Kentucky Derby Betting Trends & Action Report

Kentucky Derby betting trends work their way into the public consciousness this week, in the midst of NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs. Several sportsbooks offered Kentucky Derby futures odds over the past few months, and you can still get fixed odds betting this week, along with parimutuel betting starting Friday.

After Monday's post-position draw, Forte was installed as the 3/1 favorite in odds to win the Kentucky Derby.

Paul Zilm, horse racing oddsmaker and risk manager at Circa Sports, provides insights on Kentucky Derby betting odds, trends and action. Check back for updates throughout the week.

2023 Kentucky Derby Betting Trends

Kentucky Derby Odds

Room at the Top

Tapit Trice is the second choice in Kentucky Derby odds. (Getty)

UPDATE 5:30 P.M. ET SATURDAY: About 90 minutes before post time, Angel of Empire is the +450 favorite at Circa Sports, followed very closely by Tapit Trice at +475.

Derma Sotagake is gaining ground, moving into the +580 third choice, shortening from +775 earlier today. Two Phil's follows at +1025, then KingsBarns at +1075.

"Kingsbarns from 15/1 to +1075 is one big mover," Zilm said. "Derma Sotogake has been between 5/1 and 8/1 for most of the day. He's taken some No action when we have gotten too low."

Indeed, Circa is offering Yes/No in its Derby to-win market, giving bettors a chance to come in on the other side if there's perceived value on No.

Earlier today, Mage was the co-fifth choice at +1125. But he's now fallen back to +1450.

"Mage has cooled a bit compared with the last few days," Zilm said of action slowing on the now sixth choice.

UPDATE 11:30 A.M. ET SATURDAY: With Forte's scratch, there's a new favorite in town – and briefly, there were co-favorites at Circa Sports. Tapit Trice, the +625 second choice Friday night, and Angel of Empire, who was +700 Friday night, both moved to +475 this morning.

However, in just the past few minutes, Angel of Empire went to the +450 chalk, while Tapit Trice adjusted to +500.

"Forte scratching obviously changes the landscape at the top. Angel of Empire is now a favorite, and Tapit Trice is a close second," Zilm said. "I would expect those two to be pretty close all the way up until post time."

Derma Sotogake is now the +775 third choice, followed by Two Phil's at +935. Mage and KingsBarns share the co-fifth choice at +1125.

On Friday, Zilm said Angel of Empire, Two Phil's and Mage "have been quite popular." Bettors haven't backed off on race day.

"All three are getting plenty of action," Zilm said.

UPDATE 9 P.M. ET FRIDAY: While Forte is still good to go, a couple of horses with shorter odds have fallen out of the field.

"Losing Practical Move at 9/1 and Skinner at 14/1, it has affected that second tier," Zilm said. "Angel of Empire, Two Phil's and Mage have all been shortened a bit and are still seeing action."

Angel of Empire is the +700 third choice, Two Phil's is at +1350 and Mage +1200. Tapit Trice remains the second choice at +625, after sitting at +550 earlier in the week.

"Angel of Empire, Two Phil's and Mage have been quite popular today," Zilm said. "I think there has been uneasiness in regards to Forte, and bettors have done a good job of trying to find a horse at a number that won't be there – or even be close – if Forte were to scratch. I think all three horses are logical and make sense to take action."

UPDATE 6:30 P.M. ET TUESDAY: Anyone who jumped on Tapit Trice back in December at Circa is certainly feeling pretty good now.

"Second-choice Tapit Trice was not one of my better opening numbers. I opened him at 175/1," Zilm said. "The market told me I was off on that one. He made his way into the top 10 pretty quickly."

Tapit Trice is almost as hot as Forte, bringing a four-race win streak into Churchill Downs. The colt won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 11 and the Blue Grass Stakes on April 8. He'll break from the fifth gate and is currently +550 at Circa.

Angel of Empire, in the 14th gate right next to Forte, is 10/1. That's another substantial move from his opening futures odds.

"Angel of Empire is a horse that took awhile to get the attention of bettors," Zilm said. "He's currently 10/1 with us. In hindsight, he was available at pretty good prices up until the last month. He ran [and won] in Louisiana and Arkansas this year, and was under the radar before that, but definitely not now. We opened him a couple weeks after the pool was first released, and he was at 150/1."

Those two wins Zilm alluded to were in the Risen Star and the Arkansas Derby.

Kentucky Derby Dark Horse

Late entry Mandarin Hero is becoming a popular Kentucky Derby bet. (Getty)

UPDATE 5:30 P.M. ET SATURDAY: Late entry Mandarin Hero is now 18/1, after getting as short as 16/1 in Circa Sports' Kentucky Derby odds market. And Mandarin Hero continues to pique Zilm's interest.

"He's been pretty steady between 18/1 and 20/1 today," Zilm said. "I still think he's an unknown. He's intriguing in several different ways."

That said, at this point, Zilm is leaning toward two horses higher up the board to win today's race, including favorite Angel of Empire, who Zilm has touted all week.

"I like Two Phil's, as well. He's coming into this race with a lot of buzz off his last prep," Zilm said.

That last prep was a win in the March 25 Jeff Ruby Steaks. Prior to that, Two Phil's took third in the Risen Star, a race won by Angel of Empire.

UPDATE 11:30 A.M. ET SATURDAY: Friday night, Zilm was raving about Mandarin Hero getting added to the field due to the multiple withdrawals (see below). Circa had Mandarin Hero at 30/1, and by Friday night, he was bet into 23/1.

This morning, Mandarin Hero is at 16/1, obviously in part due to Forte's withdrawal.

UPDATE 9 P.M. ET FRIDAY: Earlier in the week, Zilm took a little shine to Hit Show as a possible dark horse in Saturday's race. But thanks to multiple scratches, Mandarin Hero is now in the Derby field, and Zilm is keen on the late addition.

"Mandarin Hero getting into the race was big. The bettors love him to this point. Decent action and ticket count," Zilm said. "I fully expect him to be bet down more than some expect. He's a buzz horse, for sure."

When Mandarin Hero was added to the field, Circa Sports put him up at 30/1. Tonight, he's into 23/1.

Much as Zilm likes Mandarin Hero, he's sticking with Angel of Empire – his pick from earlier this week – to win the Kentucky Derby.

"There isn't anything that has scared me off yet," Zilm said. "Of course, I will watch the odds board to see if any other horses I like float up."

UPDATE 6:30 P.M. ET TUESDAY: Everybody wants to find value on Kentucky Derby odds, getting a bet down on a dark horse to win the Triple Crown opener. Zilm has one in mind, but the post position could make things difficult.

"I hate the post position, as he drew the No. 1 hole, but Hit Show is a horse I thought could outrun his odds," Zilm said. "He's 35/1 as of today and will probably be near that come Saturday. If – and its a big if – he can break from the gate with little to no trouble, then I think he offers value. Of course, when you have 19 horses to your outside, that crush can be really hard to overcome.

"I am a big fan of taking a shot or two in the Derby. It's unique. It's the only race in the U.S. that has 20 horses run, and the betting pools are monsters. Playing some exacta combos, with longer-priced horses mixed in, can allow you to bet a little and win a lot."

So perhaps consider Hit Show as part of such a combo. Maybe paired with one of the favorites Zilm is leaning toward to win the Run for the Roses.

"For me, as of this minute, Angel of Empire is my win bet. But as the odds change, my opinion might change too," Zilm said.

Forte Falls Out

Favored Forte is getting plenty of action in Kentucky Derby betting trends. (Getty)

UPDATE 11:30 A.M. ET SATURDAY: Earlier this morning, Derby favorite Forte scratched with an undisclosed injury. It's a massive shake-up to a field that saw three scratches prior to Forte's exit.

Forte brought a five-race win streak to Churchill Downs, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

UPDATE 9 P.M. ET FRIDAY: On Thursday, there were murmurs that Kentucky Derby favorite Forte might have to withdraw. As of late tonight, though, he remains in the field and is the +320 chalk, a touch longer than his +270 odds earlier in the week at Circa Sports.

"I heard the rumblings, for sure, and followed through much of [Thursday] evening and early [Friday] morning," Zilm said. "It obviously would have had a huge impact if it happened – or if it still does. We did not change our price too much, and I am glad to see the horse is still in the race at this point."

UPDATE 6:30 P.M. ET TUESDAY: Favored Forte is red-hot entering the first leg of the Triple Crown, peeling off victories in his last five races. Win No. 3 in Forte's streak came in November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Most recently, Forte won the Florida Derby under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on April 1.

On Saturday, Forte will break from the No. 15 post, which Zilm believes will work out fine.

"I think it's a very fair post for him," Zilm said Tuesday. "I am sure his connections wanted to avoid the No. 1 and No. 2 hole, but with his running style, he should be able to carve out a fair trip. Of course, once the gates open, you never know what the other horses around you are doing. On paper, I think it's indifferent."

Circa Sports put up its Kentucky Derby futures odds on Dec. 15, making Forte the 18/1 second choice. So those who got in early certainly found some value there. Circa initially pegged Arabian Knight the 15/1 favorite, but the Bob Baffert-trained horse will not compete in the Run for the Roses.

Forte, currently +270 at Circa, has gotten notable attention thus far in the Kentucky Derby betting market.

"As with any [Derby], there has been plenty of action," Zilm said. "The number of tickets isn't as high maybe as past years for the favorites, but we have had plenty of larger limit bets to make up for it. If the race was run right now, I would probably be rooting against the horse.

"However, with the bulk of the week to go, I am sure our liability will flip flop a few times.