Kentucky Derby contenders 2017: Expert picks, how to bet on the race, horse racing terms

Do you need a refresher on how to bet horse racing? We've got you covered with Kentucky Derby odds, picks and more.

Horse racing only crosses the American sports radar a few times a year, so you may need a refresher on how to bet it — the Kentucky Derby specifically. The good news is it's legal across the United States, unlike betting on other sports, so you won't have a problem getting action down online.

A parimutuel system is used in horse racing, which is different from betting on a basketball or football game against a point spread in Las Vegas. Bettors aren't wagering against the bookie or house, but against each other, and the house takes a cut. So these numbers could change plenty between now and post time (6:34 p.m. ET) on Saturday. It also means odds aren't fixed at the time of the bet.

MORE: Biggest longshots to win the Kentucky Derby | Derby records

But here are some key terms to remember to make sure you know what you're doing when you walk up to the betting window or place a bet at your Kentucky Derby party.

How to bet on the Kentucky Derby

If you're betting at a window, whether it be at Churchill Downs or your local track which is simulcasting the Kentucky Derby, say the name of the track, the number race you're betting, how much you want to wager, the type of wager and the numbers (post positions) of the horses you're including in your bet. Twinspires.com is the official betting site of the Kentucky Derby.

MORE: Everything you need to know about the Kentucky Derby

Horse racing wager types

There are tons of different ways to bet on a horse race, but here are some of the most common and ones you'll likely hear about come Kentucky Derby Saturday.

— Win, place, show, or first, second and third. When you bet on the winner, you simply get the horse at its odds and if it wins, you cash that amount. So $10 on a horse at 12-to-1 nets you $120. If you bet on a horse to "place", or come in second, the payout is less, and same goes for "show."

You can make an "across the board" wager on a horse — a bet on that horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, you collect all three; if second, two ways; and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets.


— Exacta, trifecta, superfecta. These wagers force a player to pick the exact finishing order of the top two, three or four horses, respectively. The payouts are multiplied the more horses you put in these bets.

You can also "box" an exacta, trifecta or superfecta, which means you bet on all the possible combinations. So if I bet a trifecta box on Nyquist, Destin and My Man Sam in the Kentucky Derby, I'd actually be making six bets because I'm taking all six possible combinations.

— Pick three (or four, or five, or six). This involves picking the winners of several different races at a track on a given day. It often pays out the entire pool.

MORE: How to watch the 2017 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby picks

Win: Classic Empire

Don't expect a long-shot winner; the horse favored in the Kentucky Derby has won the past four races. As of Wednesday’s post-position draw, that was Classic Empire and he is my pick to win the 2017 Derby. He won the Arkansas Derby in his last start, is 5-0-1 in seven starts and was bred from Pioneerof the Nile, who also sired 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. A foot abscess hindered Classic Empire in February, but he’s now healed and ready to return to his winning ways. -- Joe Rodgers, Omnisport

Place: Always Dreaming

Despite being an award-winning trainer, Todd Pletcher has just one Kentucky Derby victory to his name and I think the bad-luck streak continues Saturday. Always Dreaming will be a popular pick to win, having won the Florida Derby by five lengths in his last start, but he was seventh in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Points and hasn’t had the best training leading up to Saturday’s race. -- J.R.

Show: McCraken

In the last 21 years, only two Kentucky Derby winners had finished worse than second in their final prep race; McCraken was third his last time out at the Blue Grass Stakes. I like his draw from the No. 15 position and he should run comfortably next to Classic Empire, who will be on his inside at No. 14. -- J.R.

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