A Beginner’s Guide to Betting on the Kentucky Derby

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Mor Spirit is schooled in the paddock for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 03, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. Rob Carr / Getty Images

This Saturday the Kentucky Derby will run for the 142nd time, offering people across the country a chance to dress up and drink bourbon and, if you place the right bets, make money. As Leicester City showed by winning the English Premier League a few days ago, even 5000-1 long shots do occasionally cash out. Here is a handy guide to help you this weekend.

How to Place Your Bet

First, the terminology:

Simple bets let you pick the place you think a horse will finish and you get paid if they do it. These bets have the lowest odds. 

Win: A bet on a horse to win

Place: A bet on a horse to finish 1st or 2nd.

Show: A bet on a horse to finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

To shoot for bigger odds you must wager on more exotic bets.

Exacta: A bet picking the 1st and 2nd place finishers in a race.

Trifecta: A bet picking the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers in a race.

Superfecta: A bet picking the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishers in a race.

Daily Double: A bet picking the winners of two races, usually two consecutive races.

Pick 3: A bet picking the winners of three consecutive races.

Pick 4: A bet picking the winners of four consecutive races.

Pick 5: A bet picking the winners of five consecutive races.

Pick 6: A bet picking the winners of six consecutive races.

If long shots finish in the money on any of these bets, the odds increase considerably. When Mine That Bird won the 2009 race, he was a 50-1 long shot. A correct $1 bet on the Exacta paid out $1,037, the Trifecta paid out $20,750, and the Superfecta paid out $278,503. There were some happy people that day.

Post Position

The second step is to understand the odds of winning from the pole positions. The race usually has a field of 20 horses, and where they start matters — a lot. Eight of the last 17 winners have come from the outside gates — 15 to 20 — but no winner ever has started from the 17 slot. Here is the post position followed by the percentage of time it has had the winner, the horse starting there this Derby, and the current odds.

1. (9.3%) Trojan Nation—50 to 1

2. (8.1%) Suddenbreakingnews—20 to 1

3. (5.8%) Creator—10 to 1

4. (5.8%) Mo Tom—20 to 1

5. (10.5%) Gun Runner—10 to 1

6. (2.3%) My Man Sam—20 to 1

7. (7.1%) Oscar Nominated—50 to 1

8. (9.4%) Lani—30 to 1

9. (4.9%) Destin—15 to 1

10. (11.4%) Whitmore—20 to 1

11. (2.7%) Exaggerator—8 to 1

12. (4.2%) Tom’s Ready—30 to 1

13. (5.8%) Nyquist—3 to 1

14. (3.3%) Mohaymen—10 to 1

15. (9.3%) Outwork—15 to 1

16. (9.3%) Shagaf—20 to 1

17. (0%) Mor Spirit—12 to 1

18. (3.4%) Majesto—30 to 1

19. (4.2%) Brody’s Cause—12 to 1

20. (7.1%) Danzing Candy—15 to 1

This Year's Horses to Watch

Nyquist: The favorite going into the race, this colt is undefeated going 7-for-7 lifetime, including winning the prestigious Breeders Cup Juvenile, the top race for two-year-olds. Best of all, he is fresh after only racing twice this year.

Outwork: Considered a long shot, Outwork should have great odds. He won the prestigious Wood Memorial, a race often seen as the premier Derby warm up, and it has produced 11 horses that have triumphed at Churchill Downs. In his career, he has won three times, and finished fourth in the other race.

Whitmore: A big gelding, Whitmore is ridden by the jockey that guided American Pharoah to the Triple Crown last season, Victor Espinoza. He has raced well at Churchill Downs before and could steal the race from Nyquist