Kentucky Derby Betting Tips From Atlantic City’s Only Racebook Boss

Written By David Danzis on May 5, 2023
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Atlantic City casinos have long offered odds on the horses, especially on the first Saturday in May. Obviously, Kentucky Derby betting in AC predates online sportsbooks in New Jersey, same-game parlays, digital kiosks and nonstop gambling advertising.

A handful of casinos in town used to have racebooks where gamblers studied betting sheets, made their picks on paper slips and handed them to a real live person behind a counter. Outside the city, a few off-track-betting parlors also took thoroughbred action.

Racebooks never quite received the love and attention that today’s sportsbooks do, but there’s still one in Atlantic City.

Inside the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the BetMGM Race & Sportsbook. It is the only place in AC to legally bet on horses.

BetMGM Race & Sportsbook: The only show in town

Ahead of the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby, PlayNJ caught up with Thomas Gable, director of race and sports at Borgata, to get some tips.

This Kentucky Derby betting primer is useful for seasoned bettors and curious first-timers alike.

Gable’s advice is presented in a style fitting of The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports — Win, Place, Show. There’s also an extra tip at the end that all gamblers should know. <wink, wink>

Kick it off with Gable’s WIN tip

Let’s start with the basics.

The Kentucky Derby is the most popular horse race in the country and it’s also the one horse racing event that everyone gets involved in, even if they won’t bet another horse race until the following year’s Derby.

That being said, if you plan on betting this year, know what you want in advance and be prepared to clearly communicate to the ticket writer what you want.

When you approach the counter, make sure you say the track (ie. Churchill Downs), the race number (i.e.. Race 12), the type of wager (more on that in a minute), the amount you want to bet and the horse’s number (please don’t use names of horses).

This will speed up the process for everyone and makes your transaction more efficient. Trust me, the people behind you in line waiting to bet, will be thankful!

Now on to Gable’s PLACE tip

There are a variety of different bet types you can make in horse racing, with the most common being single race wagers like Win (the horse must come in first place), Place (the horse can come in first or second place), and Show (the horse can come in either first, second or third place).

But there are also more exotic wagers like Exactas (where you pick the 2 horses that will come in first or second), Trifectas (where you pick the top 3 finishers), Superfectas (where you pick the top 4 finishers) and Doubles (picking the winners in two consecutive races).

Obviously, the exotic wagers are tougher to hit, but their payouts are significantly higher than the Win, Place, Show wagers which is what draws people to play them.

There have been Superfectas in prior years at the Derby that have paid out lottery-like amounts, such as over $860,000 in 2005. Of course, it increases the payouts when a longer shot comes in.

What about Gable’s SHOW tip?

The Kentucky Derby is one of the hardest races to predict the outcome of due to the large field of 20 horses, the fact that none of the horses have raced at the length before (1¼-mile distance) and they also have never raced in front of such a large crowd before (usually well over 100,000 people attend the race).

With that being the case, the favorite doesn’t always win, so it’s important to look for some value when handicapping the field.

Forte (#15), will go off the favorite this year, more than likely at around 5/2 odds, so even though he may be the best horse in the field, you won’t get much value betting him.

Look for some horses further down the odds board and take a shot or use Forte in some exotics while adding horses like Tapit Trice (#5), who has the bloodline and some impressive wins in prep races, underneath the favorite or box the wager (which enables your picks to come in in any order).

Personally, I also like the draw for Tapit Trice in the 5 hole, which has produced the most Derby winners of any post position.

Other horses to consider: Angel of Empire (#14), Two Phil’s (#3) and for a real long shot, Rocket Can (#18) who may go off at 40/1 or higher.

Remember that an 80/1 long shot won it last year!

SMART MONEY tip for 2023 Kentucky Derby

Remember to set an amount that you want to wager before heading to the casino, track or OTB.

It can be a lot of fun to have something riding on the outcome of the race and even wager on the races that are on the undercard that day.  But in order to keep it fun, have an amount you are willing to lose before heading out and don’t deviate from that amount.

No matter if you are a serious handicapper or a casual once-a-year bettor, the Derby is an American tradition that is meant to be fun and a break from the reality of everyday life and stressors. Treat it as such!

For more information on responsible gambling, click here.

Photo by Julio Cortez / AP Photo
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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting and online gambling. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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