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Book Review

Betting the Kentucky Derby:
How to Wager and Win on America's Biggest Horse Race
by Dean Keppler
DRF Press, April 2008, 128 pages paperback

Without a doubt, the most overanalyzed race in the world has to be the Kentucky Derby. The amount of information available can be overwhelming to the recreational bettor, and with a maximum field size of 20 entering the starting gate at Churchill Downs and over $80 million bet into the pools, it is one race where huge payoffs can occur. In his latest book, DRF Press director Dean Keppler gives his recommended strategies on how to come out a winner in America's biggest race.

Keppler helps the reader separate the wheat from the chaff, giving examples of betting angles that are most likely to win, but more importantly, are also most likely to slip under the radar of the general public. Beyer figures, Tomlinson ratings, post positions, track bias, prep race schedule, workouts, and jockey-trainer combinations all help the player capitalize on what are often inefficient betting pools, not just in the Derby itself but on the undercard and also on Oaks day. He uses examples from the last few Derby runnings to show how some horses got away at long odds when, in retrospect they were actually logical choices and could have gone off at shorter odds. He also points out what are negative angles, such as which trainers and jockeys are winless in the Derby, and which post positions are least successful not only for the win but for the superfecta positions.

The large field size naturally leads to higher payoffs, but also the fact that there are many people betting into the pool who are not handicappers and instead are betting on such non-factors as colors, lucky numbers or birthdays, or the names of the horses or jockeys alone. Bettors who take the time to actually handicap the Derby using proven betting angles will be light years ahead of the public masses, and through skillful construction of exotic bets, one's chances increase of bringing home a "life-changing" score. To help newcomers to the sport, Keppler takes the time to explain how the parimutuel system works, first with the straight bets and how their odds are calculated, and then the exotic bets and how to properly construct tickets rather than blindly "boxing" several horses as the amateurs may do.

In the final chapter, he briefly touches on the Kentucky Oaks which is run the day before the Derby. Although it has a smaller maximum field size and has yielded more winning favorites than the Derby, it too had its nuances, and like Derby day, it too attracts a huge crowd at the track and large betting pools so the potential for an inefficient market comes into play yet again. He points out that not just the uninformed public, but also many professional handicappers and journalists have spent countless hours focusing on the Derby, so the Oaks and the stakes-filled undercards on both days can lead to some opportunities for a big hit. The potential is even greater if you parlay those undercard races with the big race in a multi-race bet like the Pick 6, Pick 4, or rolling Pick 3.

This book is completely geared for playing and handicapping America's biggest horse race and making those once-in-a-lifetime horse racing jackpots a reality. Keppler simplified what can be a scary handicapping puzzle into easy to understand strategies that any bettor at any level of play can implement, making for a more enjoyable Derby whether you're at home, at your home track or OTB, or at Churchill Downs.

Betting the Kentucky Derby has a list price of $14.95 and is available from for $10.17.

Rating:     4/5

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