The Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races in the world and it takes place every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Often referred to as ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’, the race is always scheduled for the first Saturday in May.

In 2024, the Kentucky Derby will be on May 24th 2024. And if you fancy a flutter on it, here is everything you need to know.

Betting On The Kentucky Derby

If you’re not a seasoned horse racing better, you may be surprised to learn that you can bet on races from all over the world.

There are plenty of horse racing betting sites for UK punters who want to have a flutter on races from further afield, and that includes the Kentucky Derby.

It’s still too early to have any odds for next year’s race so instead we’ll take a look at the statistics so you know what to look for when the betting markets open.


The first thing to know is how the horses actually qualify for the race.

The horses that compete in the Derby are specifically three-year-olds. This is considered young in the world of horse racing but they are in their prime for racing, and they have a lot of energy.

Horses this young are known for their speed and agility and can run very fast for short distances, which makes them ideal for sprint-style races like the Kentucky Derby.

Even though the race is relatively short, at 1 and 1/4 miles, it is demanding. And qualification is a tough process.

In the months leading up to the race, there are a series of horse races known as “prep races.” These races are held at various racetracks across the country and offer points to the top finishers.

The points are awarded based on the finishing positions in these prep races. The races that offer more points tend to be the most competitive and prestigious.

A leaderboard is maintained throughout the qualifying period, and it lists the horses with the highest point totals.

The horses with the most points by a certain deadline (usually in late April) earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.

How Many Runners In The Kentucky Derby

Clearly there has to be a cut of point, otherwise every horse on the leaderboard would, in theory be able to run.

So for that reason, the Kentucky Derby typically has a maximum field size of 20 horses.

This field size has been a tradition for many years and is considered optimal for the race. If more than 20 horses have enough qualifying points to enter the Kentucky Derby, the field is determined based on the highest point totals.

The remaining horses may become “Also Eligible” and can enter the race if there are any late scratches or withdrawals before a specific deadline.

This happened in 2023 when three horses were withdrawn two days before the race. Practical Move developed a fever and was replaced by Cyclone Mischief. Lord Miles was withdrawn aloowing Mandarin Hero to take part in the race.

King Russell qualified the day before the Derby after the Japanese runner, Continuar, was withdrawn by his trainer Yoshito Yahagi.

In all, 18 horses ran in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.

Who Won In 2023?

The 2023 Kentucky Derby winner was Mage, who won by a length despite only being in sixth place by the mile marker.

On the home stretch he overtook Two Phil’s and managed to hold both him, and Angel of Empire, off for the win.

Trained by Gustavo Delgado and ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, it was their first win in the race.

That win earned the team £1,550,000 in prize money.

How Many Favourites have Won The Kentucky Derby?

Starting prices in the US tend to look a bit different to the odds we see in the UK. For example, Mage went off at 152/10, which is roughly 15/1.

So he was by no means the race favourite. That honour went to Angel of Empire (4/1), the horse that finished in third place.

In all, the Derby has been contested 116 times since 1908, and the favourite has won the race 40 times, approximately 34% of the time.

How Long Is The Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is often referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

This nickname reflects the fact that the race is typically completed in a very short amount of time.

On average, it takes the horses around 2 minutes to complete the 1 and 1/4-mile (or 10-furlong) race.

However, the actual time can vary slightly from year to year depending on the specific conditions of the race, the speed of the horses, and other factors.

Nonetheless, the Kentucky Derby is known for its speed, with the entire race lasting only a couple of minutes.

The current record holder, for the fastest winning time, is held by Secretariat who won in 1973 with a time of 1:59.4.


While we could sit and write all day about the Kentucky Derby we know that one of the biggest questions asked about the race is how to bet on it.

The good news is that on the run up the big event, as the prep races get underway, antepost odds will become available.

From there you will be able to whittle down your options, have a look at the best performers and make an informed, and hopefully winning, decision on who to back.