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Kentucky Derby Sharp Betting Action: The 2 Horses Getting the Most Love from Pros in Vegas

Kentucky Derby Sharp Betting Action: The 2 Horses Getting the Most Love from Pros in Vegas article feature image

Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Win Win Win works out with Country House and Tacitus

  • The 2019 Kentucky Derby gets underway at 6:50 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 4 (NBC).
  • Professional bettors in Las Vegas have put their weight behind two horses in particular in this wide-open field.

LAS VEGAS — Betting on the Kentucky Derby is somewhat unique in Vegas. Starting in January, some of the major sportsbooks offer Kentucky Derby futures on roughly 100 new 3-year-olds who MAY have a shot of winning the Derby.

Obviously 80 of those won’t even make the race, but the sharpest horseplayers are able to use this open market to find some great values long before race day.

Some of these big numbers have created large liabilities for a few sportsbooks in town. I went around to a few contacts to see the horses that the books will be cheering against the most. The answers were a little different from each location.



At the Westgate, sportsbook manager Derek Wilkinson says they’re definitely rooting against #8 Tacitus. At the end of his 2-year-old campaign, he had only a maiden win at Aqueduct to his name. He was barely on anyone’s radar. But if you had faith in him in January (or even February for that matter), you could have gotten him as high as 75-1 around town.

“A lot of our old-time horse players are very excited about this year’s Derby.” Said Wilkinson, “It’s one of the most wide-open fields we’ve seen in years. Even before Omaha Beach was scratched, we weren’t that vulnerable with him even though he was going to be the likely favorite. But when I say favorite, it’s not like it previous years where there’s been one clear-cut horse many people have talked about.

We’ve really got a good distribution of bets across the board by the pros and the Joes. I would say that Tacitus is probably has the most sharp action and that’s all been pretty recent.

Amazingly, you could have still had him at 30-1 in early April just before his Wood Memorial win. That’s even after he won the Tampa Bay Derby so impressively. People just weren’t convinced I guess. They certainly are now. He’s been pounded down to 6-1 and we definitely would like to see him lose on Saturday. It will definitely be our biggest loss if he were to win the Derby.”

William Hill

Kevin Todd, a supervisor at one of William Hill’s many locations in Las Vegas, is most worried about #16 Game Winner, who’s likely to close as the favorite. While he’s certainly no overwhelming choice, he should go off around 7-2.

“We’re definitely in trouble if Game Winner (currently 7-2) wins this race. We took some major action on Game Winner after he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. Some pretty significant bets from a couple of our sharper players definitely leaves us vulnerable even now considering how wide open the race is.

But when Game Winner lost in his first three year old prep back at Oaklawn in March as a huge favorite, we bumped his price up from 6-1 to 8-1 and those guys went right back in on him knocking his price back down again.

We started taking action on horses like Roadster (currently 5-1) after he beat Game Winner in the Santa Anita Derby and Maximum Security (currently 7-1) when he won the Florida Derby, but once the field started taking shape, we had a rush on Game Winner again.

I don’t entirely understand it to be honest. Currently he’s taken 15% of the total number of tickets written here and even though the money was coming in on virtually every horse in the field over the last few weeks, he’s still at just under 20% of our total dollars wagered. That’s a big number. Improbable (currently 4-1) has taken the second-most here at 15% of the total money wagered. So I would say those two would definitely hurt us the most if they were to win.”

What do both of these books have in common? They’ll be cheering for a longshot to come through and spoil the fun for the sharps who jumped on a few of the favorites early.

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