By Dave Schwab
The first Saturday in May not only marks the running of horse racing’s biggest event of the year, it also marks the start of the Triple Crown racing season. Everyone knows that the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is the crown jewel of this three-race series followed two weeks later by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York on the second Saturday in June.
The field for this year’s Kentucky Derby is in place with 20 of the top three-year old thoroughbreds set to compete in the annual “Run for the Roses”. Now is the time to start formulating your actual betting strategy for Saturday’s race.
We will not know the post positions for this year’s Kentucky Derby until late Wednesday morning which will then lead to the morning line odds for the race being also released. Prior to that, most of the top online sportsbooks are still taking action on their posted Kentucky Derby futures odds. This presents a great opportunity to shop these numbers across any number of books given some of the variances that exist. For example, if you like Always Dreaming to win this year’s Derby as one of the top favorites, you should shop his futures odds to squeeze out the best value in the actual numbers. In a recent search between two top online books with posted Kentucky Derby futures, he was listed at +300 odds at one site and +500 odds at the other.
Once the actual post positions are set for the final field, you will start to see some online books posting their betting odds for head-to-head matchups. These types of horse racing bets can offer quite a bit of value since the horse that you bet on only has to beat the horse they are matched up against. Cashing in on a head-to-head matchup bet can be somewhat easier than trying to pick a straight-up winner in a field of 20 horses.
The best way to add even more betting action to Saturday’s main event at Churchill is to place a few timely bets on any number of Kentucky Derby props that will be released in conjunction with this race. Just to name a few, you can bet the “over/under” on the winning time, the margin of victory and whether or not the winning saddlecloth number will be odd or even. The betting odds for some of these props can offer quite a bit of value when tied together with your overall handicapping efforts for this race.
Given just how many strong contenders are in this year’s Kentucky Field, you might want to try your hand at picking a two-horse exacta or a three-horse trifecta to stretch the value in the posted odds. Since there are at least five horses that could be considered in the group of top favorites to win, make sure that you box any exacta or trifecta bet you place. This way it really does not matter what the finishing order is just as long as it contains either your top two or top three horses.
Even a casual horse racing bettor can find themselves getting caught up in all the action surrounding this race, so you should also incorporate a money management strategy when it comes to the actual bets you place. Also, instead of using this set betting budget on just one or two primary bets, you may want to try and spread out your money over a varied combination of betting options. This will work to make things even more interesting once the race gets underway and it may also give you a better chance to walk away with an overall positive return.