How to Bet on the Kentucky Derby 2024: Bet Types & Tips

With the Kentucky Derby all set for May 4, 2024, our horse racing betting expert is on hand to explain the myriad of bet types available and provide a few pro tips for the big race.

Saddle up as we show you how to bet on the Kentucky Derby in 2024.

What Is The Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby, or “The Run for the Roses,” is a prestigious Grade I stakes horse racing event held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, since 1875. It is run by three-year-old Thoroughbred horses and covers a total distance of one and a quarter miles.

Taking place on the first Saturday in May, the Derby is the first leg of the iconic Triple Crown series, which also includes Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes.

The upcoming 2024 Kentucky Derby is poised to make history as the most lucrative yet, with the prize money for America’s greatest race soaring by 67% to a record guaranteed sum of $5 million.

It is by far the most-watched, attended, and bet-upon horse race in the US, with the 2023 event drawing in a TV audience of approximately 14.8 million, according to stats from Peacock and NBC, and a total betting handle of $188 million.

Kentucky Derby Basic Bets

A full round-up of the most common wager types for Kentucky Derby betting is included below:


The image shows how to place a straight bet on the Kentucky Derby. This includes options of Win, Place & Show.

The “Win” bet is the money line of horse racing betting. All you have to do is pick the horse you think will triumph in the Kentucky Derby. If your chosen horse finishes first, you win the bet. It’s that straightforward.


A “Place” bet involves betting on a horse to finish first or second in the Kentucky Derby. You win the bet if the chosen horse achieves either of these positions. However, you lose the wager if the horse finishes in any other position.


The “Show” bet entails wagering on a chosen horse to finish within the top three positions (first, second, or third) of the Kentucky Derby. However, you lose your wager if the horse finishes fourth or lower.

Kentucky Derby Exotic Bets

More experienced bettors looking to up the stakes may also wish to wager exotic bets at the Kentucky Derby. The three most common exotic bets include the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta, and each is outlined here for your convenience.

Exacta Bet

The “Exacta” bet is a favored choice among experienced horse racing bettors. This wager involves selecting the two horses you think will finish the Kentucky Derby in first and second place.

For example, you might choose Sierra Leone (+300) to finish first and Resilience (+2000) to finish second. Both horses must then finish in the specified order for the bet to pay out.

Trifecta Bet

The “Trifecta” bet involves predicting the top three horses to finish a race in exact order.

Similar to the exacta, the bettor must accurately forecast the placement of each horse. For instance, Fierceness (+250) to finish first, Catching Freedom (+800) to finish second & Stronghold (+2000) to finish third.

You will win your bet if these horses finish precisely in those positions.

While this type of wager presents a considerable challenge, successful predictions result in substantial payouts.

Superfecta Bet

The “Superfecta” bet operates similarly to the exacta and trifecta, with the additional challenge of correctly selecting the horses to finish first, second, third, and fourth place.

Although less favored due to its difficulty, those who succeed in this wager are rewarded generously due to the typically high odds.

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Kentucky Derby Combination Bets

In addition to straight wagers and exotic bets, Kentucky Derby combination bets are another way to win big come May 4. The most common types of combination bets include:


A standard win-place bet, otherwise known as an each-way bet, combines two separate wagers on one horse: one for winning and one for placing. Should your horse win, both the win and place bets payout. However, if your horse finishes second, only the place bet pays out.


A place/show wager follows the same basic premise as win/place; only the ‘show’ element dictates that your horse may finish second or third in the race instead of just second. If your horse wins, the payout is on the win, plus the place/show. If your horse finishes second/third, the payout is only on the place/show element.

Across The Board

Placing an across-the-board wager means you’re staking equal amounts of cash on a horse to finish first, second, or third. If your horse finishes first, the win, place, and show bets will pay out. However, if it finishes second, the win/place will pay out, while only the show element pays out for third place.

Kentucky Derby Prop Bets

In addition to exotic wagers and combination bets, racebooks tend to offer a huge range of fun Kentucky Derby betting props, especially for the final race of the day. These may include:

  • Margin Of Victory – A wager on the precise distance the first-placed horse wins by. For example, this might be a dead heat or by a nose, neck, etc.
  • First-Time Winner – A Straight wager on whether the Kentucky Derby champion is a new winner or a seasoned veteran who has won for the second or third time.
  • # Of Words In Winner’s Name – As it reads – will the winner of the derby have one (Fierceness), two (Sierra Leone), three (Just A Touch), etc., words in its name.
  • Color Of Winning Horse – A simple wager on the color of the winning horse. You will most often select from bay, chestnut, brown, black, etc.
  • Gender Of Winning Horse – Straight bet on whether the winning horse is a filly (female) or a colt (male).
  • Age Of The Derby Winning Trainer – Usually a straight bet on the Over/Under market. For example, O/U 51.5 Years.
  • Age Of The Derby Winning Jockey – As above, only this time for the jockey. For example, O/U 40.5 Years.
  • Winning Jockey Thank First – A speculative wager on this first-person thanked by the winning jockey during the victory speech. Perhaps the owner, trainer, horse, family, God, or anyone else.
  • Will Winner Be Wearing Blinkers? – Some trainers swear that blinkers keep their horses focused on the track ahead and prevent them from getting spooked by variables in the crowd, etc. On the other hand, some trainers don’t buy into blinkers at all. Regardless, you can wager a Y/N on the prop market for blinkers/no blinkers at your leisure.
  • Will Secretariat’s Record Of 1:59.4 Be Broken?—In 1974, Secretariat, jockeyed by Ron Turcotte, set a 1 ¼ mile record of 1:59.4. It was the first time a horse finished the race sub-two minutes and remains the fastest Derby time to this day. You can generally place a Y/N wager on whether or not this record will be beaten yearly at the Derby.

How to Read Kentucky Derby Odds

In this next section of our betting guide, we outline the Kentucky Derby odds, what they mean, and how payouts are calculated. It’s worth noting that the top offshore Racebooks will stick with traditional American betting odds for horse racing, simplifying things slightly.

American odds are denoted by a plus (+) or minus (-) symbol, followed by a number. The plus (+) symbol indicates an underdog/less expected outcome, whereas the minus (-) symbol indicates the favorite/more expected outcome.

A $100 wager on odds of +110 dictates you win $110. So, including the original stake, the total payout is $210. At odds of -110, on the other hand, you need to wager $110 to win $100, providing the same total payout, but you would be $10 more out of pocket should you lose.

The minus symbol is all but obsolete when it comes to moneyline betting on the Kentucky Derby winner. With 20 horses scheduled to start the race, you only have a 1/20 chance of winning, so usually, even the heavy betting favorite starts with odds of +___, as is the case with the top picks for 2024: Sierra Leone (+300) and Fierceness (also +250).

If you wager $100 on Sierra Leone to win at +300 and your bet comes to fruition, you will receive $300, plus the original $100 stake back, meaning a total payout of $400. Do note, however, that you are not required to bet $100 – if you instead opted to place a $50 wager on Sierra Leone (for example), the payout would be $150, plus the return of the $50 stake, so $200 total.

What Are The Current Kentucky Derby Odds?

These are the current Kentucky Derby Odds provided by BetOnline. These odds have been updated following the announcement of the official 2024 Kentucky Derby post positions.

Horse Odds
Fierceness +250
Sierra Leone +300
Catching Freedom +800
Just A Touch +1000
Forever Young +1000
Track Phantom +2000
Encino +2000
Just Steel +2000
Honor Marie +2000
Dornoch +2000
Mystik Dan +2000
Stronghold +2000
Resilience +2000
T O Password +3000
Catalytic +3000
Endlessly +3000
Domestic Product +3000
Epic Ride +3000
Mugatu +3000
Grand Mo The First +5000
West Saratoga +5000
Society Man +5000

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5 Kentucky Derby Betting Tips

Bettors learning how to bet on horse racing may find that having a few tips and tricks to follow will make their foray into horse betting easier. So, to help you out with this, we have compiled our top five horse wagering tips, which you can find below:

1. Track the “Derby Trail”

The traditional path to the Kentucky Derby involves a series of informative prep races contenders use to reach Churchill Downs. Two of the most productive races that produced the Kentucky Derby winner during the last 10 years were the Florida Derby (March 30) and the Santa Anita Derby (April 6), and both events should be the first port-of-call for bettors to look back on ahead of the 2024 renewal.

2. Avoid Overrun Horses

The ability to peak for the right race is key, so siding with horses that weren’t overcooked ahead of the Kentucky Derby with an ideal prep of 2-3 outings during the current year beforehand is ideal. There was the occasional Derby winner with more than 3 runs that year (just two since 2007), but the percentage is definitely a ‘2-3 runs’ profile – similarly, avoid any undercooked runner with just one run that year or those lacking experience with less than three-lifetime outings.

3. Take Note Of The Post Position Draw

Note the runner’s post position – in other words, the starting gate number from which the horse breaks. History shows a trend that being drawn too tight on the inside from the lower gates in stalls 1 to 4 can prove problematic in hitting traffic around the tight bends. Instead, respect runners with a wider berth in stall 5 to 15, especially if a maximum field of 20 runners goes to post.

4. Stamina Over Speed

Most runners, if not all – heading to the 2024 Kentucky Derby will be facing the longest trip tackled to date on May 4, namely over a mile-and-a-quarter (1m2f). Therefore, runners who finished their trials/preps strongly rather than just scrapping home could be the ones to concentrate on, while a glance at their breeding provides another pointer. For instance, the sire/stallion, Into Mischief, produced both the 2021 and 2020 Derby winners.

5. Shop for the Best Lines

Like your weekly shopping, it can pay to shop around and get the best deals – or, in this case, the best odds. Browse our list of the best horse racing sites and open multiple accounts. It’s wise to diversify your options, especially considering that the odds for a 2024 Kentucky Derby contender might vary significantly across different online sports betting platforms – just remember to gamble responsibly!

How To Bet On The Kentucky Derby 2024

Having grasped various bet types and received some horse racing betting tips, you’re now prepared to engage in race betting. Utilize our guide detailing how to bet on the Kentucky Derby through an online racebook.


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