I Suck At Horse Betting: An Afternoon Of Wagering On The Virginia Derby

Posted on September 1, 2021 - Last Updated on October 13, 2021

As remnants of Hurricane Ida charged toward state borders, I decided to watch the annual Virginia Derby from the best seat in the house.

With the possibility of storms and the lack of a dog-sitter on Tuesday, I didn’t venture to the grandstands at Colonial Downs in New Kent for the afternoon horse races.

Instead, I plopped down on my couch, 2.5 hours away from the action, for a day of horse betting. Thankfully, I had ample wagering opportunities just a click away thanks to the TVG horse betting app.

The good news? I had no trouble placing 34 total bets of all sorts during the day’s 11 races at Colonial Downs.

The bad news? I won exactly one of them.

Betting on the Virginia Derby

I’m not a complete noob when it comes to horse racing. My first legal bets came years ago at Scioto Downs and Lebanon Raceway back home in Ohio.

During my late teens, my dad and I would hit the horse races once or twice per summer. We’d place $2 wagers, eat cheap hot dogs, and catch up on life as the harness racing unfolded in front of us.

The stakes were a bit higher on Tuesday. Virginia’s short summer racing season was coming to a close with the penultimate race day of the year. And the Grade 3, $250,000 Virginia Derby was the main attraction. It’s annually the biggest horse race in Virginia.

However, it was just one of 11 races that day, and I planned to bet them all.

And unlike those first trips to the track with my dad, I went beyond simple win, place, and show bets. I mixed in exactas. Tried trifectas. I threw in a superfecta for good measure. Then I boxed them and keyed them and wheeled them (after doing a little Googling to make sure I fully understood what those terms meant).

I also checked out some of the experts’ suggestions. I listened to the commentators on TVG as they handicapped the races. Heck, I even tried making sense of the racing form and choosing some horses of my own.

As it turned out, all of that pre-race prep work did me a fat load of good.

Betting on horses at TVG

I opted to do my Virginia Derby betting online at TVG. It’s a legal horse betting app and streaming service in the US, and it’s available to Virginians.

TVG is an advanced-deposit wagering (ADW) site. That just means that customers first need to deposit money to fund their accounts, and then they’re permitted to place bets.

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In addition to wagering on races at Colonial Downs and other tracks simulcast from across the globe, you can also watch those races live in the app. In fact, the Colonial Downs feed in the app was often just a mirror of the primary TVG television station that I have available on my Xfinity cable lineup here in central Virginia.

Of course, if I were on-site at Colonial Downs, I could’ve also placed wagers there and at the adjacent Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. Virginia has four of the historical horse racing (HHR) parlors, which also serve as off-track betting (OTB) facilities.

On Tuesday, though, being a horseplayer was never more convenient. Unfortunately, it was also never such a losing proposition.

I set aside $100 for the day’s action. I told myself I’d wager it until I doubled it or it was gone. In Race 10, the official 18th running of the Virginia Derby, jockey Jose Ortiz guided horse Wootton Asset to the winner’s circle. He edged It Can Be Done and Slicked Back on the 1 1/8-mile turf course in 1:46.79.

That race helped Colonial Downs score a track record with $4.8 million in betting handle, besting the previous high by $400,000.

I didn’t bet on Wootton Asset. I also didn’t bet on any of these winners from earlier in the day:

  • $150,000 Woodford Reserve Virginia Oaks: Flippant
  • $100,000 Rosie’s Stakes: Trust Our Journey
  • $150,000 Old Nelson Stakes: Tuned

As it turns out, my only winning bet came in Race 7. When Epic Luck was first to cross the finish line in the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes, I won $17.40 on my $2 bet. It was the lone winner during an afternoon in which I sadly lost my entire $100 stake.

Picking ponies clearly isn’t my forte.

Pros and cons of horse betting on TVG

As much as I want to blame TVG for my poor betting luck, the app worked seamlessly. I quickly and easily funded my account via PayPal.

Placing a bet on TVG is rather intuitive. Find your track, find your race, and then place your bet.

The sheer amount of information can be a bit overwhelming at first. However, after you study the TVG race pages long enough, you start to realize the simple elegance of the design.

Here are a few of the pros of betting at TVG:

  • Convenience: I can avoid a 150-mile drive, skip lines at betting windows, make instant wagers, and not even have to wear pants? Count me in.
  • Information: While the sheer amount of data can be dizzying, the TVG app has a lot of useful information as you handicap races.
  • Live video feeds: Watch live races from all of the major tracks, whether or not you’re betting.
  • Betting options: Because you can bet on a variety of tracks, there’s a new race starting every few minutes. If you’re stuck at one track, you’re limited to about two races to bet on per hour.

And some of the cons of wagering at TVG:

  • Lack of atmosphere: I love the convenience of TVG. But watching, hearing, and feeling a horse race on TV is nowhere near as exciting as seeing one in person. TVG just can’t capture that type of on-site buzz.
  • Sense of urgency: A trip to the track is often a great way to relax – with just the occasional burst of excitement. But with TVG, it’s hard to ignore that a new race is starting every few minutes. And with potential FOMO, your laid-back betting may feel a bit more frantic.
  • Distractions: All of those betting options and track options and data overload are easy to capture your attention. Before you know it, you’ve missed the race you just bet on.

Overall, though, if you can’t make it to the track, TVG is the next best thing. You’ll lose some of the ambience, but if you’ve been to some tracks and experienced some of those crowds, you know that’s not always a bad thing.

Photo by Colonial Downs
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, MLB.com and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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