2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Trends and Facts

Kentucky Derby Trends

The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is Saturday at Churchill Downs. (Photo credit: Churchill Downs).

The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is almost here, and after the pandemic pushed the race to September last year we are back in action in the normal spot, the first Saturday of May.

Wagering on the Kentucky Derby is one of the most challenging races of the year, and this year looks no different. It appears we are going to have a full field of 20 three-year-olds, all going 1 ¼ miles for the first time in their young careers.

Essential Quality is the early betting favorite for the Kentucky Derby at BUSR at odds of 3-1. The undefeated colt will be saddled by trainer Brad Cox, who will saddle a Derby starter for the time in his career. Cox will be busy in the paddock, also sending out Mandaloun and Caddo River.

With just days before we place our wagers, I crunched a few numbers in hopes of finding a few betting trends that might help us cash a few tickets:

2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Trends and Facts

  • After the betting favorite won the Derby six straight years from 2013 to 2018, we finally saw a couple of prices with Country House returning $132.40 in 2019 and Authentic last year paying $18.80.
  • While favorites have had a good run the past two decades, we have also seen three of the biggest upsets, Country House paying $132.40 in 2019, Mine That Bird returning $103.20 in 2009 and Giacomo paid $102.60 in 2005. The only upset bigger than those three was Donerail who paid $184.90 in 1913.
  • Since 2000 the betting favorite is 10 for 21. From 1980 to 1999 the betting favorite was 0 for 20 and only finished in the money seven times.
  • The highest exacta payoff in history was in 2005, Giacomo (50-1) and Closing Argument (71-1) combining for a $2 payoff of $9,814.80. The Country House (64-1)-Code of Honor (14-1) exacta in 2019 paid $3,009.60.
  • During the span of winning favorites from 2013 to 2018 the exacta payoffs during that time were still fairly generous—$69.60, $336.20, $30.60, $72.80, $340.00, and 981.60.
  • The $1 superfecta with Giacomo-Closing Argument-Afleet Alex-Don’t Get Mad in 2005 paid a record $864,253.80.
  • In 2018 Justify became the first Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 to have not raced as a two-year-old. The record of horses in the Derby without a race at 2 since 1937 is 64-1-3-5. Among this year’s entrants that did not race as a juvenile include Rock Your World, Soup and Sandwich and Sainthood.
  • Seven of the last 11 Derby winners had at least three starts as a two-year-old. Authentic had one start as a juvenile, Country House two.
  • Only two winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have gone on to win the Derby. Street Sense was the first in 2007 and Nyquist was the second in 2016. This year’s favorite Essential Quality is looking to join the club.
  • Since Seattle Slew in 1977, we have had five undefeated horses win the Kentucky Derby — Smarty Jones (2004), Barbaro (2006), Big Brown (2008), Nyquist (2016) and Justify (2018). Essential Quality, Helium and Rock Your World come into this year’s race undefeated.

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Florida Derby Key Prep

  • The Florida Derby is the prep that has produced the most winners of the Run for the Roses at 24. The Toyota Blue Grass has produced 23 Derby winners. Next are three New York races, the Champagne (23), Wood (20) and Hopeful (20).
  • In the last 10 years the Florida Derby has produced three Derby winners (four if your count Maximum Security), with the Arkansas Derby and Santa Anita producing two each.
  • Nine of the last 10 Derby winners won their final prep. The lone exception is Country House in 2019, who was elevated thanks to a DQ. The colt had run third in the Arkansas Derby. Without Maximum Security getting DQ’d (He won his final prep in the Florida Derby) it would have been a perfect 10 for 10.
  • Since 1957 every Derby winner finished fourth or better in their final prep. Only three were fourth in their final preps. 37 of the last 63 Derby winners won their final prep. 15 ran second in their final preps.
  • Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is tied for the all-time record with six Derby winners—Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (’98), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (’15), Justify (’18) and Authentic (’20). His record is 33-6-3-3.
  • Todd Pletcher leads all trainers in most starters in the Run for the Roses with 55. He has won the race twice, with Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017. He will add four starters to his tally this year.

Asmussen Seeks First Derby Win

  • Steve Asmussen is the leading active trainer with the most starts without winning. The trainer is 0 for 21 with two seconds and two thirds.
  • Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack are the leading jockeys with Derby wins with five each. Among active jockeys Kent Desormeaux, Victor Espinoza and John Velazquez have three wins each.
  • Among the active jockeys still seeking their first Derby win are Robby Albarado (0 for 15), Javier Castellano (0 for 14), and Julien Leparoux (0 for 12). Jose Ortiz is 0 for 5 and his brother Irad is 0 for 4. Luis Saez, who rides the favorite is 0 for 7 and is the lone jockey in the history of the race to be disqualified for interference aboard Maximum Security in 2019.
  • The biggest winning margin in the Derby is eight lengths, shared by Old Rosebud (1914), Johnstown (1939), Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946). The race has been decided by a nose nine times, the most recent Grindstone in 1996.
  • Authentic became the first Derby winner since War Emblem in 2002 to take the field gate to wire. Both were trained by Bob Baffert. (Maximum Security was also on the lead but got disqualified in 2019).
  • Since the starting gate was first used in 1930 post 5 has produced the most Derby winners with 10. The “dreaded” one post has produced eight winners. Outside posts have not really been a disadvantage in recent years. Authentic won from the 15 post last year, Country House won from the 18 post in 2019 and Big Brown won from post 20 in 2008. I’ll Have Another broke from the 19 post in 2012 and Animal Kingdom won from the 16 post in 2011.
  • In the past seven years all of the Derby winners were on or close to the lead at the one-mile mark. At the one mile mark no Derby winner was five or more lengths back since Giacomo made up five lengths in the last quarter mile in 2005.

Kentucky Derby Post Positions and Morning Line Odds

2021 Updated Kentucky Derby Odds

Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown Packages

2021 Kentucky Derby Odds: Essential Quality Leads the Way

Kentucky Derby Horses: A Look at Top Contenders

NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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