Where to Bet on The Kentucky Derby in 2021

We’re sports guys over here. We’re not doctors, nor have we ever claimed to be. Not scientists either. If someone were to seriously ask us, “could a horse catch Covid-19?” we would laugh in their faces and then walk away thinking, “wait, what? I don’t know,” and then have to Google the answer just to make sure.

The Kentucky Derby being ran in 2020, when it finally happened!

Well, good news! Turns out we were right. A horse cannot catch the ol’ Covid! That’s actually great news considering that it’s about time for the greatest event in horse racing, The Kentucky Derby!

The Mint Juleps, fancy hats, the best of the Sunday best, and all of the other traditions are going to be alive and well this year from April 24th until May 1st, Corona be damned. Here we are going to do our best to let you know everything there is to know about the fastest 2 minutes in sports so that you’re all up speed whether you’ve been watching the ponies for a while or you’re totally new to the sport. By the time we’re done here, heck, you might be ready to jump down on the track and go run a lap yourself!

First things first, the Kentucky Derby is not actually the be-all-end-all of horse races. You see, the KD is actually the first of three annual races that are known as The Triple Crown being followed by The Preakness Stakes and then The Belmont Stakes. The Derby is certainly the head honcho of the three however, being the only one that has been un-interrupted since 1876 with two exceptions in 1945 and 2020 when the United States was dealing with Covid-19 restrictions. Even then both times the races did occur just a couple of months after they should have happened. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s start at the beginning.

A History of The Kentucky Derby

Going all the way back to the beginning, it was in 1872 when Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, went to England, saw a race and said, “Oh man, that’s bitchin’” and took it back to the states.

Okay, so maybe the above isn’t entirely true, but it’s close.

There really was a Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark that was a descendent of William Clark and he really did travel to England and visited Epsom in Surrey where The Derby had been running every year there since 1780. Clark then went to Paris where he caught up with a group of horse racing lovers that had formed the French Jockey Club. This group had put together the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.

Now (seriously), Clark went back home to Kentucky and thought, “we could totally do that”.

So Clark went to work and organized the Louisville Jockey Club and got together the money for building race tracks just outside of the city. Two people provided the land for these tracks, Henry and John Churchill and eventually the main track here would end up becoming known as the Churchill Downs a few years later.

On May 17th, 1875, 15 horses were brought to the track in the first ever Derby. At this time the horses would run a mile and a half which was the same distance as the Epsom Derby and an estimated 10,000 people were there to watch it all go down.

A colt named Aristides won this first race being ridden by Oliver Lewis (no relation) and trained by Famer Ansel Williamson. Later on in the year Lewis would ride Aristides in the Belmont Stakes and come in second place.

The Churchill Downs in 1901, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over the next few years money would come and go and even though the first race was very successful the track was still having financial issues and this carried on for a bit even with new capitalization. In 1902, Colonel Matt Winn came around and put together a group that eventually acquired the facility. Under this leadership the Churchill Downs started to prosper and the Kentucky Derby ended up becoming the “king-cheese” stakes race for thoroughbred horses in North America.

The owners of successful thoroughbreds began sending off their horses to compete in two other races along with the KD. These are the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes in New York.

The three races combined offered up large purses and in 1919, Sir Barton became the first horse to go out and win all three races. It wouldn’t be until 1930 that it would happen a second time when Gallant Fox outran all of the others. This is when the term Triple Crown would come into use. This is when the people started really foaming at the mouth when thinking of horse racing and the possibility of a “super-horse” that could show up every year and take away all of the first place landings.

It was around this time that the race had always run in mid-May but was changed to always be held on the first Saturday in May. This would allow for a specific schedule for the Triple Crown races. Since 1931, the races have always been held with the Kentucky Derby going first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Before these changes there were a few times that the Preakness Stakes occurred before the Kentucky Derby and even a couple of times when the Derby and the Preakness were held on the same day.

  • Interesting fact: 11 times. That’s how many times the Preakness Stakes ran before the Derby, and it was two times that the two races ended up being on the same day.

In 1945, the Kentucky Derby was put on hold as with virtually any other professional horse race as part of the war effort. It ended up taking place on June 9th instead of what would have been May 6th and missing out on what could have been hilarious jokes involving horse racing and the end of the war.

On May 7th, 1949, the first television coverage of the Derby aired on Louisville TV. This was aired live and sent out as a newsreel recording for national broadcast. In 1952 the first national coverage of the Derby took place airing from a CBS affiliate.

  • Interesting fact: 4 people. That’s how many people pooped their pants when they first saw a horse on television running toward them.

As with any other sport, the prizes and the purses just get bigger and bigger as the years go by. In 1954, the purse exceeded $100,000 for the first time and naturally has gotten bigger every year since.

In 1968, Dancer’s Image became the first horse to win the race and then be disqualified when a urine test showed traces of a painkiller drug. After this disqualification, Forward Pass became the de facto winner of said race.

  • Interesting fact: Dancer’s Image was last seen in San Francisco in 1969 carrying an anti-war sign and trying to trade a collection of colorful beads for a grilled cheese sandwich. In a twist of fate, the drug phenylbutazone which is what Dancer’s Image was on, was later regulated and the horses are allowed to race while it is in their system.

In 1970, Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in the Derby finishing at 15th place aboard Fathom. Since then there have been other female riders but none have won yet.

The record held for speed was set back in 1964 by Northern Dancer but was topped in 1973 by everyone’s favorite, Secretariat busted it at 1:59:4 minutes, a time that has yet to be topped. During this record-setting race, something else happened that usually doesn’t – for each successive quarter he ran, he just kept getting faster and faster. This stands to reason that if we had just let him keep going he would have eventually broken the barrier and we would now have flying horses. Thanks a lot, Obama.

Like anything else in the world, when something gets big enough, greed, corporations, and fat-cats have to get involved. This happened in 2004 when race jockeys were suddenly allowed to start wearing corporate sponsorship while riding, walking around, living their lives.

2005 saw the distribution of the purse and prizes get changed up a little bit so that the horses finishing in fifth place would receive a share. Before this, only the first four finishers would get a piece.

In 2014 the Jumbotron was installed. Why is this important? Keep reading down to the traditions!

In 2019, the Kentucky Derby began to offer $3 Million in prize money. If you ask the officials at Churchill Downs about it they’ll cite the success of historical race wagering terminals at the Derby City Gaming facility as the reason behind the increase. The Derby had offered a $1 Million purse in 1996 and saw it doubled in 2005.

Lastly in our history lesson is the second time that the race has been postponed which was in 2020 and the race ended up being held on September 5th instead of May 2nd thanks to the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Man, that was a weird year, wasn’t it?

The Traditions of The Kentucky Derby

  • The Mint Julep

Most people already know about the Mint Julep and the fact that if you’re at the race, you’ve got to have one even if you’re not a fan of mint.

Bookmark this if you’re at home watching the race on TV.

Mint Julep – Prep time, 2 minutes
Get yourself a highball glass and throw 4 mint leaves in it along with a splash of water and a teaspoon of powdered sugar. Muddle that. If you don’t have a muddler, just take a spoon and use the back of it, mashing the heck out of your ingredients against the side of the glass for about a minute. Now fill the glass with broken ice and ice chips. Add a standard shot of your favorite bourbon and stir until the glass is frosted. Garnish with one more mint leaf.
If the taste of mint is too strong, do one of two things.

  1. Add another splash of water, or
  2. If you’re looking to get lit, throw in another shot of bourbon.
  • The Burgoo

This is a thin stew made with beef, chicken, pork, veggies, and the previous years losing horse. We joke of course, it’s actually a very thick stew.

The recipe and list of ingredients is actually quite long so we’re not going to post it here, but if one were to Google “Burgoo Stew Kentucky”, you’d find some mighty fine recipes to liven up your Derby Day!

  • The Infield

This is the infield of Churchill Downs itself. You can get yourself a ticket for the cost of General Admission if you were to look around making sure that you get to actually attend the big race. Once inside The Infield, it really is party central where just about anything goes!

The only real downside to this is that with the addition of the jumbotron television in 2014, you’re really not going to be seeing much of the race, literally. Of course, get enough mint julep in you and are you really going to care too much?

  • The Millionaire’s Row
  • Now that, THAT’S a fancy hat.

This is in contrast to the infield. You don’t really have to be a millionaire to sit up in these boxes, but you sure as hell aren’t getting in for General Admission either!

This is where the celebrities and royalty end up hanging out. Yes, actual tea-drinking, crumpet-eating, royalty. This is also where the elite end up to do their partying with all of the latest fashions as well as the biggest, most elaborate hats on the ladies that you can think of.

  • My Old Kentucky Home

Stephen Foster wrote this little ditty and the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band will come out and play it as the horses start to parade before the grandstands. This started in 1921 and still gets played today.

This is all an event in itself with spectators coming from miles and miles away, flying in hundreds of private aircraft just to check out these ceremonies themselves.

  • The Run for The Roses

This is another name for the Derby because of the amazing 554 red roses inter-weaved into a blanket that are awarded to the winner each year.

This one was started in 1883 when some smooth-talker presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party. Churchill Downs president, Colonel M. Lewis Clark happened to be attending that same event and it is believed that this gesture led Clark to making the rose the official flower of The Derby. That is just rumor however as there is no record of the winner having draped roses on them until 1896.

  • Riders Up!

This is the traditional command from the judges for the jockeys to mount their horses for the race. Since 2012, a celebrity or other person of note has recited this phrase.

You can be one of three people. You can be part of the social elite and buy the big box and put on your fancy hat and watch the race, or you can be an infielder and wander around looking to get a tad wasted on a Sunday afternoon. Lastly, you can be like us and sit in the comfort of your own home and do whatever you want while the race and the festivities are going on and just do your betting from the welcoming, comforting, inviting couch.

If you fall into that last category, boy are you at the right place! Now it’s time to get into the true meat of this,

The Best Places to do Your Betting on The Kentucky Derby

If you’ve been coming here for any length of time you won’t be surprised to see Bovada make the top of this list. We’ve been working with them for a very long time now and have never been let down by any of their services, be it the sportsbook, the race book, the casino, or the poker room. Honest and reliable for years now, and most importantly, always pay out when you win.

Over at Bovada they like to really promote the odds for the “next 5 races” which is actually the next 5 tracks to have some action going on. At the time of this writing, April 13th, 2021, that means they’re showing off the odds for the following tracks:

  • Delta Downs
  • Turf Paradise
  • Beverley UK
  • Cheltenham UK
  • Happy Valley HK
  • Virtual

Now, you’ll notice that there are actually 6 tracks listed right above there. That’s because the 6th one is full of literal, virtual races for those of us that just don’t want to wait until the next race. With virtual racing there is a race going on non-stop, 24 hours a day, every 2 minutes.

If one were to take a look at the options they would see that there are some odds listed for the Kentucky Derby currently along with a small section of props bets for the big race. You can expect the number of available props bets to grow significantly as we get closer to race time.

Joining up over at Bovada right now can net the new player a $250 Welcome Bonus for the sportsbook if they use the code 130347 when making their initial deposit.

One of this author’s personal favorites over here is BetOnline for the same reasons as above with Bovada, but also coming along with some really great bonuses and promotions that can really bump up your bankroll when you may need it the most.

The tracks they’re currently promoting today include:

  • Will Rogers Downs
  • Turf Paradise
  • Parx Racing
  • Delta Downs
  • Indiana Downs
  • Northfield Park

and many more if you were to look off of the main page. You are able to use the “Search by Racetrack” feature to the right of the page as well if you just want to see the races at a certain location. You would also see that they’re a little easier to navigate with not only the basic ‘win’, ‘place’, and ‘show’ bets right in front of your face, but the ability to also place and break these down into ‘straight’, ‘parlay’, and ‘teaser’ bets as well without ever leaving the main page.

Over at BetOnline you’ll also receive a 7% Daily Rebate on any horse wagers placed online as well as a 4% Daily Rebate on any wagers that are placed over the phone too.

Haven’t placed a bet at the BetOnline Race Book yet? Try it for free with a 25$ Free Bet just for joining up and trying them out.

There’s not a ton to say about SportsBetting right here, and that’s a good thing!

You see, there was a time when SportsBetting was on the struggling side, financially. Since then, a few years ago, they were bought out by BetOnline and now they’re both owned and operated by the same team. They have essentially become the same site with only minor, minor changes. It’s safe to say that if you like one you’re going to like the other.

We have the need to bring one up whenever the other comes up because we have checked and double checked – there is nothing in the rules or in the terms and conditions that say you cannot join both and take advantage of the same great offers at both of them! See one great promotion that you wished you could use more than once? Just go to the other’s sister site!

Over here at MyBookie we’re seeing the odds for even more tracks with the following:

  • Charles Town
  • Delta Downs
  • Indiana Grand
  • Keeneland
  • Mahoning Valley
  • Parx Racing
  • Penn National
  • Tampa Bay Downs
  • Turf Paradise
  • Will Rogers Downs

being listed under “Thoroughbred” and

  • Harrington Raceway
  • Northfield Park
  • Pompano Park
  • Yonkers Raceway Harness

being listed under “Harness”, so you see you’ve got even more options there. There’s even a section for the greyhounds if that’s your bag. It’s not our business to judge anyone.

You’ll want to check out the Terms and Conditions naturally, but it’s possible to get yourself an 8% Daily Rebate at MyBookie, as well as a 25% Reload Bonus whenever you have to do that as long as you use the code MYB25 when depositing. Combine that with some awesome daily promotions and you’re looking to have a great time!

While BookMaker is known for really catering to those folks that have slightly bigger sports betting bankrolls, they’re also going to take care of those with smaller dough at their disposal.

BookMaker is one of those books that are really on top of their game, and in fact, many sportsbooks will not post their own odds until BookMaker does so first just to see what they say.

Right now we’re seeing the odds for the following tracks:

  • SWE Kalmar
  • Arlington Park
  • UK Wolverhampton
  • Gulf Stream
  • Ellis Park
  • Woodbine Thoroughbred
  • Saratoga

So as you can see, BookMaker may be where you want to go when you want to see some odds for races that nobody else seems to be talking about. Also going on over there are the following features:

  1. Bet as little as $1
  2. No Pari-Mutual Pools
  3. No Tax Forms
  4. Over 50 North American Tracks

Once you get to BookMaker, make sure that you take advantage of their $1000 Welcome Bonus for signing up as well as their Office Pools feature that is always ongoing with a little something good!

While typing this out we came to the conclusion that GTBets may be where you want to go for some horse racing action. You’ll find the most variety in tracks here meaning more races and race action for you to peruse with the following tracks coming up.

  • Australia A
  • Australia B
  • Australia C
  • Delta Downs
  • Fairy House
  • Gavea
  • Harrington Raceway
  • Indiana Downs
  • Mahoning Valley
  • Monticello Raceway
  • Newcastle
  • New Market
  • Newton Abbot
  • Northfield Park
  • Philadelphia Park
  • Pocono Downs
  • Pompano Park
  • Southwell
  • Turf Paradise
  • Will Rogers Downs
  • Yonkers Raceway

So you can see that even on an average Tuesday afternoon, there’s a ton of race action going on over at GTBets waiting for you. Now, GTBets doesn’t offer a daily rebate on the horses like others, but they do offer an astounding 15% Monthly Rebate! For those of you that are also into betting on more traditional sports, GTBets also offers up a Free Half Point on your favorite teams all season long!

Intertops is probably the best on this list for those that like to mix their horse action evenly along with sports and casino action all together.

Admittedly, you’re not going to find a ton of horse action here. You’ll find a little bit, and when we say a “little bit”, we mean it. As of right now there is 1 bet available for horse racing and that is, “Which horse is your pick to win The Kentucky Derby” with just “outright winner” action. For horse lovers, that kind of sucks and we know it. However, you’ll still find a solid sportsbook for other events as well as some of the greatest offers and promotions around such as the “Pick Your Sign Up Bonus” option and get just as much money as you would like back as a Welcome Offer. Combine that along with not one, but two casinos and you may still have a pretty good time!

XBet does their best to cater to the newer crowd to gambling, hence the whole “X” thing, but if you’re old like us don’t let that sway you away! They’ll still be taking care of you with the same great odds and promotions!

Right now they’re showing odds for races taking place at the following tracks:

  • Charles Town
  • Delta Downs
  • Indiana Grand
  • Keeneland
  • Mahoning Valley
  • Parx Racing
  • Penn National
  • Tampa Bay Downs
  • Turf Paradise
  • Will Rogers Downs
  • Harrington Raceway
  • Northfield Park
  • Pompano Park
  • Yonkers Raceway Harness

which is really close if not identical to MyBookie. XBet also have these very easily broken down into country as well if you happen to only want to support the home horses. Nothing wrong with that!

Among the promotions you’ll find over at XBet include a first deposit of up to $500 Welcome Bonus, $500 Weekday Casino Reloads and $1000 Weekend Casino Reloads.

Conclusion
And that pretty much sums up the best places you’re going to find around to bet on The Kentucky Derby.

Don’t forget that as you check all of these out, no matter what they’re offering right now that we have told you about, as we get closer to the big day there will be so, so many more bets to be made on the Derby. Books that may seem to be lacking right now, such as Intertops as an example, are going to be rife and full of wagers for all of the horse action that you want to see on the day. That said, some of the greatest advice that we can give on any sport is to join more than one sportsbook.

By joining more than one you get to take advantage of more than one set of promotions. You’ll also find different odds and numbers for games and races at different books and we actually want to make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck!

Wherever you choose to do your gambling, just make sure that you feel safe and that said book is taking care of you!

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