Welcome to the famed Kentucky Derby, and its 147th running at Churchill Downs on May 1. Post time is 7 p.m. ET
Twenty of the nation’s top three-year-old thoroughbreds compete in the event dubbed the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.” It’s also called “The Run for the Roses” due to the garland of 554 red roses draped over the winner.
First run in 1875, this event is considered the first major thoroughbred race of the season, captivating the public and elevating the stature of the sport. It is the signature first jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes two weeks later and the Belmont Stakes three weeks beyond that.
The 2021 Kentucky Derby is back to its usual early May date, as it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and run in September.
Wagering has become prolific, with unofficial counts indicating more than $79 million being bet on it through varied forms last year. Here’s a Kentucky Derby primer and guide for racing and betting fans in New Jersey. Learn more about the race, Derby betting odds, changing history, some memorable moments, and key handicapping variables.
If you are one of the 100,000+ fans who like to watch the race live, head to Churchill Downs in Kentucky to place your bet on Derby Day. But if that is not your first choice, New Jersey offers a slate of horse betting options.
Bookmark this page as we will be updating with current odds once the Kentucky Derby field is set.
|1||Known Agenda||6-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Like the King||50-1||Drayden Van Dyke||Wesley Ward|
|3||Brooklyn Strong||50-1||Umberto Rispoli||Daniel Velazquez|
|4||Keepmeinmind||50-1||David Cohen||Robertino Diodoro|
|5||Sainthood||50-1||Corey Lanerie||Todd Pletcher|
|6||O Besos||20-1||Marcellino Pedroza||Greg Foley|
|7||Mandaloun||15-1||Florent Geroux||Brad Cox|
|8||Medina Spirit||15-1||John Velazquez||Bob Baffert|
|9||Hot Rod Charlie||8-1||Flavien Prat||Doug O'Neill|
|10||Midnight Bourbon||20-1||Mike Smith||Steve Asmussen|
|11||Dynamic One||20-1||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher|
|12||Helium||50-1||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse|
|13||Hidden Stash||50-1||Rafael Bejarano||Vicki Oliver|
|14||Essential Quality||2-1||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|15||Rock Your World||5-1||Joel Rosario||John Sadler|
|16||King Fury||20-1||Brian Hernandez, Jr.||Kenny McPeek|
|17||Highly Motivated||10-1||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown|
|18||Super Stock||30-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|19||Soup and Sandwich||30-1||Tyler Gaffalione||Mark Casse|
|20||Bourbonic||30-1||Kendrick Carmouche||Todd Pletcher|
A $1 trifecta box with three horses cost $6. A $1 trifecta box with four horses cost $24. The $1 superfecta box with four horses is $24.
Thinking razzle-dazzle? A $1 key, putting your favorite horse in the first position and three others in the second and third slots, is $6. For $12, you can place four horses in the second and third slots. The “key” for this bet is that your favorite horse must win the race.
The same principle applies in putting your horse in the second position.
If you love a particular horse to win, invest strongly on the win line. The worst feeling for many players is to pick the winner of a race and not cash because the horses in second and third place were not the ones you played.
If you believe the favorites will run in the top two spots, consider playing a hefty exacta box.
Another option is to play one’s two favorite horses in the first and second slots, place a few others in the third and fourth positions, and have pretty good coverage on a potentially lucrative superfecta for reasonable money.
While there have been some impressive longshot winners (Donerail 91-1, 1913; Giacomo, 50-1, 2005; Mine That Bird, 50-1, 2009), the race has been dominated by favorites in recent years.
It happened by design with a rule change that alters the makeup of the race. For bettors, it’s good to know the race is now tilted toward favorites.
Before 2012, horses qualified for the Derby-based on earnings of stakes races.
That changed with the Road to the Kentucky Derby system implemented for qualifying races. It completely disregards sprint races and places heavy weight on recent results. Sprinters don’t have a place in this Derby. A horse must be effective at a long distance to have a chance at entering the field.
The points system has changed the way horses are prepared for the Derby, the composition of the field, and how the race itself is run given the absence of pure sprinters that normally ensure a fast early pace.
This means there are now fewer “speed duels,” which compromise distance horses by locking them into a sizzling early pace with sprinters.
In earlier years, that had set the stage for the front runners to tire and be overtaken in the stretch. Mine That Bird and Giacomo, for instance, rallied from nearly last to first.
The pace change means the early leaders run the first half-mile in roughly 47 seconds, rather than the 45-ish area they had been pushed into with previous speed duels. Horses now get into position around the first turn and their jockeys then try to relax them so they can fire on all cylinders during the home stretch.
There have been far fewer lead changes in recent Kentucky Derbys. Horses that have been starting in the back of the pack have been staying there.
In recent years, the “chalk” (industry jargon for favorites) has been able to “talk the talk and walk the walk.”
Yes. The first one happened in 2019 when Maximum Security was denied the Derby crown.
Maximum Security triumphed and was taken down 22 minutes later because of alleged interference with other horses on the final turn.
Racing purists cried foul over the disqualification because rugged traffic conditions and jostling on the turn happen in each Derby and come with the logistics of a 20-horse field. More glaring collisions over the years have been ignored.
The controversy called attention to the large 20-horse field and the presence of spectators along the backstretch rail who are not there for most races throughout the year.
Spectators can startle a horse into making a sudden move in the wrong direction.
Country House, a 65-1 choice, was placed first. About $9 million was lost by Maximum Security bettors because of the disqualification.
How good was Maximum Security after this race? He just pocketed $10 million for his connections by winning the $20 million Saudi Cup, the richest horse-race ever, on Feb. 28.
Before betting on the Derby in New Jersey, it’s important to note a few things about the track and check in on the details via the Daily Racing Form. For instance, the listing of track conditions is important.
Information on how horses run on different surfaces will be available in the Daily Racing Form, too. More on that below.
The surface of the track is paramount.
If there is heavy rain, as there was for the 2019 Derby, it will be difficult to assess the merit of each horse. Running in the “slop” will adversely affect many horses. Some can run well on slop. Some hate it.
If you can get an angle on a horse you like, in the slop, be partial to early speed. Maximum Security went from 10-1 one night beforehand to 9-2 by race time last year because the skies opened up just before the race and he was a good speed horse.
That foresight proved to be right. He led most of the way and rallied at the finish.
Pick up the Daily Racing Form. Local stores or a simulcast facility will have them.
The form shows the running pattern of every horse in each of his races. If you see a listing like 1-1-1-3-3-4, it means the horse broke quickly but could not sustain the pace and faded. You would think this horse unlikely to win if another horse also broke quickly, but would be dangerous if no other horse showed early speed.
If you see something like 4-4-4-3-3-3-2-2-2-1-1 it means the horse can rally and that his running style is “off the pace.” You would want to see an indication that the front speed could tire before playing this horse.
The indicator would be multiple horses showing they like to run near the front early.
The tricky part of this is that there is often more than one horse fitting each type of running style.
Guess that’s why they call it gambling.
In the Racing Form, you can find track conditions for fast (fst), good (gd), or slop (usually slp) next to a horse’s race. There is also a Wet number (normally 200-350) that can be measured against others, to indicate how a horse is likely to compete on the sloppy track.
Beyer figures will be in black, indicating the horse’s performance on a given day relative to track conditions. Potential Derby winners will have numbers in the 90s and above 100. You will want to respect any horse with a Beyer figure above 100.
Although significant attention goes to fall and winter races, the Kentucky Derby picture gains full focus with a series of prep races in March and April.
The winner of the Kentucky Derby invariably wins one of these preps.
These events provide matchups between horses that will be helpful in your Kentucky Derby betting. They will also provide a sense of which of these races was run fastest, thus giving a glimpse of who might be the best horse on Sept. 5.
They can also deliver some insight about exacta and trifecta wagering. If two horses finish noses apart in a prep race, they might be a good Kentucky Derby exacta bet or both can be placed in a trifecta wager.
For many of these horses, this will be their final appearance before the Derby.
Below is a list of the prep races to watch for some early handicapping. If you can’t watch or bet these races live, they are ultimately available on YouTube and can be used for assessing Derby hopefuls.
Note that three of the last five Florida Derby winners have captured the Kentucky Derby. One theory is that the race, which usually comes exactly five weekends before the Kentucky Derby, is an ideal space between races.
|Louisiana Derby||March 20||Fairgrounds Race Course, Louisiana||1 3/16 miles|
|Florida Derby||March 27||Gulfstream Park, Florida||1 1/8 miles|
|Wood Memorial||April 3||Aqueduct Race Track, New York||1 1/8 miles|
|Santa Anita Derby||April 3||Santa Anita Park, California||1 1/8 miles|
|Lexington S.||April 10||Keeneland, Kentucky||1 1/16 miles|
|Arkansas Derby||April 10||Oaklawn Park, Arkansas||1 1/8 miles|
Here’s a look at the final prep race and how they finished for the last 20 Kentucky Derby winners:
|Year||Horse||Last Prep Race||Place|
|2019||Country House*||Louisiana Derby||Fourth|
|2018||Justify||Santa Anita Derby||First|
|2017||Always Dreaming||Florida Derby||First|
|2015||American Pharoah||Arkansas Derby||First|
|2014||California Chrome||Santa Anita Derby||First|
|2012||I'll Have Another||Santa Anita Derby||First|
|2011||Animal Kingdom||Spiral Stakes||First|
|2010||Super Saver||Arkansas Derby||Second|
|2009||Mine That Bird||Sunland Derby||Fourth|
|2008||Big Brown||Florida Derby||First|
|2007||Street Sense||Blue Grass||Second|
|2005||Giacomo||Santa Anita Derby||Fourth|
|2004||Smarty Jones||Arkansas Derby||First|
|2003||Funny Cide||Wood Memorial||Second|
|2002||War Emblem||Illinois Derby||First|
The Kentucky Derby may very well be the most popular sports event in the US. In fact, the Derby has become a multi-million-dollar spectacle.
More than 150,000 fans jam into Churchill Downs to watch it live. The Derby garners more attendance than other major sports events including the World Series, Super Bowl, and NCAA Final Four.
Its storied history began on May 17, 1875, when the Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the first Kentucky Derby. Fifteen three-year-old thoroughbred horses raced 1 1/2 miles. Aristides was the first winner of the Derby.
Over the course of decades, the Derby has seen its fair share of changes. In 1883, the track is named Churchill Downs for the first time. The length of the race was shortened to 1 1/4 miles starting in 1896. And the red rose became the official flower of the Derby in 1904.
By 1931, the Kentucky Derby is permanently scheduled for the first Saturday of May. This allowed the three key races of the Triple Crown — Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes — to have a consistent schedule.
There have been only 13 Triple Crown winners in horse racing history: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).
Secretariat did something in the 1973 Kentucky Derby that never occurred before, or since. He ran each quarter of a mile faster than the one before. That made him a logical choice to run even better in the 1973 Belmont Stakes which he did, smashing the runner-up by a record 31 lengths.
Secretariat’s 1:59.40 winning time remains the Kentucky Derby record. It was also the first Derby run in under two minutes. The second was from the horse who finished second in that race, Sham, who was two lengths back at roughly 1:59.80.
The third was Monarchos, who romped home with a time of 1:59.97 in 2001.
Secretariat is still considered the gold standard of Kentucky Derby racing. Because the distance of 1 1/4 miles never changes, horses can be compared from different eras. One second in horse racing is equivalent to about five lengths.
By that barometer, Secretariat would still be defeating modern-age winners handily. He would romp not only over other Kentucky Derby winners, but Triple Crown winners.
Want to compare and have some fun checking the myriad list of Derby winners?
Assess five lengths for every one-second difference between the winning time of Secretariat and the others and you can project how Secretariat would have done against previous Derby winners.
He would have beaten Justify, the last Triple Crown winner, by roughly 25 lengths in the Derby!
This is a list of every Kentucky Derby and shows not only rich history, but the unparalleled success of Secretariat. Enjoy it and good luck at the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
|2019||Country House||Flavien Prat||2:03.98|
|2018||Justify *||Mike E. Smith||2:04.20|
|2017||Always Dreaming||John R. Velazquez||2:03.59|
|2015||American Pharoah *||Victor Espinoza||2:03.02|
|2014||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||2:03.66|
|2012||I'll Have Another||Mario Gutierrez||2:01.83|
|2011||Animal Kingdom||John Velazquez||2:02.04|
|2010||Super Saver||Calvin Borel||2:04.45|
|2009||Mine That Bird||Calvin Borel||2:02.66|
|2008||Big Brown||Kent Desormeaux||2:01.82|
|2007||Street Sense||Calvin Borel||2:02.17|
|2004||Smarty Jones||Stewart Elliott||2:04.06|
|2003||Funny Cide||José Santos||2:01.19|
|2002||War Emblem||Victor Espinoza||2:01.13|
|2000||Fusaichi Pegasus||Kent Desormeaux||02:01|
|1998||Real Quiet||Kent Desormeaux||2:02 1/5|
|1997||Silver Charm||Gary Stevens||2:02 2/5|
|1995||Thunder Gulch||Gary Stevens||2:01 1/5|
|1994||Go for Gin||Chris McCarron||2:03 3/5|
|1993||Sea Hero||Jerry Bailey||02:02|
|1992||Lil E. Tee||Pat Day||02:03|
|1991||Strike the Gold||Chris Antley||02:03|
|1989||Sunday Silence||Patrick Valenzuela||02:05|
|1988||Winning Colors||Gary Stevens||2:02 1/5|
|1986||Ferdinand||William Shoemaker||2:02 4/5|
|1985||Spend a Buck||Angel Cordero, Jr.||2:00 1/5|
|1984||Swale||Laffit Pincay, Jr.||2:02 2/5|
|1983||Sunny's Halo||Eddie Delahoussaye||2:02 1/5|
|1982||Gato Del Sol||Eddie Delahoussaye||2:02 2/5|
|1981||Pleasant Colony||Jorge Velasquez||02:02|
|1980||Genuine Risk||Jacinto Vasquez||02:02|
|1979||Spectacular Bid||Ronnie Franklin||2:02 2/5|
|1978||Affirmed *||Steve Cauthen||2:01 1/5|
|1977||Seattle Slew *||Jean Cruguet||2:02 1/5|
|1976||Bold Forbes||Angel Cordero, Jr.||2:01 3/5|
|1975||Foolish Pleasure||Jacinto Vasquez||02:02|
|1974||Cannonade||Angel Cordero, Jr.||02:04|
|1973||Secretariat *||Ron Turcotte||1:59 2/5|
|1972||Riva Ridge||Ron Turcotte||2:01 4/5|
|1971||Canonero II||Gustavo Avila||2:03 1/5|
|1970||Dust Commander||Mike Manganello||2:03 2/5|
|1969||Majestic Prince||William Hartack||2:01 4/5|
|1968||Forward Pass||Ismael Valenzuela||2:02 1/5|
|1967||Proud Clarion||Robert Ussery||2:00 3/5|
|1966||Kauai King||Don Brumfield||02:02|
|1965||Lucky Debonair||William Shoemaker||2:01 1/5|
|1964||Northern Dancer||William Hartack||02:00|
|1963||Chateaugay||Braulio Baeza||2:01 4/5|
|1962||Decidedly||William Hartack||2:00 2/5|
|1961||Carry Back||John Sellers||02:04|
|1960||Venetian Way||William Hartack||2:02 2/5|
|1959||Tomy Lee||William Shoemaker||2:02 1/5|
|1958||Tim Tam||Ismael Valenzuela||02:05|
|1957||Iron Liege||William Hartack||2:01 1/5|
|1956||Needles||David Erb||2:03 2/5|
|1955||Swaps||William Shoemaker||2:01 4/5|
|1953||Dark Star||Henry Moreno||02:02|
|1952||Hill Gail||Eddie Arcaro||2:01 3/5|
|1951||Count Turf||Conn McCreary||2:02 3/5|
|1950||Middleground||William Boland||2:01 3/5|
|1949||Ponder||Steve Brooks||2:04 1/5|
|1948||Citation *||Eddie Arcaro||2:05 2/5|
|1947||Jet Pilot||Eric Guerin||2:06 4/5|
|1946||Assault *||Warren Mehrtens||2:06 3/5|
|1945||Hoop Jr.||Eddie Arcaro||02:07|
|1944||Pensive||Conn McCreary||2:04 1/5|
|1943||Count Fleet *||John Longden||02:04|
|1942||Shut Out||Wayne D. Wright||2:04 2/5|
|1941||Whirlaway *||Eddie Arcaro||2:01 2/5|
|1939||Johnstown||James Stout||2:03 2/5|
|1938||Lawrin||Eddie Arcaro||2:04 4/5|
|1937||War Admiral *||Charle Kurtsinger||2:03 1/5|
|1936||Bold Venture||Ira Hanford||2:03 3/5|
|1935||Omaha *||William Saunders||02:05|
|1933||Brokers Tip||Don Meade||2:06 4/5|
|1932||Burgoo King||Basil James||2:05 1/5|
|1931||Twenty Grand||Charle Kurtsinger||2:01 4/5|
|1930||Gallant Fox *||Earl Sande||2:07 3/5|
|1929||Clyde Van Dusen||Linus McAtee||2:10 4/5|
|1928||Reigh Count||Charle Lang||2:10 2/5|
|1926||Bubbling Over||Albert Johnson||2:03 4/5|
|1925||Flying Ebony||Earl Sande||2:07 3/5|
|1924||Black Gold||John D. Mooney||2:05 1/5|
|1923||Zev||Earl Sande||2:05 2/5|
|1922||Morvich||Albert Johnson||2:04 3/5|
|1921||Behave Yourself||Charles Thompson||2:04 1/5|
|1920||Paul Jones||Ted Rice||02:09|
|1919||Sir Barton *||John Loftus||2:09 4/5|
|1918||Exterminator||William Knapp||2:10 4/5|
|1917||Omar Khayyam||Charles Borel||2:04 3/5|
|1916||George Smith||John Loftus||02:04|
|1915||Regret||Joe Notter||2:05 2/5|
|1914||Old Rosebud||John McCabe||2:03 2/5|
|1913||Donerail||Roscoe Goose||2:04 4/5|
|1912||Worth||Carroll Hugh Shilling||2:09 2/5|
|1910||Donau||Robert Herbert||2:06 2/5|
|1909||Wintergreen||Vincent Powers||2:08 1/5|
|1908||Stone Street||Arthur Pickens||2:15 1/5|
|1907||Pink Star||Andy Minder||2:12 3/5|
|1906||Sir Huon||Roscoe Troxler||2:08 4/5|
|1905||Agile||Jack Martin||2:10 3/4|
|1904||Elwood||Frank Prior||2:08 1/2|
|1903||Judge Himes||Harold Booker||02:09|
|1902||Alan-a-Dale||Jimmy Winkfield||2:08 3/4|
|1901||His Eminence||Jimmy Winkfield||2:07 3/4|
|1900||Lieut. Gibson||Jimmy Boland||2:06 1/2|
|1897||Typhoon II||Buttons Garner||2:12 1/2|
|1896||Ben Brush||Willie Simms||2:07 3/4|
|1895||Halma||Soup Perkins||2:37 1/2|
|1893||Lookout||Eddie Kunze||2:39 1/4|
|1892||Azra||Alonzo Clayton||2:41 1/2|
|1891||Kingman||Isaac Murphy||2:52 1/4|
|1889||Spokane||Thomas Kiley||2:34 1/2|
|1888||Macbeth II||George Covington||2:38 1/4|
|1887||Montrose||Isaac Lewis||2:39 1/4|
|1886||Ben Ali||Paul Duffy||2:36 1/2|
|1885||Joe Cotton||Erkine Henderson||2:37 1/4|
|1884||Buchanan||Isaac Murphy||2:40 1/4|
|1882||Apollo||Babe Hurd||2:40 1/4|
|1880||Fonso||George Garret Lewis||2:37 1/2|
|1879||Lord Murphy||Charlie Shauer||02:37|
|1878||Day Star||Jimmy Carter||2:37 1/4|
|1876||Vagrant||Bobby Swim||2:38 1/4|
|1875||Aristides||Oliver Lewis||2:37 3/4|
* Denotes Triple Crown winners.
In recent history, it has been 20. A second auxiliary gate is needed to fit all the horses.
May 1 is the scheduled date of the 2021 Kentucky Derby, with a post time of 7 p.m.
Qualifying races late in the fall of 2020 and throughout the spring of 2021 award points to winners and runners-up of the “prep” races. The most significant preps occur later in March and April.
Total is $3 million, with the winning connections receiving $1.8 million. The Derby was once the most lucrative race on the circuit.
Its total has become pedestrian compared to the $6 million Breeder’s Cup Classic and recent blockbusters like the $20 million Saudi Cup and $12 million Dubai Cup. But the Kentucky Derby has history, consistency, glamour, and significant betting totals.
1 1/4 miles. It is not the shortest race in the Triple Crown, however. The Preakness Stakes is a hair shorter in distance at 1 3/16 miles.
The 13 who eventually won the Triple Crown. That group includes Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).
Maximum Security likely ranks as famous (or infamous) due to his disqualification in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
The introduction of the superfecta (selecting the top four finishers in a horse race) ushered in an era of staggering payouts when longshots hit the top spots.
The best ever was 2005, when Giacomo prevailed at 50-1. Closing argument finished second, at 71-1. Afleet Alex was third at 9-2 and Don’t Get Mad completed the superfecta at 29-1.
How could anyone get mad at this ticket? It paid an unbelievable $864,000 for the $2 superfecta, still the largest Derby payout ever.
Even the trifecta, the top three finishers, paid more than $133,000. The exacta returned $9,814.
How did it happen? Front-end speed horses tired down the stretch. Two horses mired near the back of the pack overtook them, finishing first and second. They were the two longest shots on the board. One lukewarm favorite was third and another longshot rallied to complete the eye-popping superfecta.
The biggest payout from one horse came in 1913. Donerail prevailed at 91-1 and paid $184.90. But there was no superfecta then. Imagine hitting a superfecta with him on top.