The Triple Crown
Everything You Need to Know About the Triple CrownTheir names are legendary. From the Golden Age of horse racing (War Admiral and Whirlaway) to the fabulous ‘70s (Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed) to the incredible 2015 performance by American Pharoah, the superstars who have completed the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing will live on forever in sports history. Betting on the Triple Crown generates hundreds of millions of dollars in handle every year – and in 2018, Triple Crown betting is easier than ever before. Here’s everything you need to know to get in on the action.
What Is the Triple Crown?
The Triple Crown label has been applied to sports ranging from baseball to professional wrestling, but it was first introduced in horse racing back in the mid-1800s, after the great stallion West Australian swept the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes in 1853. Thoroughbred racing spread throughout America shortly afterwards, and the Triple Crown concept would eventually follow during the sport’s Depression Era heyday.
How Does the Triple Crown Work?
The Triple Crown Trophy (officially established in 1950, but awarded retroactively to previous winners) is presented to any horse that wins all three of the top US Thoroughbred races for three-year-olds in the same year. Only 12 horses have won the Triple Crown, which makes it one of the most difficult feats in all of sports – and it’s only getting more difficult, as the talent pool grows deeper and the horses get increasingly more used to racing shorter distances than what they’ll find at the Triple Crown tracks.
What Races Make Up the Triple Crown?
The US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing features the three most important races in North America: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.
What Is the Kentucky Derby?
The Kentucky Derby (aka the Run for the Roses) is the most famous horse race in the world. It’s run on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, at a distance of 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs). Inspired by the Epsom Derby, the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and won by Aristides. Secretariat, the 1973 champion and arguably the greatest Thoroughbred of them all, holds the Derby record at 1:59.4.
What Is the Preakness Stakes?
The second jewel in the Triple Crown is the Preakness Stakes which takes place two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. First run in 1873 (where Survivor was the winner by 10 lengths), the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans is the shortest of the three races at 1 3/16 miles, or 9.5 furlongs. Secretariat holds the official Preakness record at 1:53 after a 2012 ruling lowered the time from 1:54.4.
What Is the Belmont Stakes?
The oldest and longest of the Triple Crown races is the Belmont Stakes, run three weeks after the Preakness, with Belmont Park in Elmont, New York playing host. Ruthless, a filly, won the inaugural Belmont Stakes in 1866. Once again, Secretariat holds the course record for the Run for the Carnations after completing the 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs) in 2:24.
History of the Triple Crown
When Sir Barton became the first horse to sweep these three races in 1919, the term “Triple Crown” had yet to be used stateside. The first mentions have been traced to articles in The New York Times from 1923; after Gallant Fox won all three races in 1930, Daily Racing Form columnist Charles Hatton popularized the term. By the time Omaha pulled off the feat in 1935, most writers were calling it the Triple Crown, and it was pretty much universal when War Admiral did it in 1937.
As the Triple Crown concept gained steam, the schedule for the three races was standardized to make sure everyone could compete; before 1932, the Preakness had often been run before the Kentucky Derby, and they even took place on the same day in 1917 and 1922. Here’s the full list of Triple Crown champions, including trainers and jockeys:
1919: Sir Barton (H. Guy Bedwell; Johnny Loftus)
1930: Gallant Fox (Jim Fitzsimmons; Earl Sande)
1935: Omaha (Jim Fitzsimmons; Willie Saunders)
1937: War Admiral (George Conway; Charles Kurtsinger)
1941: Whirlaway (Ben A. Jones; Eddie Arcaro)
1943: Count Fleet (Don Cameron; Johnny Longden)
1946: Assault (Max Hirsch; Warren Mehrtens)
1948: Citation (Horace A. Jones; Eddie Arcaro)
1973: Secretariat (Lucien Laurin; Ron Turcotte)
1977: Seattle Slew (William H. Turner, Jr.; Jean Cruguet)
1978: Affirmed (Laz Barrera; Steve Cauthen)
2015: American Pharoah (Bob Baffert; Victor Espinoza)
Triple Crown 2018
If you want to tackle those Triple Crown 2018 odds, you’ll have to be on schedule. This year’s Triple Crown races will take place as follows:
2018 Kentucky Derby
The 144th Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Up to 20 horses will travel 1 1/4 miles on the dirt track, competing for a total purse of $2 million. Qualification is determined by the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, where points are awarded for placing in the top four at specified Derby prep races across the world.
2018 Preakness Stakes
The 143rd Preakness Stakes is scheduled for Saturday, May 19 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. A purse of $1.5 million will be awarded after the horses complete 1 3/16 miles on the dirt track. A maximum of 14 horses are allowed to enter the Preakness; the top five finishers at the Kentucky Derby automatically qualify.
2018 Belmont Stakes
The 150th Belmont Stakes will be run on Saturday, June 9 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Up to 16 horses will complete the entire 1 1/2 mile dirt oval for a piece of the $1.5-million purse. Qualification is based primarily on career earnings, although any horse that wins both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness can expect an invitation.
2018 Triple Crown Contenders
It looked like 2018 would be a very competitive year on the Triple Crown trail, but one Thoroughbred stands above them all. Justify is the 36th horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He can join the 12 Triple Crown champions by winning the 2018 Belmont Stakes on June 9. The Bob Baffert-trained chestnut colt has 4/5 2018 Belmont Stakes odds at press time, followed by Hofburg, who’s moved up from 7/1 to 4/1 in early betting.
Great horses like Justify don’t come around very often. He’s drawn comparisons to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert. However, Justify did have some trouble taking down the Preakness as the 1/2 Morning Line favorite, working hard down the stretch to hold off Bravazo by a half-length. His 2018 Triple Crown betting odds were available up until the Preakness.
Despite his struggles at the Preakness Stakes, Justify could have value for the Belmont. It doesn’t look like Good Magic (7/1), who finished second at the Kentucky Derby and fourth at the Preakness, will join the Belmont field. There’s a small chance that Audible (5/1) will attend; he’d be fresh after skipping the Preakness following his third-place finish at the Derby, but he and Justify are both co-owned by WinStar Farms, who may ask trainer Todd Pletcher to keep Audible out of the mix to protect their Triple Crown odds.
The same thing could happen with My Boy Jack (8/1), who also shares a co-owner with Justify. Aside from Justify, the other horses listed as “probable” are Hofburg, Bravazo, and Tenfold (11/1), Blended Citizen (14/1), Vino Rosso (12/1) and Restoring Hope (NL). Audible, Free Drop Billy (50/1) and Bandua (NL) are considered “possible” for the Belmont. The post position draw will be Wednesday, June 6.
How to Bet on the Triple Crown
Now it’s time to join the millions around the world who are going to bet on these amazing horses. You’ll find odds to win the Triple Crown races at Bovada Racebook as well as Bovada Sportsbook, starting with the Kentucky Derby. There will be multiple Triple Crown betting options throughout the summer; this guide will introduce you to each bet type and answer some of the questions we get asked frequently here at Bovada.
Triple Crown Straight Wagers (Win/Place/Show)
The easiest Triple Crown odds to understand are also the simplest. Most people will bet on who will win each of these races. You can also bet on your horse to finish first or second (place); the order doesn’t matter. A third option is the show bet, which pays when your chosen horse comes in first, second or third regardless of the order. Once the field is set for each race, the Morning Line odds will be posted at Bovada; these odds are based on the oddsmaker’s prediction of how the betting will play out. The odds used to calculate your payout are the final odds, which are based on all the money taken in for each contender. American Pharoah’s final odds were 3/1 to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby, so if you placed a standard $2 bet at those odds, you received $6 ($2 times 3/1) in profit after he crossed the finish line in first.
Triple Crown Exotic Bets
Any wager other than a straight wager is considered exotic in sports betting. There are four very popular exotic bets that are specific to horse racing:
Triple Crown Exacta Betting
Bet on which horses will finish the race 1-2, in that order. For example, the winning exacta at the 2015 Kentucky Derby was American Pharoah and Firing Line, and a $2 wager would have paid out $72.60.
Triple Crown Trifecta Betting
Bet on which horses will finish 1-2-3, in that order. The winning trifecta at the 2015 Derby included Dortmund in third place, with a payout of $202 on a $2 wager.
Triple Crown Superfecta Betting
Bet on which horses will finish 1-2-3-4, in that order. At the 2015 Derby, by including Frosted to finish fourth, you would have won $1,268.20 for your $2 superfecta.
Triple Crown Quinella Betting
Bet on which two horses will finish 1-2 in any order. If you had American Pharoah and Firing Line in your 2015 Derby quinella, you would have gotten paid even if Firing Line had crossed the wire ahead of American Pharoah. The payouts on quinellas are lower, but your chances of winning are higher; these are especially useful bets in a two-horse race without any other serious challengers.
What are Boxed Wagers in Triple Crown Betting?
If you can turn an exacta bet into a quinella, what about the other exotic bets? Not a problem. By placing a boxed wager, you can bet on all the possible combinations for a specific number of horses. Switching from Kentucky Derby betting to Preakness Stakes betting, if you had a boxed trifecta at the 2015 Preakness with American Pharoah, Tale of Verve and Diving Rod, you would have been paid if those horses had finished 1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-1-3, 2-3-1, 3-1-2, or 3-2-1. As you put more horses in your boxed wager, your potential payout decreases, but your chances of winning go up.
What are Wheeled Bets in Triple Crown Betting?
A wheeled bet is similar to a boxed wager, but you’re specifying one or more horses to finish in an exact position, while allowing other combinations of horses to finish in other positions. In Belmont Stakes betting, a wheeled exacta in 2015 that featured American Pharoah in first, and a combination of Frosted and Keen Ice in second, would have paid out even if Keen Ice had overtaken Frosted at the finish line. These wheeled bets sit in the middle of the risk/reward continuum, between the standard exotic bets and the boxed wagers.
Triple Crown Futures Betting
Well before the Morning Lines are posted, you can find odds to win each Triple Crown race on the futures market (click on 'Futures & Propositions' as seen in the left navigation menu within the Racebook). This allows you to bet at your convenience, and take advantage of the betting market by using your equine skills to get a better price on your chosen horse. American Pharoah was available at 10/1 on the Kentucky Derby futures market in February 2015.
Triple Crown Prop Betting
A proposition bet (aka prop bet) is a wager on something other than the actual result of an event. With Triple Crown betting, the most popular prop is whether anyone will win the Triple Crown that year. You can also bet on props like the Margin of Victory for each race, or whether anyone will break Secretariat’s track records, adding extra excitement to your Triple Crown experience.
What Is a Coupled Entry in Triple Crown Betting?
When two or more horses have the same owner or trainer, you can bet on those horses as a single unit. Bob Baffert trained both American Pharoah and Dortmund in 2015, so a coupled entry on those horses to win would also have paid off had Dortmund finished first.
What Is a Pick 3 and Pick 4 in Triple Crown Betting?
Each Triple Crown race is the main event of a long day of horse racing. If you can pick three winners in a row (Pick 3) at the same meet, you’ll be rewarded handsomely; pick four in a row (Pick 4), and you’ll earn a serious payout – but all your horses have to win, or you’ll lose the entire bet. The Kentucky Oaks-Woodford Reserve-Kentucky Derby Pick 3 is especially popular.
What Is a Daily Double in Triple Crown Betting?
If the Pick 3 and Pick 4 sound too risky, you can downsize by picking the winners of two consecutive races at the same meet, like the Woodford Reserve and the Kentucky Derby.
And with that, you are now a full-fledged horseplayer. You now know everything you need to get ready for 2018 Triple Crown betting, including the three races in question, the schedule and the top contenders, as well as all the different ways you can bet on the Triple Crown. Make sure to visit Bovada Racebook for fresh horse racing odds on all the big events, and we’ll see you at the track.
*Odds as of May 25, 2018