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Adam Haynes

Kentucky Derby trifecta picks are exotic wagers on horses to finish in the first three positions in the race. To win a standard trifecta bet, you must predict the precise order of the horses coming first, second and third. Other variants, which we cover in this guide, are a little more relaxed.

The odds of nailing a trifecta can be considerably high, so large payouts are often shared among winning bettors. Our experts have provided their top trifecta picks for Churchill Downs – as well as some helpful information for making yours.

What is a Kentucky Derby Trifecta?

A Kentucky Derby trifecta wager is a pari-mutuel horse racing exotic bet placed on “The Run for the Roses.” Just to recap, it involves predicting the three horses that will win, place, and show in order of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Winnings for successful bets made at Kentucky Derby sportsbooks and racebooks are divided and shared among all successful wagers.

Kentucky Derby Trifecta

There are several different variants of Kentucky Derby trifecta picks you can make. These include the following.

  • Straight Trifecta
  • Trifecta Box
  • Trifecta Key
  • Trifecta Wheel

Odds, costs, and potential payouts differ depending on the type you choose. For this reason, it’s always worth keeping your bankroll in mind before learning how to bet on Kentucky Derby trifectas.

Straight Trifecta

Kentucky Derby trifecta picks don’t get easier than a straight. To win this wager, you must choose three horses to finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in perfect order. If you want to bet 4, 9, and 12, for example, they must finish in that sequence according to the official Kentucky Derby results of the race.

  • 4 Wins
  • 9 Finishes 2nd
  • 12 Finishes 3rd

With straight trifectas, there is no payout for any other combination of those numbers. 9-4-12, or 12-4-9, for instance, are losers. Other types of tricast bets are more forgiving but do carry extra costs.

Trifecta Box

Also known as a reverse horse trifecta or box trifecta, this multiple bet allows your three picks to finish in any order once they occupy 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Instead of betting 4, 9, and 12 in that order, any combination of the three will pay. This could include any of the six following permutation:

  • 4-9-12
  • 4-12-9
  • 9-4-12
  • 9-12-4
  • 12-4-9
  • 12-9-4

Countering the upside of having more potential winning scenarios is the fact that each must be covered. This means a boxed trifecta – with six possible winning permutations – may cost $12 instead of the standard $2 for one bet on the precise order of the three horses. This is because a full payout for a winning trifecta is due should any of the above sequences come in.

It is also possible to select more than three horses in your box – this includes key boxes and power boxes. You can potentially select up to 12 horses with any of 1,320 different combinations winnable. However, with each one costing $2 per wager, this could end up parting you with a cool $2,640 for your tickets.

Trifecta Key

These are an excellent way to add some further spice to proceedings. A trifecta key works by identifying a “key” horse to finish in first place – then, you select two or more other horses that could come in 2nd and 3rd. Here’s an example of a simple key.

  • You choose #4 as the key and 9, 12, and 15 as other strong contenders.
  • This gives you a wager of #4 over 9/12/15 with 2nd and 3rd covered in any order.
  • 4 must win for your wager to stand but you can have any of the other three to place and show.

Some of the clear advantages of using trifecta keys are cost and purpose. Boxes of four selections have more sequences covered, meaning you pay $24 rather than the $6 for the key. They also allow bettors to have one main horse and a few contenders not on that animal’s level.

Remember to confirm Kentucky Derby post positions to ensure you pick the right numbers. Furthermore, it is wiser to make the horse you consider the strongest as the key.

Trifecta Wheel

There are two main types of trifecta wheels – these are known as full and partial wheels. Full wheels allow you to Kentucky Derby trifecta predictions into potential cash by selecting one horse to finish 1st and backing all potential combinations for 2nd and 3rd with your other selections.

  • You choose #9 to win with six other horses – this makes a 9-All-All wager.
  • This makes 20 combinations in total covered.
  • There is scope to bet as high as 110 combinations if you back more horses.

Partial, or part wheel trifectas, work a little differently. These involve whittling things down to your #9 to win horse and three other suitable candidates to occupy 2nd and 3rd.

This reduces the stake and allows you to pick horses that are genuine contenders, rather than those less likely to feature in Kentucky Derby payouts history going forward. Such is the beauty of wheeling a trifecta.

Our Best Kentucky Derby Trifecta Picks 2024

Now that we have confirmation of post positions and Morning Line odds ahead of this year’s race, our experts step up. You will find Kentucky Derby picks across the site.

The draw for post positions happened this year on Saturday, April 27 at Churchill Downs and we are expecting most racebooks to have updated odds by the following Monday.

Free Kentucky Derby Trifecta Picks 2024 – 17-2-6

Fierceness silks KD The three horses in our experts’ Trifecta box for the Kentucky Derby this year are the Florida Derby winner Fierceness (17), Blue Grass Stakes victor Sierra Leone (2) and Arkansas Derby second Just Steel (6). Two of those were leading contenders from the futures odds, with a longshot thrown in alongside them.

After a hugely impressive success at Gulfstream Park, Fierceness is the one to beat. Only his Florida Derby win had the wow factor from all Kentucky Derby prep races after he made all the running unchallenged. The only initial concern was a draw in gate 17, which hasn’t produced a winner of this yet, but the scratching of Encino in post position 9 means he moves down one spot to 16.

Sierra Leone silks Sierra Leone, meanwhile, has already beaten multiple contenders in this race en route to Churchill Downs. He must be high on any handicapper or bettor’s list for this race. A low draw and the poor record of Blue Grass winners from the Commonwealth’s other premier racetrack Keeneland are downsides.

Despite that, Sierra Leone has a good chance of providing the Chad Brown barn with their first-ever Kentucky Derby winner. His colors are perhaps better known in the UK and Ireland with John and Sue Magnier among the Coolmore partners that retain Aidan O’Brien as their trainer.

Just Steel silks Just Steel chased home Muth in the Arkansas Derby when last in action, but represents the best of that form here. The winner is trained by Bob Baffert, who cannot have runners at Churchill Downs right now. Just Steel shaped well and showed improvement from his previous races at Oaklawn Park, however, so may surprise a few and make the show.

It almost goes without saying how competitive a race like the Kentucky Derby is. Betting a straight trifecta probably isn’t good strategy, so our experts recommend boxing these three horses for any order finishes. It’s a smart play to cover more bases.

What Goes into Our Kentucky Derby Trifecta Predictions?

Our expert handicappers look at more than Kentucky Derby trifecta odds before revealing their picks. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the key elements required to make solid trifecta projections for the big race.

  • Speed Figures
  • Form in Prep Races
  • Qualifying Points
  • Post Positions & Draw
  • Trainer/Barn Record
  • Pedigree & Breeding
  • Jockey Profile
  • Weather & Terrain

Why Try a Kentucky Derby Trifecta?

A fun exotic bet, a trifecta is an excellent choice for those who are looking for an alternative to fixed odds wagers. Kentucky Derby trifecta payouts attract a lot of players to this bet type. They can amount to a lot of money for a relatively small outlay, as we saw with 2023’s payout.

  • 8-3-14 – Paid $491.18 for a 50c trifecta bet

In addition to being fun and potentially lucrative, trifectas are great for anyone who likes a challenge. Attempting to pinpoint not just the winning horse – but second and third behind the champion in perfect order – is about as tough as it gets. As previous Kentucky Derby winners have proven, it can be a lottery at the best of times!


Where can I get free Kentucky Derby trifecta picks?

How to place a trifecta bet?

What did the Kentucky Derby trifecta pay?

Are there different versions of a trifecta bet?

Can you bet a 50 cents trifecta on the Kentucky Derby?

What is the best trifecta strategy for the Kentucky Derby?

Adam Haynes

Our racebook reviewer Adam Haynes knows what best in class looks like and gives a balanced view of all those betting sites that appear here. If you want to know the pros and cons of wagering with a firm, he knows them from every angle.