Kentucky Derby Horses, Predictions, Odds: Expert Handicapping, Bets and Picks

Kentucky Derby Horses, Predictions, Odds: Expert Handicapping, Bets and Picks

What’s in a Millionaire

Street Sense (2007), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016) and Authentic (2020) are the only horses that entered the Kentucky Derby with at least $1 million in career earnings and won the race.

Overall, a total of 55 millionaires have run in the Kentucky Derby, and 17 were post-time favorites. Millionaires and stablemates Timber Country and Serena’s Song were coupled in 1995. The filly Althea was the first millionaire to contest the Derby in 1984.

The record of millionaires in the Kentucky Derby is 55-5-6-5.

Some other notable horses to have contested the Kentucky Derby with millionaire status are champions Storm The Court, Game Winner, Classic Empire, Good Magic, Lookin at Lucky, as well as Tiz the Law, Thunder Snow, Lani, Union Rags, Unbridled’s Song, Arazi, Best Pal, Easy Goer, Snow Chief and Chief’s Crown.

This year only champion Elusive Quality and Hot Rod Charlie have reached the seven-figure mark in earnings.

Kentucky Derby Expert Picks

The highest payoff in Kentucky Derby history was the $184.90 Doneraile paid for a $2 wager in 1913. In 2019, Country House returned a whopping $132.40 for every $2 when he was elevated to the win after the disqualification of Maximum Security. Mine That Bird in 2009 paid $103.20 and Giacomo in 2005 was worth $102.60.

Triple Crown winner Count Fleet, in 1943, returned just $2.80 for a win, as did fellow Citation in 1948. Seattle Slew paid just $3 in 1966 and Johnstown and Spectacular Bid were worth $3.20 a piece for a $2 wager.

The highest exacta payout was the $9,814.80 paid when Giacomo defeated Closing Argument in 2005. The richest trifecta was the $133,140.80 from the same year when favored Afleet Alex completed the wager when he checked in third. And, as expected, the superfecta that year hold the record as the highest at $864,253 when Don’t Get Mad checked in for fourth.

When Sunday Silence defeated Easy Goer in 1989, the pair returned a measly $15.20 exacta. The American Pharoah/Firing Line/Dortmund trifecta in 2015 was the smallest in history, returning just $202. And the 1997 superfecta with Silver Charm/Captain Bodgit/Free House/Pulpit was worth just $350.

Last year Authentic returned $18.80 and led the $41 exacta over 3-5 favored Tiz the Law.

Kentucky Derby Expert Handicapping

Mike Battaglia has been Churchill Downs’ morning line odds maker for 46 years since 1974 and the 2021 Kentucky Derby will mark his 48th year assigning morning line odds to the Kentucky Derby field. Morning line odds, which are odds given to horses in a race prior to the start of betting as a prediction how the linemaker thinks the public will bet and are assigned at the post position draw.


Battaglia has correctly predicted the Derby favorite at a 79 percent clip and is 37-for-47 after correctly labeling runner-up Tiz the Law the favorite a year ago. This year, champion and undefeated Elusive Quality is the 2-1 morning line favorite. Several rivals are listed at 50-1.


Morning line odds were first published in the official Kentucky Derby Day program in 1949, though records prior to 1949 are incomplete.


Battaglia’s winning morning line favorites, since his first year in 1974:


Tiz The Law                                         3-5       .70-1

Justify, 2018:                                       3-1       2.90-1

Nyquist, 2016                                      3-1       2.30-1

American Pharoah, 2015                    5-2       2.90-1

California Chrome, 2014                     5-2       2.50-1

Orb, 2013                                            7-2       5.40-1

Big Brown, 2008                                  3-1       2.40-1

Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000                       9-5       2.30-1

Spectacular Bid, 1979                         3-5       0.60-1

Seattle Slew, 1977                              1-2       0.50-1

Foolish Pleasure, 1975                        9-5       1.90-1

Cannonade/Judger,1974                    8-5       1.50-1

Pre-Battaglia morning line favorites to have won, 1949-1973

Secretariat/Angle Light, 1973             1-1       1.50-1

Riva Ridge, 1972                                 9-5       1.50-1

Majestic Prince, 1969                         7-5       1.40-1

Carry Back, 1961                                 5-2       2.50-1

Tim Tam, 1958                                    8-5       2.10-1

Needles, 1956                                     2-1       1.60-1

Hill Gail/Top Blend, 1952                    6-5       1.10-1