The Smartest Bet To Make On The Derby

I can still easily remember last year's Kentucky Derby. The goose bumps that prickled my spine as American Pharoah bore down on Firing Line and Dortmund from the outside as the three rode out of the last curve and into the final furlong. The thundering of the horses' hooves, the scent of the dirt track, there's a reason it's called "the most exciting two minutes in sports." Kentucky Derby 142 could prove equally exciting this Saturday when the horses break from the gate at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Undoubtedly, you'll want to be a part of the action too, even if you can't sip a mint julep from the stands. So, what's the smartest bet to make on the Kentucky Derby?

There's a lot to consider when picking your horse. Don't be taken in by a clever name, this race is about pedigree, speed, and stamina. This year, at 3-to-1 odds, Nyquist is currently the favorite to win. The last three Kentucky Derby races have been won by race favorites, and Nyquist is, for the moment, an undefeated champion, so if that's your thing, by all means, rally behind the purple and white silks. But some argue Nyquist doesn't have the stamina to keep a winner's pace for all 10 furlongs of the race. Moreover, it's worth noting that betting on the favorite often results in a smaller payout due to horse racing's parimutuel betting system. Behind him is Exaggerator with 8-to-1 odds, followed by Creator, Gun Runner, and Mohaymen at 10-to-1 odds.

Whether you decide to place your bet informally around the water cooler or with an official betting site like TwinSpires, it's important to understand how horse betting works before you lay your money down. There are a few different ways you can bet on the Kentucky Derby, and if you've never bet before, you might want to stick to the basics of win, place, and show.

If you bet "on the nose" you're betting your horse will win. This bet is all or nothing, baby. A "place bet" means you've put money down that your horse will come in either first or second, while a "show bet" means you'll cash in if your horse comes in anywhere among the top three. You can also bet "across the board," meaning you place a combination of win, place, and show bets.

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If basic isn't your game, there are exotic bets to be had. With an exacta (or perfecta) bet, you're aiming to pick the exact order of the first and second place finishers. Place two bets in reverse order to increase you odds. For example, place one exacta on Nyquist and Exaggerator, and one on Exaggerator and Nyquist. Trifecta and Superfecta bets attempt to pick the exact order of the top three and four horses. These are harder bets to win, but come with some serious bragging rights if you do.

The smartest bet to place on the Kentucky Derby is to just have fun with wagering. Don't bet it all in hopes of walking away rich enough to quit your job on Monday because you could end up severely disappointed. Place a few minimum bets, which start at $2 and can net a $6 profit, and revel in the experience of it all. Yell, scream, slosh your drink around, and wave your betting tickets in the air as you hang on to the edge of your seat; it's all in good fun.