Insider Tips For Gambling On A Horse At The Kentucky Derby

Posted on May 7, 2022

Now that we’re in the thick of the race for the Triple Crown, it can’t hurt to revisit, relearn or rethink a few horse betting tips for the next time you’re at the track.

Of course, you don’t need to be at the Fair Grounds or in Baltimore for the Preakness to gamble on a race, there are apps and online betting platforms available.

There is a thing called “BETology” which is the science and study of horse racing betting. There are “Betologists.” Nick and Julie Tooth have been specializing in the world of horses and betting since 2014 and are stationed at Keeneland where they provide daily instruction and advice on the study of Betology.

They’ve shared a few tips for you to consider before you make your next bet on the ponies:

Tip #1 follow your gut

Maybe your third cousin was Ophelia Pichon and you were close. You went to JazzFest together and always had a good time. You’re looking through the Daily Racing Form and a horse named Ophelia is racing in the sixth race at decent odds.

Something stirs inside your gut telling you to be on the horse. Nick Tooth says to always follow that feeling when picking a horse.

Maybe you walked by the paddock and the horse turned its head at you, or winked, or picked up its ears. Don’t ask why. It’s a sign. Put money down on that horse.

Tip #2 start with small bets

Most tracks allow for two-dollar bets, which before you get really comfortable making bets on the track, is where you should start.

Use that time to build up your knowledge and come up with your exacta strategy. Some people like horses who haven’t run that much, and some like horses who are always near the lead but never win, some strictly bet on the favorites.

Tip #3 let your eyes be your guide

If a horse passes the grandstand and is jumpy because of the noise and then goes out and wins the race, remember that. It’s a sign.

Next time around if the horse passes during the parade and is calm, that may mean he/she is not ready to run. The only way horses communicate is non-verbally (except for Mr. Ed of course) but those clues are key.

Tip #4 consider the line

Not the betting line, the horses running line on the track. This is more useful in a race with a large field, like the Kentucky Derby with its second starting gate. Horses that start from the far outside of the track have a longer distance to cover. A longer distance means a slower horse at the end of a race.

Also, take note of the surface. Is the horse better on turf, dirt, or synthetic? It’s also true some horses are mudders, they do well on a sloppy track. When a track is wet it adds another veneer of unpredictability to a race because the mud can splash into a horse’s eye. You try running a mile with mud in your eye.

Tip #5 it all comes down to speed

Remember this is a race, horses are trying to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. The fastest one wins. Study the information at hand to see the speed charts and make your decision based on that.

Horses don’t suddenly run four seconds faster in a mile.

Tip #6 recognize there’s always more to learn

The pedigree of horses is well documented. If you want to find out who Epicenter’s father’s mother was, you can. Bloodlines do matter. Some horses have won the genetic lottery and can run faster for a longer distance, and that ability is passed down.

Again, it’s up to you to decide what you think are the most important factors when picking a horse. Is it speed? Recent performances? Bloodline? Trainers? Jockeys? All those different variables make it a horse race.

The most important thing to do is have fun.

Photo by Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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