Cox talks Derby Exacta

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Todd Pletcher’s trio of Kentucky Derby entrants – Tapit Trice, Kingsbarns and Forte – get cleaned up after training last month at Churchill Downs. Will you clean up on this year’s race? Coady Photography.

Need a little betting advice for this year’s Kentucky Derby? This Is Horse Racing contributor and native Kentuckian John Cox might have just the trick. Check out John’s strategy …

Happy Derby Week! I wanted to share with friends a Kentucky Derby bet I fire on every year, which is a set of $1 exactas. Because the Derby is the biggest field in U.S. racing with usually around 20 horses, the odds typically are spread out enough to where a pretty nice longshot is capable of hitting the board, in this case, in first or second.

Of course, I should remind readers that there are no guarantees in this particular betting strategy (or any for that matter). But here it goes…

Step 1:

Pick a horse you really like. Throughout my 10 years of using this strategy, I have found it most effective to use the favorite and have personally used the favorite every time. In this bet, we’re betting on the one horse that has the best chance to finish in the top two positions in the Derby.

Step 2:

Play a $1 exacta using your top horse in first and playing the entire field to finish second. If you’re using the favorite, you’d say at the window, “$1 exacta 15 over all.”

The ticket would read something like this:

$1 EX       15-FORTE / ALL

19 bets      $19 Total

You are essentially betting on Forte to come in first and betting all 19 other horses to come in second, equaling 19 total bets, which makes the cost $19.

Step 3:

Play another $1 exacta. For the next bet, we take the reverse of our first exacta. The ticket would read something like this:

$1 EX       ALL / 15-FORTE

19 bets      $19 Total

In this case, we are playing the 19 horses in the field (besides Forte) to finish first and Forte to finish second. The total cost of all bets with 20 total horses in the field will be $38.

Step 4:

Root for a longshot. In this $38 wagering scenario, you ideally want the longest shot on the board to finish first (or second), while also needing your horse (Forte) to first or second.

This is a fun bet I recommend to friends who are more just casual fans than horseplayers. It’s not crazy expensive, and it has returned more money than not over the last decade. Since 2013, the favorite has run either first or second eight times. But just because the favorite finishes in the top two doesn’t necessarily mean the exacta will make money. Three out of those eight years, we actually lost money, as the bet failed to return more than it cost to make.

But when a longshot does find its way into the exacta with the favorite, the payout can be pretty sweet. Last year was the most ideal scenario possible. The longest shot on the board, Rich Strike, won the race and the favorite, Epicenter, finished second. My $38 bet paid $2,050.60!

I should also include a disclaimer here: Since I’m publishing this bet to the masses in 2023 and because it hit for so big last year, it will be my luck that the bet won’t hit this year or it will and won’t make money, and people will be complaining to me for the next week.

Best of luck to everyone this week…Rider’s Up!

HISTORICAL RESULTS (since 2013) for the @COXTALKS DERBY EXACTA:

2022 RESULTS: +$2,012.60!

  • 1st: 21) Rich Strike (80.8-1)
  • 2nd: 3) Epicenter* (4.1-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (21/3): $2,050.60

Exacta wager hit, yielding a net profit of $2,012.60!

2021 RESULTS: -$36.00

  • 1st: 8) Medina Spirit (12.1-1)
  • 2nd: 7) Mandaloun (26.9-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (8/7): $251.80

Exacta wager lost, favorite failed to run first or second, lost all $36 (19 horses in 2021 field made exacta bet $36 total)

2020 RESULTS: -$8.50

  • 1st: 18) Authentic (8.4-1)
  • 2nd: 17) Tiz the Law* (0.70-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (18/17): $20.50

Exacta wager hit, but didn’t break even, still a $8.50 loss (only 15 horses ran in this Derby, making total cost for bet only $28)

2019 RESULTS: -$36.00

  • 1st: 20) Country House (65.2-1)
  • 2nd: 13) Code of Honor (14.4-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (20/13): $1,504.80

Exacta wager lost, favorite failed to run first or second, lost all $36 (only 19 total horses in field made exacta bet cost a total of $36).

2018 RESULTS: -$3.20

  • 1st: 7) Justify* (2.9-1)
  • 2nd: 6) Good Magic (9.7-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (7/6): $34.80

Exacta wager hit, but didn’t quite break even, still a $3.20 loss

2017 RESULTS: +130.10!

  • 1st: 5) Always Dreaming* (4.7-1)
  • 2nd: 1) Lookin at Lee (33.2-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (5/1): $168.10

(Exacta wager hit, yielding a net profit of $130.10!)

2016 RESULTS: -$22.70

  • 1st: 13) Nyquist* (2.3-1)
  • 2nd: 11) Exaggerator (5.1-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (13/11): $15.30

Exacta wager hit, but didn’t quite break even, still a $22.70 loss

2015 RESULTS: +$2.30

  • 1st: 18) American Pharoah* (2.9-1)
  • 2nd: 10) Firing Line (9.5-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (18/10): $36.30

Exacta wager hit, yielding a total net profit of $2.30 (only 18 horses in 2015 Derby field made the cost of the exacta bet $34).

2014 RESULTS: +$134!

  • 1st: 5) California Chrome* (2.5-1)
  • 2nd: 17) Commanding Curve (37.8-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (5/17): $170.00

Exacta wager hit, yielding a total net profit of $134 (only 19 horses in 2014 Derby field made the cost of the exacta bet $36).

2013 RESULTS: +$454.80!

  • 1st: 16) Orb* (5.4-1)
  • 2nd: 4) Golden Soul (34.5-1)

$1 EXACTA BOX (16/4): $490.80

Exacta wager hit, yielding a total net profit of $454.80 (only 19 horses in 2013 Derby field made the cost of the exacta bet $36).