Kentucky Derby 2018: Prop Bets


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Kentucky Derby

We’re finally headed down the final stretch to the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby! The field has been set, and the draw is completed, with every competitor assigned their post positions. Now, with a better idea of how the race could play out, it’s time to start looking towards the betting odds.

While the betting window at Churchill Downs will focus on pari-mutuel betting and exotic wagers, online horse race betting provides us with many more options. Today, we are going to cover the proposition bets currently being offered for the 2018 Kentucky Derby and look at which ones have the most promise. If you’d like to see them for yourself, these can be found at Bovada by clicking the button below:

Prop bets are a type of sports wager that allows gamblers to bet on an aspect of an event or race other than the final outcome itself. There are already plenty of variations of bets out there concerning which horse will win the Run of the Roses, as well as which runners will follow in the top four spots; we want to focus on the fun stuff and get down to the nitty-gritty of track betting. You can gamble on things like the actual time the race will require to complete, how it will compare to track records, and whether the eventual winner will go on to further Triple Crown successes.

To get started, we’ll look at the post positions and odds of winning for each of the twenty competitors. These odds may not be the focus of our proposition bets, but they will give us an idea of which runners are expected to perform the best, information from which we may be able to extrapolate additional hypotheses.

Post Horse Odds
1 Firenze Fire 50/1
2 Free Drop Billy 30/1
3 Promises Fulfilled 30/1
4 Flameaway 30/1
5 Audible 8/1
6 Good Magic 12/1
7 Justify 3/1
8 Lone Soldier 50/1
9 Hofburg 20/1
10 My Boy Jack 30/1
11 Bolt d’Oro 8/1
12 Enticed 30/1
13 Bravazo 50/1
14 Mendelssohn 5/1
15 Instilled Regard 50/1
16 Magnum Moon 6/1
17 Solomini 30/1
18 Vino Rosso 12/1
19 Noble Indy 30/1
20 Combatant 50/1

As you can see Justify, running out of the seventh post, is currently the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, with Mendelssohn showing promise out of the fourteenth as well. When handicapping for our proposition bets, the wise move is to research the top prospects in the field and determine the type of race that must be run for them to triumph. Let’s take a look at some of the prop bets worth betting, and identify some of the variables that may come to influence the outcome.

Will the Winner of the 2018 Kentucky Derby Win the 2018 Triple Crown?

Bets Odds
Yes 11/2
No 1/10

The minute the Kentucky Derby is over, the topic of discussion immediately shifts to whether or not the winner has the goods to win the next two legs of the Triple Crown. In the history of the three marquee events, only twelve runners have earned the honor, the most recent of which came in 2015 with American Pharoah. Before his historic year, it had been thirty-seven years before one horse won all three races, and has gotten increasingly more difficult over time.

Many horses have won the first two races, only to fall in the Belmont Stakes. The third event is the longest of the trio, and regularly sees entries into the field that specialize in distance races. Runners that excel in the first two contests aren’t always as well equipped for the last, making the Triple Crown incredibly elusive.

This year there are a few colts with the potential to win it all, but it’s unlikely. If you are high on Justice or Magnum Moon, you might like this bet, but both are up against the “Apollo Rule.” Apollo was the only horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby despite not having raced as a two-year-old.

At 1/10 odds for a “No,” this bet is only worth exploring if you see a competitor worth betting “yes” on. All of the most promising participants have red flags, either due to the aforementioned Apollo Rule or in the case of Mendelssohn, because European horses have failed to find success in Churchill Downs thus far. But history is made to be broken, so you never know!

How Many Lengths Will the Winner of the Kentucky Derby Win By?

Bets Odds
Over 1.5 5/9
Under 1.5 7/5

A “length” is a unit of measurement based on the distance from a horse’s nose to their tail. On average, this measures to about eight feet long. The line that the bookmakers have set for this prop bet is at 1.5 lengths, making this a pretty tricky wager. Here are the margins of victory since 2013, when the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying process began:

Year Winner Margin of Victory
2017 Always Dreaming 2 ¾
2016 Nyquist 1 ¼
2015 American Pharaoh 1
2014 California Chrom 1 ¾
2013 Orb 1 1/2

As you can see, the recent victories have all fallen relatively lose to the line that has been set here. Since the qualifying process was changed to the Road to Kentucky Derby system, many sprint specialists and runners that would otherwise add some variance to the field no longer qualify. This has made for a more predictable race, as well as a more competitive one, compared to some of the historical margins.

For this particular year, I’m leaning towards taking the “under.” Not only does it offer the better odds in an almost toss-up bet, but with the chance of a muddy track and a field of favorites which all have some questions marks or red flags, I expect this one to stay close down the stretch. According to the odds, the book believes there’s a 64.28% chance of the winner winning by more than 1.5 lengths, but that feels ambitious with this group.

Will There Be an Injury in the Kentucky Derby?

Bets Odds
Yes 9/2
No 2/17

This is a pretty nasty bet, considering what typically happens shortly after one of the horses is injured. Unfortunately, this is simply part of the horse racing world and a realistic possibility. Especially at a race like the Kentucky Derby, with such a large field and so many young, promising horses.

Beyond the chaos that such a large field creates, there are also concerns about the consistency of the track on the day of the race. While the weather is supposed to be sunny and warm on Saturday, Louisville is set to get heavy showers the day before the contest, according to If it rains hard enough, the dirt track will most likely become mud, opening the door for slips and accidents.

If you do choose to place some money on “yes,” you definitely want to do so online and without telling anyone. While winning money is always fun, it’s not the best look to be the person celebrating in response to one of the horses falling and injuring itself. But, if the worst should come to pass, and a horse is unfortunately put down at Churchill Downs this weekend, I suppose at least someone should benefit, which you will to the tune of 4.5-dollars for every one wagered.

Will Secretariat’s Record Time of 1:59.40 Be Broken?

Bets Odds
Yes 11/1
No 1/50

Secretariat is absolutely one of the greatest thoroughbreds ever to lay a hoof on the track. In 1973, he won the Triple Crown after destroying the field at the Belmont Stakes, in a race in which he never stopped accelerating and eventually won by 31-lengths. The Hall of Fame colt’s run at the Kentucky Derby was no less impressive, and he set a track record that still stands to this day.

When Secretariat died, it was estimated that his heart was 2.5 times larger than the average horse, and was in perfect condition, an advantage which most likely played a huge factor in his several record-setting runs. This was a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and there’s a reason that his records still stand to this day.

It would be extremely unlikely for any of this year’s contestants to break the Churchill Downs track speed record. Between the mud, Secretariat’s enormous heart, and the mix of Apollo’s Curse candidates and a European horse at the top of the odds, I’m not seeing the right conditions to surpass the legendary run from 1973 finally.

Will Any Horse Win 2 of 3 Triple Crown Races?

Bets Odds
Yes 29/20
No 10/19

While only twelve horses have completed the Triple Crown, fifty-two have won two of the races. Of those fifty-two, thirty-four of them won the Kentucky Derby. On twenty-three occasions a horse won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, while the Belmont Stakes was the second race won only eleven times.

This year, there are a few promising prospects to win at least two legs of the Triple Crown. Justify, and Mendelssohn are the most likely, with each recording races with a speed scores of over 100 points in the lead-up to the Derby. Those speeds should transfer well to the first two races at least, assuming they perform up to snuff in Kentucky.

If you’re really feeling lucky, the sportsbook will also let you pick which two events will be won at better odds. Besides the two runners mentioned already, Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Magnum Moon and Good Magic are all worth looking into as potential two-leg winners.

2018 Kentucky Derby – Winning Time

Bets Odds
Over 2:02.65 5/9
Under 2:02.65 5/6

In the last ten years, six of the Run for the Roses winners have finished with times over 2:02.65, including three of the previous four. Both sides of this bet are being offered at 5/6, which means you’ll need to stake $120 to win $100. This is another tough one to handicap due to a few conflicting variables.

On the one hand, there are several competitors that have turned in impressive speed scores during the qualifying process for the Kentucky Derby. On the other, the conditions could potentially slow things down. I’ve already mentioned the potential for a muddy track, but the temperature is also expected to be warmer than usual. Will the heat and humidity affect the runners?

I’m leaning towards an “under” pick for this wager. While I don’t think any horses will come close to touching Secretariat’s record, I do think one of the top prospects in this race could get in the low 2:02 range, winning the bet by a few fractions of a second. If it’s allowed on your sportsbook, parlaying this bet with the Secretariat record could be a nice play.

Will There Be a Triple Crown Winner in 2018?

Bets Odds
Yes 11/2
No 1/10

Triple Crown winners don’t come around too often, but it’s always a possibility. What’s nice about this wager, like so many of these prop bets, is that you don’t have to pick a horse, you’re just betting on the scenario. So, to handicap this wager, you just have to determine whether the potential Kentucky Derby winners possess the running styles and skill-sets to also excel in the final two races.

You’ll want to study the top runners and their path to the Kentucky Derby before making your decision. Personally, I’m leaning towards “no” this year. Usually, we’ll hear about a particular horse that stands out from the pack and has a real shot at winning them all before the Derby. This year’s field feels more up in the air.

Again, the fact that the top prospect never ran as a two-year-old, and the next-best came over from Europe makes this harder to judge than many years. But, if one of them can break their respective streaks in the Kentucky Derby, then the sky is the limit. At 11/2, you’ll get $5.50 in return for every dollar staked so it may be worth taking a flier on.

Will the Crowd Attendance Exceed 158,070 of 2017?

Bets Odds
Yes 5/11
No 31/20

Nothing embodies the beauty of prop bets better than gambling on attendance. This bet is going to come down to how many people cram themselves into the infield the day of the race since the stands will always accommodate their 150,000 fans from year to year. Last year, the race was held on a cold, damp day, which will not be the case in 2018.

However, the night before the race is expected to see thunderstorms. Race day is supposed to be dry, but the threat of additional storms and delays due to lightning are currently a possibility as well. Cold, damp weather can be defeated by a light jacket, but will those infield partiers show up with the same gusto after a night of storms? Especially, when they run the risk of being evacuated due to lightning?

I’m putting my money on a slightly lower turnout, strictly due to the weather. It will still be a party over 150,000 strong, but I can imagine the final tally being just a few thousand spectators fewer if Saturday doesn’t bring lots of sun and clear skies.

The Wrap Up

The Kentucky Derby is the most celebrated horse race on American soil all year. As the first leg of the esteemed Triple Crown, this race even catches the attention of the general public, eager to get a glimpse of the winning run and determine whether they have what it takes to win all three. But people don’t just want to observe a two-minute race; they want to put their money where their mouth is by gambling on the results as well.

There are no shortages of betting options when it comes to the Run for the Roses. Sportsbooks offer all of the typical racetrack bets such as win, place, and show, as well as many exotics. But if you really want to have a good time, check out the proposition bets being offered on the event as well. You can buy all kinds of action on the contest without even having to pick a winner!
This year’s field is full of promising thoroughbreds with legitimate shots at winning the Triple Crown. They’ll first have to make history and break some very old streaks at Churchill Downs though. Keep an eye on the weather and the last workouts as we approach Saturday, and hopefully, you’ll be cleaning up like Wes Welker when it’s all said and done.