It’s Kentucky Derby day, the first Saturday in May. You and your buddies arrive at Churchill Downs late afternoon. The atmosphere is both elegant and electric. Serious horse players, socialites and the local brass have already arrived.
So have any twenty-somethings within driving distance. Guys have donned suits or fine polos. Girls are in chic dresses from a preppie label. A free-flow of music, drink and partying beckons you. You might even leave with a few phone numbers.
Now, do you know how to bet?
“Across the Board” isn’t a Cocktail
Your friend’s nickname is “Wiki”. He knows a little about everything. A tap on the shoulder gets his attention.
“Wiki, do you know what a quinella is?” He replies with a silent “no” nod. Even Wiki’s stumped. Suddenly your mojo is a little shaken. As three cute blondes stroll towards the bar, you decide to call in the reinforcements.
You make eye contact with an older man. He’s got a fist full of horse tickets and a genuine Rolex on his wrist. His dark Brooks Brothers suit articulates both style and class.
“Sir, can you help us out?” He returns a reassuring glance. It’s not his first rodeo. In a few short moments, he’s given you the lowdown. Maybe this afternoon will be profitable, too.
- Across the Board Bet
Diversify risk on the most profitable opportunities. The Derby field is often more than 15 horses. Not all entrants are equal. Clear favorites and longshots will emerge as post time draws near. A simple win bet on one horse is too risky.
Instead, bet one or more horses “Across the Board”. You’ll place a $2 win, a $2 place and a $2 show bet on the same horse. Total bet costs $6. Bet on other horses to increase your odds of winning. Here’s how it works.
- Show bets payout if a horse finishes third or higher.
- Place bets payout if a horse finishes second or higher.
- Win bets payout if a horse wins the race.
Combining all 3 bets gives you multiple chances to profit. The most profitable outcome is picking a winning horse. You’ll collect on all 3 bets. The least profitable is picking a horse that finishes third: you’ll only collect on the place bet.
Of course, you’ll get nothing and be $6 lighter should your horse finish fourth or worse. That’s called “out of the money”.
You can make this bet whether you’re at Churchill Downs or not. Many betting sites include a full menu of wagering options. Online players may get different odds or payout limits depending on the racebook’s rules.
- Quinella Bet
This one’s easy.
Place a $2 quinella bet on 2 horses. You win if both horses finish first and second. Final order does not matter.
Almost doesn’t count. One incorrect prediction means your bet loses. You must get both right. Of course, none of your predictions in the top 2 is also a loss.
Add multiple horses into a quinella box. This bet is preferable for larger races like the Kentucky Derby. Each additional winning combination will cost you another $2. You stand a better chance of winning if you include more potential winning horses in this bet.
- Straight Trifecta Bet
Sounds like a great shot drink, right? Think again. A winning trifecta could pay next month’s rent. But it’s not easy to win.
A straight trifecta costs $1. Pick 3 horses to finish first, second and third. Your horses must finish in the exact order you specify. Otherwise the bet loses.
A winning $1 trifecta paid $8,297.20 at the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Not bad. That could be a few months’ rent plus a new flat screen.
Parting Words from the Old Gentleman
Before heading to the paddock, the gentleman reminds you of one thing.
“Favored horses always pay less than longshots”. Your Across-the-Board, Quinella or Trifecta payouts ultimately depend on each horse’s odds.
Assembling a trifecta from the 3 most likely winners won’t pay that much. But a trifecta of 3 longshots might cancel your outstanding student loan debt.
Enjoy the Run for the Roses
No, it won’t be necessary to get that cute Southern Belle flowers just yet. Better to work your day game and collect a few bucks off the old man’s advice. Then you and your buddies can beef up your wallets and black books for another weekend out.
“Run for the Roses” is actually the Kentucky Derby’s nickname. It’s the first of three Triple Crown Events. The Preakness Stakes happens two weeks later. Then the Belmont Stakes takes place the first Saturday in June.
Your buddy Wiki might know the last Triple Crown winner, but he’s a bit distracted. He just caught a lady’s gawdy Kentucky Derby hat. Now he’s on a mission to find its owner. Wiki just might get lucky, too.