By Emily Shields
The Kentucky Derby superfecta is one of the most popular but difficult wagers on Derby day – May 4 at Churchill Downs. In the last 10 years, the payouts were such:
2018: Justify (5-2)/Good Magic (9-1)/Audible (7-1)/Instilled Regard (85-1)
$1 Payout: $19,618.20
2017: Always Dreaming (9-2)/Lookin At Lee (33-1)/Battle of Midway (40-1)/Classic Empire (6-1) $1 Payout: $75,974.50
2016: Nyquist (2-1)/Exaggerator (5-1)/Gun Runner (10-1)/Mohaymen (11-1) $1 Payout: $542.10
2015: American Pharoah (5-2)/Firing Line (9-1)/Dortmund (4-1)/Frosted (10-1) $1 Payout: $634.10
2014: California Chrome (5-2)/Commanding Curve (37-1)/Danza (8-1)/Wicked Strong (6-1)$1 Payout: $15,383.80
2013: Orb (5-1)/Golden Soul (34-1)/Revolutionary (6-1)/Normandy Invasion (9-1) $1 Payout: $57,084.00
2012: I’ll Have Another (15-1)/Bodemeister (4-1)/Dullahan (12-1)/Went the Day Well (30-1) $1 Payout: $96,092.80
2011: Animal Kingdom (20-1)/Nehro (8-1)/Mucho Macho Man (9-1)/Shackleford (23-1) $1 Payout: $48,126
2010: Super Saver (8-1)/Ice Box (11-1)/Paddy O’Prado (12-1)/Make Music for Me (30-1) $2 Payout $202,569.20
2009: Mine That Bird (50-1)/Pioneerof the Nile (6-1)/Musket Man (19-1)/Papa Clem (12-1) $2 Payout: $557,006.40
On a $1 bet, payouts have ranged from $542 to a staggering $96,092. The average payout from the last eight years is $39,182, making it a very tempting wager indeed.
But picking the correct four horses in order is extremely difficult, especially with horses like Instilled Regard at 85-1 and Battle of Midway at 40-1 spicing up superfectas the last two years. Recent history suggests there is almost always a longer shot that comes in (see Commanding Curve, Lookin At Lee, Golden Soul, etc), with exceptions being 2015 and 2016 where the payoff was minimal. Boxing four horses in the superfecta costs $24 on a $1 minimum wager, meaning your four selections can finish in any order in the top four. Adding another horse makes the box $120, and choosing six of the expected 20 runners makes it $360. However, keying a horse on top and then playing several in a box underneath decreases your cost dramatically.
Throwing in the favorite usually helps, especially the last six years where the favorite has won the race over high priced horses that filled out the board. Before that, favored Bodemeister was second, and you have to go back to 2011 and 2010 when the favorite didn’t even hit the board (in 2009, Pioneerof the Nile was second).
Combining a top pick with a serious longshot and a few mid-range horses that have the talent and class to run well is the puzzle. The Kentucky Derby handicapper must use prep races, training information, and instinct to find the pieces.
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