2nd placer will take home $600,000. The 3rd placed horse will earn $300,000 and the 4th placer will walk away with $150,000.

The Kentucky Derby Field

The Kentucky Derby Field has a rather large field at 20 as compared to other horse races. Before they enter the final field of 20, these horses undergo a series of qualifying races called the “Road to the Kentucky Derby”. This is composed of 35 races broken down to 19 races for the Kentucky Derby Prep Season and 16 races for the Kentucky Derby Season. Points will be given to the Top 4 finishers in the specified races.

As of this writing, 11 of the 19 Prep Season races have been decided with the next one, which is the Lecomte Stakes at the Fairgrounds Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana, scheduled for January 19th. So far, here are the Top 30 horses in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Points Standings:

# Horse Sire Trainer Points Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 Game Winner Candy Ride (Arg) Bob Baffert 30 $1,140,000
2 Knicks Go Paytner Ben Colebrook 18 $654,085
3 Signalman General Quarters Ken McPeek 18 $400,000
4 Gunmetal Gray Exchange Rate Jerry Hollendorfer 14 $180,000
5 Complexity Maclean’s Music Chad Brown 10 $275,000
6 Cairo Cat Cairo Prince Ken McPeek 10 $86,490
7 Maximus Mischief Into Mischief Robert Reid Jr. 10 $137,500
8 Improbable City Zip Bob Baffert 10 $180,000
9 Long Range Toddy Take Charge Indy Steve Asmussen 10 $300,000
10 Mind Control Stay Thirsty Gregory Sacco 10 $323,400
11 Our Braintrust Freud Cathal Lynch 4 $30,000
12 Bankit Central Banker Steve Asmussen 4 $120,000
13 Mucho Gusto Mucho Macho Man Bob Baffert 4 $60,000
14 Network Effect Mark Valeski Chad Brown 4 $50,000
15 Dunph Temple City Mike Maker 4 $40,000
16 Sueno Atreides Keith Desormeaux 4 $20,000
17 Code of Honor Nobel Mission Shug McGaughey 4 $100,000
18 Tight Ten Tapit Steve Asmussen 4 $67,900
19 Call Paul Friesan Fire Jason Servis 2 $170,000
20 Mr. Money Goldencents Bret Calhoun 2 $100,000
21 Rowayton Into Mischief Jerry Hollendorfer 2 $96,000
22 Standard Deviation Curlin Chad Brown 2 $50,000
23 Pole Setter Take Charge Indy Brad Cox 2 $17,950
24 Limonite Lemon Drop Kid Steve Asmussen 2 $158,500
25 Tax Arch Danny Gargan 2 $30,000
26 Extra Hope Shanghai Bobby Richard Mandella 2 $36,000
27 Dunph Temple City Mike Maker 2 $46,000
28 Family Biz Fed Biz Edward Barker 2 $18,900
29 Much Better Pioneerof the Nile Bob Baffert 2 $12,000
30 Gray Magician Graydar Peter Miller 1 $6,000

Who Are The Early Favorites?

Trainer Bob Baffert has been the standard of the Kentucky Derby. His horses American Pharoah and Justify didn’t just win the Kentucky Derby. They won the Triple crown in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Overall, Baffert has won five times in the Kentucky Derby, including last year with Justify. This year, Baffert  will be looking to tie Ben A. Jones’ record of six Kentucky Derby wins by a trainer and he has a handful of horses which are among the early favorites to win the race.

Baffert trains three of the current five betting favorites including the top favorite Game Winner who is currently priced at $800. Undefeated in four starts with three Grade 1 wins, Game Winner may be the best of Baffert’s current crop of 2-year olds.

Bred by Summer Wind Equine in Kentucky, Game Winner made his debut last August 18th at Del Mar and won by 5 ¾ lengths. He did so well physically that Baffert decided to race him again a couple of weeks later at the Del Mar Futurity (G1) at seven furlongs. Another Baffert horse, Roadster, was the betting favorite but Game Winner emerged victorious again. Then as betting favorite in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) last September 23, 2018, Game Winner bested Gunmetal Gray and Del Mar Futurity runner-up Rowayton.

Improbable is the +1000 favorite next to Game Winner and he also belongs to Baffert’s stable. The juvenile son of City Zip gave Baffert his fifth consecutive Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) win last December. Improbable is also unbeaten, in three starts. Baffert likes Improbable and calls him a smaller version of Justify because of his long strides.

Gunmetal Gray, currently priced at +2000 , was impressive at the Santa Anita in the first Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep of 2019. The Jerry Hollendorfer trained colt made a last-to-first rally to beat favored Coliseum in the Sham (G3) earlier this month. Improbable finished second to Game Winner in his stakes debut in last September’s American Pharoah (G1).

Rowayton, also pegged at +2000 is the second Jerry Hollendorfer horse in the current Top 5 betting favorites. He finished a strong second to Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) right after his 1 ¾ lengths victory in his debut at Del Mar last July. Rowayton also placed third behind Game Winner and Gunmetal Gray in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1).

Bob Baffert’s third horse in the list of favorites is Coliseum, who is currently at +2500. A homebred son of Tapit for Godolphin LLC of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai, broke his maiden by 6 ¾ lengths. Coliseum was the betting favorite in his second race- the Sham Stakes (G3) last January 5 but he broke poorly, ran last early and finished a disappointing sixth of seen and 4 ¼ lengths beaten by winner Gunmetal Gray.

Here are the complete odds to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Odds are taken from Bovada as of 1/13/19:

  • Game Winner              +800
  • Improbable                  +1000
  • Gunmetal Gray            +2000
  • Rowayton                    +2000
  • Coliseum                     +2500
  • Complexity                  +2500
  • Maximus Mischief       +2500
  • Signalman                  +2500
  • Cairo Cat +3300
  • Call Paul                     +3300
  • King for A Day            +3300
  • Knicks Go                   +3300
  • Mucho Gusto              +3300
  • Code of Honor            +4000
  • Network Effect            +4000
  • Royale Marine            +4000
  • Standard Deviation     +4000
To Bet or Not To Bet?

The early odds at Bovada provide an opportunity for bettors to put their money on the horses whom they think are going to earn a slot in the starting gate and win the Kentucky Derby. This Futures bets usually have larger payouts than betting on the same horse on race day because the final 20 entrants to the Kentucky Derby isn’t known yet.

Place Your Bet Here

On the other hand, these thoroughbreds are so fragile that to predict their possibilities months in advance of the Kentucky Derby could prove to be disappointing. This is the two edged-sword that you have to deal with and that’s the beauty of betting. It’s what makes the sport more exciting. In this case, It’s what’s going to make the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” even more exciting.

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