Kentucky Derby Betting Pool Ideas

Looking for fun ways to enjoy the 150th Kentucky Derby today? Gather your group to play these fun and engaging Derby betting pools and games.

Peter Clarke - Senior Editor at
Peter Clarke • Senior Editor
May 4, 2024 • 09:03 ET
Michael Freeze, center, is not a real jockey, but that didn't stop him from dressing the part and placing a bet ahead of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2019
Photo By - Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal

We’ve assembled a checklist of Kentucky Derby party ideas and betting games to enhance your Derby-watching and wagering experience today. From colorful outfits and impressive hats to mint juleps, the Derby is as much of a social outing as it is horse racing’s signature event.

The annual “Run for the Roses” carries as much appeal with casual spectators — think of the Super Bowl — as it does with serious thoroughbred horse racing fans and bettors. Read on to get inspired as you join in on the fun on Saturday, May 4.

Kentucky Derby betting game ideas

Some say it isn’t a horse race unless you’re betting on it, and now that the Kentucky Derby post positions have been drawn, you can! These Kentucky Derby betting games pair well with friends and, of course, mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby drink of choice. 

We’ve rounded up several Derby betting party ideas and tips, including a mix of skill and straight-up guessing games, all designed to enhance your Derby-viewing event. Brush up on how to bet on the Kentucky Derby with our helpful guide.

Covers Free Derby Day Challenge

Skip the prep and get all your friends playing Covers Derby Day Challenge for a shot at a $500 price pool, including a $250 Amazon Gift card!

Kentucky Derby office pool

To start, build a board that lists all the Kentucky Derby horses slated to race. Next, get each of the pool participants to sign their name next to the horse that they think will win the Derby.

Make sure that everybody puts up the same amount of money and whoever chooses the winning horse, must divvy up the pot. If nine out of the 10 participants choose the favorite — and it wins — they will have to split the winnings nine ways. However, if the person that chose the underdog horse wins the pool outright they get to keep all the proceeds.

Derby hat draw

There should be no shortage of colorful hats on hand. Ask each of your guests to contribute a sum of money to a pool, then place the names of all the Derby horses in a hat. Each participant must then draw a horse’s name from the hat. The pool winner is crowned when a participant has picked the name of the winning horse.

Horse auction

Hold your very own thoroughbred auction, whereby each Kentucky Derby racehorse is auctioned off to a participant. Keep in mind that the Kentucky Derby odds favorite will fetch a higher price than the long shot. Add the auction sums to a pool and whoever bought the winning horse at auction wins the pool. 

Post Horse FanDuel* Morning Line odds bet365*
1 Dornoch +2000 20-1 +2,200
2 Sierra Leone +300 3-1 +250
3 Mystik Dan +2000 20-1 +2,500
4 Catching Freedom +800 8-1 +1,100
5 Catalytic +3000 30-1 +4,000
6 Just Steel +2000 20-1 +2,500
7 Honor Marie +2000 20-1 +2,000
8 Just A Touch +1000 10-1 +1,400
9 Encino +2000 20-1 +2,500
10 T O Password +3000 30-1 +2,800
11 Forever Young +1000 10-1 +800
12 Track Phantom +2000 20-1 +2,500
13 West Saratoga +5000 50-1 +5,000
14 Endlessly +3000 30-1 +2,000
15 Domestic Product +3000 30-1 +2,500
16 Grand Mo The First +5000 50-1 +6,600
17 Fierceness +250 5-2 +300
18 Stronghold +2000 20-1 +1,400
19 Resilience +2000 20-1 +2,000
20 Society Man +5000 50-1 +2,500
21 Epic Ride +5000 50-1 +2,500
22 Mugatu +5000 50-1 +10,000

Odds as of 4-29-2024.

Lucky long shots

Here, you are betting on which horse will finish last and not first. To crown a winner, simply apply the last place wins rule to the above-mentioned games.

Envelopes for sale

Place the name of each Derby horse inside a sealed envelope. Set a price for each envelope that aligns with your group's wagering expectations and budgets. It could run anywhere from $5 an envelope or $100, depending on what kind of Derby watching crowd you are hosting.

Each participant picks an envelope when they pay for it, but they must not open it. At the conclusion of the race, take turns opening your envelope to see which one holds the winner's name.

The winner secures the entire pool winnings and bragging rights for the year. The fun here is that participants are encouraged to trade, sell or barter their envelopes any time prior to opening them.

Best horse racing bonuses

FanDuel New Users
$500 No Sweat First Bet! Claim Now

bet365 New Users
Bet $5, get $150 in bonus bets! Claim Now

Eligible USA locations only. Also, see our full list of best sportsbook promotions for 2024.
21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

Kentucky Derby betting squares

Long a fixture at any self-respecting Super Bowl party, a betting square can be equally useful and easily adaptable to Kentucky Derby party organizers. We find the easiest way to do it is by betting the exacta. Since there are 20 horses in the field, you should list each of those numbers on one side of the square. Label this the ‘win’ side.

For the opposite side, you need to list all those numbers again, which represents the horse that finishes second. You must cross out the squares where the same numbers meet because a horse can't finish both first and second in the race. 

That leaves 380 possible squares, and only one will be correct. As the organizer, you can set a price that is reasonable for each square — low enough that people can afford to buy several squares but high enough so the pot is enticing. Whoever buys the winning square takes the entire pot.

Show parlay

Keeping things simple makes it more fun for the group. The Show Parlay is an excellent choice for Derby betting since nobody in your group needs to be an expert on horse racing.  

Two or more people post a share — think $1, $5, or more — and the group assigns an order for making a show bet in each race. Translation: the horse must finish first, second, or third to collect any winnings. 

The first person must choose a horse from the field to show for the group. If that horse finishes in the top three, the group wins. The next person up cashes that winning ticket and then parlays the winnings back to show in the next race.

Timing “My Old Kentucky Home”

The Derby is a celebration of traditions and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” is most definitely one of them. The song's first verse and chorus are proudly recited at the Derby. While some complain about its length, others make spirited bets on the outcome.

Kentucky Derby picks and predictions

Our experts are making Kentucky Derby picks and building bets all week.

Instant Replay: Kentucky Derby betting pools and ideas

What’s a Kentucky Derby party without wagering games? The beauty here is that these fun betting ideas are designed for folks who know nothing about betting or horse racing.

  • Derby betting ideas and pools carry as much appeal as Super Bowl betting games.
  • Encourage Kentucky Derby party guests to dress the part — colorful outfits and fancy hats are the order of the day.
  • You’ll need more than two participants for each game to drive the fun and fund the respective pots.

Where can I bet on the Kentucky Derby?

Horse racing is legal in nearly every jurisdiction, but several sportsbooks do not post Kentucky Derby odds. Instead, you can turn to legal horse racing betting sites for your Derby wagering wants and needs. These sites fill the void in jurisdictions where online sports betting is not legal.

Here are the top Kentucky Derby betting sites available in your area.

Kentucky Derby betting pools FAQs

Pages related to this topic

Popular Content

Legal Canadian sports betting

Best Canadian betting sites Ontario sports betting
Covers 25 Years Logo Established in 1995,
Covers is the world
leader in sports
betting information.
Covers is verified safe by: Evalon Logo GPWA Logo GDPR Logo GeoTrust Logo Evalon Logo