Horse Racing Picks: Betting on Head-to-Head Matchups for the 2015 Kentucky Derby

David Schwab

Friday, May 1, 2015 12:31 PM GMT

The 22-horse field is set for this Saturday’s 141st running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville and, given the depth of talent in this year’s crop of three-year old thoroughbreds, it is shaping up to be one of the best runs in the storied history of this race.

While most sports bettors are busy handicapping the field in search of an overall winner, one of the best ways to wager on this race is to take advantage of the value in the betting odds that are posted for a number of head-to-head matchups between the horses themselves. Using the betting odds posted on GT Bets, the following are my sports picks for the top three matchups on the board.

 

Upstart (-115) vs. International Star (-115)
The morning line betting odds for Upstart to win this race have been set at 15/1, which are slightly better than International Star’s 20/1 odds. However, when it comes to a head-to-head matchup between the two, I am going to lead towards the latter as my pick. Upstart is a solid contender with a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park his last time out, but International Star comes into this race fresh off a prep season run that had him ranked first in the overall Derby standings with 171 points.

International Star is also riding a three-race winning streak as a three-year old including a huge victory in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 28. Trained by Mike Maker and ridden by Miguel Mena, I like this horse so much that I would work him into the mix for my top three finishers in this race.

If you're new at horse betting, you don't want to miss our complete Kentucky Derby wagering guide!

Materiality (-140) vs. Frosted (+110)                             
Materiality’s claim to fame during the recent Kentucky Derby prep race season was a stunning victory in the Florida Derby while posting an impressive Beyer Speed Figure of 110. The one knock against this horse as far as winning the Derby at 12/1 betting odds is his lack of experience after not racing as a two-year old, but his speed alone is what makes him a favorite in this matchup. Materiality’s is trained by Todd Pletcher and he will be ridden by Javier Castellano in Saturday’s race

Frosted followed-up a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park back in late February with a huge victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4. Between the two races, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin adjusted his blinkers to expand his field of vision and turned to Joel Rosario as his jockey to alter his race tactics and the results speak for themselves. Frosted is listed at 15/1 to win the Kentucky Derby and he appears to be peaking at just the right time. To me, this offers a golden opportunity to take advantage of his favorable odds in this head-to-head clash.

 

Dortmund (+115) vs. American Pharoah (-145)
The best head-to-head matchup on the slate for Saturday’s race pits the top two morning line favorites against one another. This is a true heavyweight bout with Dortmund listed at 3/1 betting odds to win the Kentucky Derby against the 5/2 odds that American Pharoah crosses the finish line first at Churchill Downs.

Each of these champion thoroughbreds have made a bold statement as three-year olds with dominant victories in every major stakes race they have run and each are trained by Bob Baffert, whose name has become synonymous with winning in this sport. Many experts are calling this year’s Kentucky Derby a two-horse race despite the fact that the field still includes 20 other contenders, so given just how close this matchup is, I am going with the favorable head-to-head odds on Dortmund as my pick.