This Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is the biggest signal horse race of the year from a betting standpoint. It is also the first of three major graded events that makes up the annual Triple Crown racing series for the top three-year old thoroughbreds. Two weeks from Saturday is the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course followed by the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8 at Belmont Park.
Whether you are betting a bundle on the Kentucky Derby or placing a $2 exacta bet on the first race at your local track, there are some basic tips to keep in mind if you are looking to maximize your return on investment.
Handicapping the Field
If you talk to 10 different horse bettors that could be considered subject matter experts when it comes to handicapping horse races, there is a good chance that you will get 10 different ways to break down the field. While there will be a number of similarities in each one’s approach, they will also offers some tips that are totally unique to their betting style.
There really is no right way or wrong way to handicap a horse race. There are solid reasons to go chalk with the favorites and there may be some solid value in a few entries with longer odds. Anytime you have a pack of half-ton horses running around a dirt or turf track at high speeds, there is bound to be a number of variables that can have an impact on the outcome.
I like to go with the simple theory that winners win. Certain horses have a knack for getting their nose across the finish line first. This is especially relevant in a small field. However, the more crowded a field is, the more things can go wrong even for the favorite. The Kentucky Derby has 20 horses in the field, so post position can be a huge factor. The average horse race may have eight to 10 entries which is far easier to manage.
Placing Value Bets
Trifectas correctly picking the top three finishers in a race can offer huge pay days. However, just like three-team parlays they are hard to hit. Exactas picking the top two horses is a much more feasible ticket to cash, especially when you box the bet. Picking the winners in multiple races such as the Daily Double, Pick 3 and Pick 4 bets can also offer a nice return, but once again, they are difficult to cash.
Unless you consider yourself an expert horse bettor, the best strategy is to stick with the basics. Betting favorites to win is about as basic as it gets, so you might want to spice things up with a favorite paired with a horse with slightly longer odds in a boxed exacta wager.
Horse Betting Alternative Options
The best way to bet on horses for major graded events is at online sportsbooks. All the top online books also offer a racebook just for horses, but the sportsbook itself offers futures odds with locked-in betting odds, prop bet options and betting odds for head-to-head matchups. The best thing about betting head-to-head matchups is that your horse can finish second-to-last and still be a winner as long as the horse they are paired against finishes last.
A really good reason to bet the horses through the racebook of your favorite online sportsbook is a generous rebate program. In order to attract your horse racing dollars, most online books will offer a cash-back rebate on your total daily betting volume. This makes it possible to get some money back win or lose.