How To Bet The 2021 Kentucky Derby (And Where To Watch In Michigan)

Written By Drew Ellis on April 29, 2021 - Last Updated on December 7, 2023
2021 Kentucky Derby Horses

One of America’s great annual sporting traditions returns this Saturday with the running of the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

With the COVID-19 pandemic moving last year’s race to September, the 2021 Kentucky Derby hopes to be somewhat of a return to normal at Churchill Downs.

A 20-horse field is set to compete in one of the most publicly wagered sporting events each year. Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

How to watch the 2021 Kentucky Derby

  • What: 2021 Kentucky Derby
  • When: Saturday, May 1
  • Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
  • Race Surface: Dirt
  • Race Distance: 1¼ mile (10 furlongs)
  • Post Time: 6:57 p.m. ET
  • Broadcast: NBC, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Online viewing:
  • Weather Forecast: Sunny, high 73 degrees, minimal chance of rain

Who is favored to win The Kentucky Derby

In a field of 20 horses, Essential Quality finds itself favored currently at 2-1.

Post positions for the field were drawn Tuesday, and the favorite drew the unenviable 14th position. The last horse to win from the No. 14 spot was Carry Back in 1961.

Here’s a look at the field, with their post position and draw-day odds to win.

  1. Known Agenda (6-1)
  2. Like the King (50-1)
  3. Brooklyn Strong (50-1)
  4. Keepmeinmind (50-1)
  5. Sainthood (50-1)
  6. O Besos (20-1)
  7. Mandaloun (15-1)
  8. Medina Spirit (15-1)
  9. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)
  10. Midnight Bourbon (20-1)
  11. Dynamic One (20-1)
  12. Helium (50-1)
  13. Hidden Stash (50-1)
  14. Essential Quality (2-1)
  15. Rock Your World (5-1)
  16. King Fury (20-1)
  17. Highly Motivated (10-1)
  18. Super Stock (30-1)
  19. Soup and Sandwich (30-1)
  20. Bourbonic (30-1)

Where to bet on The Kentucky Derby

Unlike other sports, you can’t just pop open your online sportsbook app to wager on horse racing.

Michigan lawmakers approved pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in 1933. The Horse Racing Law of 1995 allowed Michigan racetracks to host simulcast racing across North America. That law was amended in December 2019 to allow for online horse betting.

This arrangement allows bettors to wager on horse racing at Michigan racetracks and online with licensed horse betting operators through advance deposit wagering.

The largest online betting app for horse racing is TVG, but Twinspires and Xpressbet are also available.

If you are looking to bet at a racetrack, Northville Downs is located at 301 S. Center St. in Northville. The track is hosting “Derby Week” leading up to Saturday, including live racing on Thursday and Friday.

Reservations are required to watch the Kentucky Derby at Northville Downs, and seats are going fast. Contact 248-349-1000 for details. There will be an express line to wager on the Derby for those without reservations.

How to bet on the Kentucky Derby

There are a lot of betting options for horse racing, especially the Kentucky Derby.

The basic bets are called straight bets. Included in those are:

  • Win: You bet on the horse to win
  • Place: You bet on the horse to finish first or second
  • Show: You bet on the horse to finish first, second or third

Those really looking to land a big payout will opt for exotic bets. Included in those are:

  • Exacta: You bet on two horses to finish first and second, in that order. Big payouts await if you can pick the exact finishing order of the top two. You can also box this bet, flipping the order of finish for two separate bets.
  • Quinella: You bet on two horses to finish first and second, in any order. Decent payouts await if you can pick the top two finishers, but this combination will yield smaller results than an exacta.
  • Trifecta: You bet on three horses to finish first, second and third, in that order. Even bigger payouts await if you can pick the exact finishing order of the top three. You can also box this bet, flipping the order of finish for the three horses.
  • Superfecta: You bet on four horses to finish first, second, third and fourth, in that order. Massive payouts await if you can pick the exact finishing order of the top four. You can also box this bet, but be aware that flipping the order of finish for four horses starts to get expensive.

Breaking down the favorites

Essential Quality comes into the race as the favorite with a 5-0 record. It is coming off wins in the Southwest Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes.

Trainer Brad Cox is seeking his first Derby win, as is jockey Luis Saez.

Rock Your World is next up at 5-1 to win from the 15th position, which was the starting spot of 2020 winner Authentic. This colt is 3-0 and coming off a win in the Santa Anita Derby. Rock Your World is capable of going wire-to-wire.

Jockey Joel Rosario rode 2013 Derby winner Orb to the finish line and is seeking his second victory. Trainer John Sadler will be looking for his first Derby win.

Known Agenda isn’t far off the favorites at 6-1 from the No. 1 position, which hasn’t posted the winner since 1986. Known Agenda is coming off a win in the Florida Derby in March.

Trainer Todd Pletcher is a two-time Derby winner, last taking the title in 2017 with Always Dreaming. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. is seeking his first win.

Other names to keep an eye on

Any time Bob Baffert has a horse in the field, you have to take notice. The six-time Derby-winning trainer brings Medina Spirit into the field with 15-1 odds from the No. 8 position.

Teaming with jockey John Velasquez, a three-time Derby winner, these two rode Authentic to first last year with 8-1 odds. The eight position has produced eight winners in its history.

No position has brought home more Kentucky Derby winners than No. 5. It is the lone position to win 10 times (11%). Getting that spot this year is Sainthood, a 50-1 longshot.

Another Pletcher horse, Sainthood has performed well in its three races, despite just one victory.

Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP
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Written by
Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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