By Carrie Vittitoe

Janessa Moran has her own formula for betting. Photo by Melissa Donald 

Many women, myself included, think of Derby in terms of betting on a winning fashion outfit. What hats will be popular? What dress and shoe combinations will be attractive? When it comes to betting on the races, I select a horse based on its name or if a jockey’s silks are pleasing to my eye. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it can be a lot more exciting to put some effort into choosing where to put your money.

Joe Kristufek, a racing analyst at Churchill Downs, says he was lucky to be able to turn his hobby into his career. He spends months scouting horses to see which ones will compete in the Kentucky Derby and says, “I enjoy the challenge and the puzzle of figuring it out.” He says Derby bettors can get a nice ego boost when a horse they’ve taken time to research earns a win.

With busy work and family schedules, most women don’t have time to devote to intensive Derby study, but Joe says there are quick ways to gain Derby knowledge. He and Bram Weinstein host a short video blog called 2 Guys and a Crown on With video posts around three minutes in length, it is an easy way for Derby attendees to learn some basic information about horses that may make the Derby field. also offers Expert Picks where Joe and his Churchill Downs colleagues offer their selections.

Janessa Moran is a regular Derby attendee who has four criteria for placing her bets. She always places a bet based on the jockey (Calvin Borel gets her nod if he is competing), and she puts $5 on the long-shot horse, which won her $250 on Mine That Bird in 2009. She also places a bet on a horse based on its name and another on whichever horse has the best odds.

Janessa says she loves following the stories on the horses and their trainers and jockeys on ESPN but admits she sometimes gets overloaded with information. She says attending Churchill Downs spring races is a great lead-up and practice for the first Saturday in May.

Basic Betting Know-How
When it comes to placing a bet at Churchill Downs, Janessa says, “The mutuel tellers can tell if you don’t know what you’re doing and are always very helpful.” There are signs posted near the tellers that tell Derby goers exactly what to say at the betting window.

  • Win — the horse you select has to win the Kentucky Derby.
  • Place — the horse you select has to place in the top two.
  • Show — the horse you select has to finish in the top three.
  • Exacta — you select two horses that must come in first and second.
  • Trifecta — you select three horses that must come in first, second and third.
Do you attend Derby every year? Have you ever placed a bet and won?