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May 02, 2023

Eytan Shander: A betting guide to the 2023 Kentucky Derby

Ready to bet on the 2023 Kentucky Derby? Here's the definitive guide that you need.

Welcome to the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs! The first leg of the Triple Crown is known for having the largest field of competitors, mint juleps, and wild hats. All make for an amazing short of entertainment on TV ,but only one can truly help us establish any betting edge. There are some nuances to the track and the field of horses, but ultimately this is only one of three major events in this sport  and most people just want to place a casual bet or two on the event.

Let’s start there; the importance of knowing what exactly you are betting and if there is anything we can use to our advantage  without cramming years of horse racing into our brains. The answer is yes, coming in multiple ways, the first being a parimutuel betting  or pool betting  where we are betting against other people and the book just takes its rake. This is unlike betting against the books, as the winners split the pool of money on whichever horse wins, the larger the pool, the more people to payout.

Right away there is no betting advantage in taking the favorite Forte at 3-1. The winner of both the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and Breeder’s Futurity comes in as a strong favorite, and we know the general public loves to bet on favorites. The pool has already grown, and the payout is expected to diminish with more money coming in on Forte. The same scenario has already played out with Tapit Trice at 5-1, despite the expectations he would come in with longer odds. Tapit Trice is trained by the same person in Todd Pletcher, as he comes in with the two odds-on favorites. Pletcher is an accomplished trainer, so these odds make sense, but that doesn’t mean they are the best bets.

The best bet for the 2023 Kentucky Derby is Angel of Empire to win/place. The Brad Cox-trained horse enters the Derby with some impressive victories under his belt. AoE destroyed the field in the Risen Star in February, then proceeded to win by more than four lengths at the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn just this past month. This is a horse that wont take on as much money even leading up to the post time, and will net a better payout. He had zero signs up pulling up with that monster lead in April, which is a great sign to carryover for this type of racer at the Derby. Establishing a lead wont be as difficult as holding it in this larger field.

The other part is the bet type. We are taking Angel of Empire to win/place  meaning it can come in first and second with the possibility of hitting both. If he finishes first, then we win the win and place bets, if he finishes second, we take home the place part. Worth the risk here for the lesser bet of the “favorites” and plenty of power to establish an earlier lead.

Two other great bets at the Derby will be Practical Move and Derma Sotogake, both opening at 10-1. Practical Move comes in unbeaten after taking the G2 in Los Alamitos and San Felipe. After bumping up to the G1 this past April at Santa Anita, Practical Move escaped with a victory over a couple of notable horses on the circuit in Skinner and Mandarin Hero. A decent alternative to the top-two favorites, Practical Move isn’t expected to take on nearly as much money as the already mentioned horses, including the Japanese runner Derma Sotogake.

The Group 2 UAE Derby in March saw Derma Sotogake almost break the track record while taking home victory. He comes in with championship pedigree too, as he is the son of Mind Your Biscuits  a multiple winner of the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen. There will be intrigue and a lot of money pouring in on this horse, so getting in ahead of time doesn’t make that much of a difference in a pool-type bet. There is a strong chance we see that burst of controlled speed from Sotogake which will make it truly difficult to narrow and gap. Both of these make fine options as alternatives to Angel of Empire.

Ultimately, it’s horse racing. A sport we only care about three times a year, and even then, less if we have different winners for the Derby and Preakness. This should be fun for you and not a way to get rich. Take these horses and bet them to win/place/show, where you have all three positions in play. It makes it more enjoyable, and you have a shot across the board. Look for any weather change or possible rain coming down, and most importantly  have fun!