How to Pick a Winner for the 2017 Kentucky Derby

Known as America’s greatest horse race since 1875, the Kentucky Derby is entrenched in traditions that take it from a simple sporting event to an emblem of southern culture. Whether sipping mint juleps, wearing oversized garden party hats, joining in on lively renditions of “My Old Kentucky Home,” or having an annual Kentucky Derby party, everyone has their own rituals when it comes to this longest running sporting event in the United States.

One of the most exciting of the traditions involves betting on the outcome of the race. What’s even more thrilling is actually winning. But unless you know horse racing inside and out, do you really know how to pick a winner? Aside from reading and understanding the program, below are a list of tips that may help you come out ahead and pick a winner for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

Judge a Horse by Its Cover

Though your mother has always taught you never to judge something by its appearance, that’s not exactly the case for race horses. There are some definite signs that can help you when sizing up the competition. Look out for pricked ears, a shiny coat, good muscle tone, and calm nerves when picking your winner.

On Your Mark, Get Set …

Starting gate positions can make or break a horse race. Generally speaking, the far outside tracks are considered the worse, and horse connections generally hope their horse’s position falls within the 5 to 15 range. Interestingly, the median between that range, position 10, is the track that has the largest percentage of wins at 11.4 percent. Meaning, 10 horses have won from that position. Whatever you do, don’t pick position number 17. No Kentucky Derby winner has ever won from track 17.

A Horse of a Different Color

Though our eyes might be drawn to horses with more striking appearances (like gray or black horses), the the most Kentucky Derby races have been won by bay-colored horses. The bay coloring is identified by a reddish-brown coat color and a black mane, tail, ear tips, and lower legs. Though they might appear common, out of 141 races, 52 of the Kentucky Derby winners have been classic bay horses, including Seabiscuit!

Respect Your Elders

Technology, stats, and tips can only go so far when selecting a Kentucky Derby winner. There is no substitution for experience and intuition. Stats from the 2016 Kentucky Derby show that those born in the 1930s had the best average ROI (+39 percent) when betting on the outcome of the race. This is in contrast to those born in the 1980s who had the worst average ROI (-27 percent). Maybe our elders know something we don’t?

Now that you know a little bit more about the different strategies, you’re ready to go out and pick a winner for the 2017 Kentucky Derby. On your mark, get set, bet!