Projected Kentucky Derby win odds

By Ed DeRosa

Picking a Kentucky Derby favorite is much easier than picking the Kentucky Derby winner, but tabbing his (and 19 others’) off odds is among the more difficult guessing games in the Sport of Kings.

Of this I’m certain: California Chrome will be favored and Wicked Strong will be second choice.

After that, there are questions: What will California Chrome’s price actually be? Will Wicked Strong as second choice be closer in odds to California Chrome or the third choice? Who will be the third choice? Who will the longest shot on the board be?

My projected odds below attempt to answer these questions. I’m not calling it a projected morning line because it’s not my guess at what the morning line will be but what the off odds will be.


Projected odds

California Chrome


Candy Boy




Commanding Curve


Dance With Fate




General a Rod


Harrys Holiday




Intense Holiday


Medal Count


Ride On Curlin






Uncle Sigh


Vicars In Trouble




We Miss Artie


Wicked Strong


Wildcat Red


I’m on the higher side than what most think Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome will be, but I just can’t make the math work to get him any lower, though given most people think he’ll be between 9-to-5 and 5-to-2, I’d gladly make his over/under price 2.99-to-1 and take the over all day.

Wicked Strong I put in the middle of the first and co-third choices with the Wood Memorial Stakes winner projected at 8-to-1 and both Louisiana Derby runner-up Intense Holiday and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Hoppertunity at 12-to-1.

After that I have a bunch in the 15- to -18-to-1 range and then have the bombs filling out the 30+ range with the Spiral Stakes exacta of We Miss Artie and Harry’s Holiday as the longest shots at 40-to-1 each.

In preparing this column about horses who go off at shorter odds in the Derby than they did in their final prep, I looked at Derby PPs back to 1992, which gave me a good feel for trends in how the race has been bet through the years.

For Ultimate Past Performances of every Kentucky Derby race dating back to 2000, CLICK HERE.

The watershed moment for Derby win betting came in 2001 when Churchill Downs eliminated the mutuel field and the Kentucky Racing Commission eliminated coupled entries allowing for 20 individual wagering interests. That was the last year any horse was more than 80-to-1, and lately 50-to-1 seems to be the ceiling as well as the movie named for the last longshot winner.

If I were to make the bottom six wagering choices 20-to-1 as part of a mutuel field, then on my odds line California Chrome could drop to 3-to-1 and every other horse can drop two points. That’s a huge difference.

As sophisticated bettors, another thing to remember with Derby win betting is that the odds in that pool aren’t necessarily indicative of how a horse is getting bet in other pools. E.g., it’s difficult to imagine that Sunland Derby winner Twice The Appeal was really 11-to-1 across all pools, but Calvin Borel—fresh off consecutive Derby wins as part of a three-for-four streak—attracts win money.

For that reason, the cardinal ranking of horses is worth noting; e.g., Vicar’s In Trouble is one of five I have as the co-fifth choice at 15-to-1, and I have two others at both 12- and 18-to-1, but it’s possible that the Rosie/Ramsey factor will actually make her the third choice. For multi-horse wagering purposes, though, I doubt Vicar’s In Trouble will be any more bet than the others I have in the same range.

Horses like Harry’s Holiday I only expect to be in the win spot of exotics tickets that use “ALL” on top.

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