Affectionately known as the Run for the Roses and sitting proudly among the top horse races in the world, the Grade One Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the historical Triple Crown of racing and the 2019 event is the 145th renewal.
The fastest two minutes in sports takes place on Saturday May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville and TVG will provide you with all the information you need leading up to the big day. Check out the history of the event, how to bet the big race, who the main contenders are and much more right here.
The Kentucky Derby odds will eventually be shaped based on form from last year’s Breeders’ Cup along with results from the various prep races around the country this spring, though always look out for some surprise contenders who are burning up the track in practice.
Betting the Kentucky Derby is a reliable way to feel like you are getting involved in what is a major sporting event, even when you can’t be in Louisville for the big day. The three main bet types to choose from are the ‘win’, ‘place’ and ‘show’ wagers. Here’s an explanation of what they all mean:
WIN - Simple really; your chosen horse must win for you to get paid.
PLACE - To be successful here your horse needs to finish in the first 2.
SHOW - This time, your chosen horse must simply be in the first 3 to win the bet.
Payouts on any of the above depend on a number of factors, namely how much money is in the pot overall but also on the perceived level of difficulty. With this in mind, the highest payouts are usually on win bets, the second highest generally on place bets and of course the lowest are usually on show bets as these are the easiest to get right.
If you want to go with something a little more exotic when betting the Kentucky Derby you can place an Exacta bet. The exacta is a bet you can make predicting what horses will finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order and if you’re successful, you will usually receive a pretty major payout.
If you do want to bet two horses however and you’re not so confident you can predict the exact order, you can box this bet. This means you are essentially placing two bets so your stake is doubled, but this does mean it’s easier to get right and your horses can finish first and second in either order.
If you’re either a real pro or just a great sport you might want to try the Trifecta. With this bet you pick three horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the right order and of course a winning payout on this is huge. Once again you can box the bet, paying more money to do so and getting paid if your horses all finish in the first three in any order.
A Superfecta is also available as a four-horse bet with the same rules as above and if you get that one correct, you’ll probably be at next year’s Derby sitting on Millionaire’s Row.
The beauty of betting and the modern internet world is that we can all play our part in the Kentucky Derby. As much fun as it is walking up to the teller at the track to collect your cash, you can also bet online right here with us so be sure to keep a check on our Kentucky Derby odds to see where the contenders [link to ‘KD odds’ page] stand leading up to the race.
There are many ways to choose your Kentucky Derby bet(s), from taking a wild guess to using all the information at your disposal to be as professional as possible and at TVG we help you lean more to the latter.
Reading a race program to find out how strong each runner’s form is, reviewing their workout times and what sort of conditions they all prefer and checking out their breeding are all good starting points but you don’t have to be a professional handicapper to bet the Kentucky Derby.
You could just keep things simple; the last six favourites have all been successful in the Kentucky Derby so remembering that fact while keeping an eye on what we have to say about the contenders [link to ‘KD Contenders’ page] will be enough to help you along.
Just to prove how difficult a task this is, bear in mind that in well over 100 years of thoroughbred racing there have been a total of just 13 Triple Crown winners in the States, two of those coming in the last four years.
A major part of the buzz surrounding the Kentucky Derby, given that it’s the first leg of this series, is that all bets are still on with the excitement present surrounding whether or not we’ll see another Triple Crown champion this year.
The Triple Crown is a brutal, three-race series for three-year-olds taking in this race over a mile-and-a-quarter, the Preakness Stakes just two weeks later over a mile and an eighth at Pimlico before the Belmont Stakes rounds things off in New York in early June over the testing mile-and-a-half.
The Kentucky Derby is special as all trainers, jockeys and owners still retain hope that they may yet possess an American Pharoah or a Justify in their barn; that one special horse who can take them all the way to racing immortality.
Despite always being open to change, thoroughbred racing is all about tradition and the famous Kentucky Derby has plenty of its own. Unique fashion, mint juleps and the usual rousing rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” all add to what is an amazing day on the first Saturday of May. The Kentucky Derby is nothing short of an American institution.
This race, naturally as part of the Triple Crown, is one of world horse racing’s most important races but also remains a major celebration of southern culture having been run at Churchill Downs in Louisville since 1875.
The Kentucky Derby is in fact the longest running sports event in the United States, being run through two World Wars as well as the Great Depression among other things and in fact it is almost unthinkable that this race could be staged at any other venue.
After the brilliantly named Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr was invited to England to attend the Derby at Epsom Downs, another race still being run to this day in the same place, the occasion resonated with him so after visiting both there and France to see the French Jockey Club he decided to create a similar race of his own back home.
The Epsom Derby is another race simply macerated in tradition having been run since 1780 and having never lost its appeal, the colonel desperately wanted to replicate this. On his return to Kentucky, Clark inaugurated the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising the capital needed to build a track, a track that became known as Churchill Downs.
In 1875 everything was ready to go and the Kentucky Derby was first staged in Louisville over a distance of 1½ miles, just like the original at Epsom, but that was changed in 1896 to the now familiar one and a quarter miles.
Even in 1875 for the first running, a crowd of 10,000 people gathered to support a race featuring 15 three-year-olds who were led home by the introductory winner Aristides, a horse which also went on to run second in the already inaugurated Belmont Stakes later that year.
Naturally lots of things have changed over the decades, from horses being allowed to run on phenylbutazone in 1970 which coincided with Diane Crump becoming the first female jockey to win it, to the Kentucky Derby race time record being set by Secretariat in 1973 and the purse reaching $3million for the first time in 2019.
Attendance at the track has grown from that initial 10,000 to well over 100,000 these days, in fact more than 150,000 have been known to be in attendance such as in 2017 with the handle reaching in excess of $200million.
The Run for the Roses is open to three-year-olds only, known in racing territories around the world as the ‘classic generation’, and with that comes the fact that we have not yet seen the best of what they can offer in advance of the race.
Part of the buzz on Kentucky Derby day is formed out of people exchanging opinions on what each of the contenders might achieve as it must be remembered these are young horses with as much potential as actually proven talent.
Colts and geldings in the final field all carry 126lbs and fillies will carry 121lbs given the sex allowance, while the final field will be assigned their individual gates shortly before the race.
As of 2019, the purse has been increased drastically from $2million in total to $3million, the winner alone receiving a cool $1,860,000 this year.
Things have moved on a lot in the sport, in fact on the inaugural running of this race in 1875, the winner took home $2,850 with the second placed horse earning just $200. Even allowing for inflation, in today’s money that first race would have been worth $72,000 so it shows how much the sport and this race in particular has moved on.
Although it is still larger that many other races around the country, the final field of 20 means competition is hot and so a tiered points system is required to determine the final field.
Now marketed as the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’, a series of races from around the US and abroad have a points system attached to them concerning the first four finishers. Essentially, the 20 horses with the most points whose trainers and owners want to run can get a spot in the race.
There are a total of 46 races delving out points for contenders, spread across the USA, Europe, UAE and Japan. The road starts when these horses are still two-year-olds though all but one of the races are only worth 10-4-2-1 in terms of points, the exception being the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 20-8-4-2.
With more than half the races taken care of, the real stuff gets going in February when serious points become available starting at Fair Grounds with the Risen Star at 50-20-10-5. Similar races take place at Aqueduct, Santa Anita, Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn Park before things are ramped up another notch in late March.
The Louisiana Derby is the first of seven prep races to offer 100-40-20-10, a run of events that finishes three weeks before the big event with the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.
Allied with high points totals, the best preps sit just right in the schedule for Kentucky Derby contenders as well as offering enough prize money and the best development opportunity for a given horse. Using a combination of these factors and the route our most recent winners have taken, watch out for horses having run in these events:
The venue itself for this race is the biggest of all the Kentucky Derby traditions, Louisville and Churchill Downs having been the home of the Derby since day one.
The track opened back in 1875 and immediately hosted both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, creating what is now one of the most celebrated weekends in sports.
A major feature of Churchill Downs is its sheer size, the infield being opened up on Kentucky Derby day meaning that it could accommodate as many as 170,000 people giving it one of the highest capacities of any sporting venue in the world.
Churchill Downs has also hosted the Breeders’ Cup a record nine times which is testament to its quality and noteworthiness within the sport but it also has a familiarity that feels so comforting. Watchers around the world are now used to listening to the marching band lead the crowd in a performance of “My Old Kentucky Home” while the Twin Spires that sit atop the grandstand remain one of the most recognizable features to sports fans.
With most of the main prep races still to come, including the potential for overseas candidates to make themselves known in England, Ireland and Dubai, a lot will change between now and May 4. Here’s an early look however at the horses most people are talking about:
Code of Honor
If we’re including Hidden Scroll here, and we are, then we have to list this horse who beat Bill Mott’s favorite in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in early March.
That win, plus his 3-length defeat in Grade 1 company on only his second start in the Champagne Stakes last year, has marked him out as a contender but there is more work to do for sure.
Easily the number one contender so far having already won three recognizable trials at 2 including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Bob Baffert has yet another classy contender and will be hoping for a trouble-free prep when he hits the track again.
Let’s not write off Bill Mott’s good looking colt just yet, despite the doubts about the true level of his spectacular debut win coming true when he was beaten in the Fountain of Youth Stakes next time.
He is a classy horse and one who has some learning to do and his trainer states he is still bright. He may well have just set too big a pace last time and will line up in either the Florida Derby or perhaps the Wood Memorial which will tell us much more.
We’re just going to throw it out there; Bob Baffert may have an even better Kentucky Derby contender than early favorite Game Winner with this son of City Zip.
Unlike his stable companion he wasn’t ready to contest any of the Breeders’ Cup races, instead taking in a low grade race at the same meet and winning easily. He went on however to smash his opposition in the Los Alamitos Futurity, beating Mucho Gusto by a comfortable five lengths on only his third start and that horse is now an easy Grade 3 winner.
Jerry Hollendorfer’s colt hasn’t run since romping home to win the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes last summer but all things being well he will reappear in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
War of Will
One of the more experienced contenders having run seven times, War of Will is now a Grade 2 winner and is improving nicely but he has to reach another level between now and May 4.
For a more in-depth look at this year’s contenders, check out our dedicated page [link to ‘KD Contenders’ page] which we will update as all the major trials come and go heading to the 145th Kentucky Derby.
Millions of viewers will once more tune in to see this racing spectacular, NBC Sports having live TV coverage of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
No longer though must we rely on getting to a television set in order to not miss one of the biggest races of the year. Advances in technology means live streaming is available now on all major sporting events, including the Kentucky Derby.
As well as live TV coverage there will be a chance to watch the Kentucky Derby via live streaming online. The race can be streamed through NBC Sports Live Extra or by using the NCB Sports Live Extra App for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
NBC’s online coverage mirrors their live televised coverage for the most part, taking in all the atmosphere and tradition of the day as well as just the racing. You may simply be asked for your TV provider and a password to access the online coverage.
Unforgettable Races Beamed Live
There have been some unforgettable Kentucky Derby moments over the years beamed live to millions via TV and now online streaming. Some of the highlights are:
Following American Pharoah pretty quickly, another Triple Crown hero announced himself on the scene with victory here before going on to complete the treble in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
American Pharoah (2015)
Coming in as favorite he had a huge reputation already, but this beautiful horse shot home to win the Derby before going on to land the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes to become a Triple Crown hero. It was Victor Espanoza’s second win in the race in a row following this ride on the brilliant California Chrome.
In front of 157,000 people, Barbaro shot him to win in a full field of 20 runners, winning by six-and-a-half lengths to be the biggest winner of the race since 1946 and without the jockey needing to use the whip down the home stretch.
Silver Charm (1997)
The beautiful gray gave jockey Gary Stevens his second Kentucky Derby in three seasons after Thunder Gulch had landed the race two years earlier.
Spectacular Bid (1979)
Positioned back in 7th after the opening quarter mile, Spectacular Bid was seen as a speed type and not thought to have too much stamina but he came home best of all to land this in great style.
Seattle Slew (1977)
This future superstar came into the 1977 season without too much expectation having cost his owners just $17,500. He won this though and became the 10th Triple Crown winner.
“Big Red” absolutely flew home in the final quarter mile of this race to pip Sham to the wire and take this race en route to winning the Triple Crown, a huge performance.
Horse races like these rightly take their place in sporting folklore and it’s a superb piece of sporting and betting evolution that means we can watch like never before. Excuses are removed now and we can get to see in real time these equine champions being crowned at Churchill Downs.
Our team will be on hand to offer their in-depth analysis and expert picks leading up to post time at Churchill Downs and remember, you can find out who is in the running for a potential 14th Triple Crown by checking out our dedicated contenders page.
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