Garry Jones / AP
Sunday, April 27, 2014 | 2 a.m.
For most people, Kentucky Derby betting season lasts about three days.
It’s much longer in Las Vegas, as the anticipation for the annual Run for the Roses builds over the course of several months from the moment sports books first release future odds on the race.
William Hill sports books posted their initial lines for Saturday’s race in November — to an enormous response.
“It’s amazing, to be honest, how much business we’ve written this year,” William Hill Director of Trading Nick Bogdanovich said. “It’s scary. It’s more than I’ve ever seen. It’s at least double over last year already.”
Bogdanovich couldn’t pinpoint the exact reasons for the spike in interest, but he shared the three most popular bets heading into the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
THE CLEAR FAVORITE: California Chrome
Any conversation on this year’s Kentucky Derby starts with California Chrome, especially those in Las Vegas.
The colt has won all four of his races as a 3-year-old with ease and has gone from an opening price of 200-to-1 to 2-to-1 at William Hill. “He has three times as many tickets as any other horse,” Bogdanovich said. “California Chrome dwarfs all the others.” Churchill Downs linesmaker Mike Battaglia has anointed the horse the likely morning-line favorite for the Derby. There’s not much to dislike about California Chrome, who’s undefeated since 2002 Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza took his reins.
Oddsmakers knew Hoppertunity’s potential upon posting opening odds.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt opened at 100-to-1, which may sound high but came in as one of the lower prices out of the 75 horses William Hill listed in November.
Hoppertunity’s odds have shot up after January and March wins at Santa Anita in California and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. “That horse drew an immense amount of business,” Bogdanovich said.
For some value, go with a colt who has never finished worse than fourth in seven career races. Although not as popular as the first two horses, many gamblers have taken a shot on him. The action could have come because all of his races have taken place in Southern California. “It’s a short drive, and let’s face it — a lot of our business is from California,” Bogdanovich said, “so that’s a very possible reason why the handle is so high.”