Churchill Downs Stakes Betting Guide

All of the attention on May 1st will be on the Kentucky Derby, but there is quality racing that will be taking place before the first of the Triple Crown events of the season. One of the most eye-catching of the races on the undercard will be the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes.

See also the Kentucky Betting Guide.

Churchill Downs Stakes Event Details


The Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes will be the featured race on the undercard before the Kentucky Derby. The race takes place annually on the first Saturday in May, and is open to horses that are four and older. 

It is a sprint race that covers a distance of seven furlongs. There is a prize purse of $500,000 up for grabs for the illustrious race.

Churchill Downs Stakes Preview

The official entries for the Churchill Stakes will not be made until the week of the Grade 1. That means that the runners will be announced around April 28th. 

However, gamblers can look at the previous winners of the race to assess any trends that could help to make more knowledgeable bets. Below you will find the previous five winners of the race.


  • Mitole (2019)

  • Limousine Liberal (2018)

  • Limousine Liberal (2017)

  • Catalina Red (2016)

  • Private Zone (2015)


From the list of recent winners and digging slightly deeper, the most popular age of horses winning this race is four. Both Mitole and Catalina Red were four years old when they won the Churchill Stakes. Over the previous 13 renewals, there have been a total of seven winners that have been aged four when winning the race.


Assessing the trainer and their history in the race is also essential before making a wager on the race in 2021. Ben Colebrook trained the winner in back-to-back years, with both his wins being achieved by Limousine Liberal. 

Back-to-back triumphs are hard to come by in this Grade 1, though. Limousine Liberal was the first horse to successfully defend his title since Sovereign’s Ace in 1987.


Jorge Navarro produced an impressive training feat by winning in consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, with the first of those successes being achieved by Canadian-bred Private Zone. 

That was the first time that a Canadian-bred horse had won the Churchill Downs Stakes. There has only ever been one other non-American bred horse to win the illustrious race, and that came in 1996, as Argentinean-bred Criollito won the Churchill Downs Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert.


Despite having an impressive record in the Kentucky Derby, Baffert has only trained the winner of this race on two occasions. His only other success came in 2000 with Straight Man. 

The leading trainers in this race are Gilbert Hardy and William Mott, who have both trained the winner on three occasions. Mott’s last winner in this race came back in 1999 with Rock and Roll.

Churchill Downs Stakes Event Information

The Churchill Downs Stakes has been part of racing in the United States since its inception in 1911. When it was first run, it was run under the title of the Churchill Downs Handicap. 

Also, the first renewal of the race in 1911 saw the race take place over 1 1/8 miles, and horses aged three could enter. The distance of the race has also been changed throughout history, with the Churchill Downs Stakes also being run over one mile in 1940.


The race has taken place on Derby Day in the United States since 1986. It wasn’t until 2006 when the race became a Stakes contest once again. The race was given Grade 3 status in 1992 and was won by Pleasant Tap, who would later go on to win the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. 

It was upgraded to Grade 2 status in 1998 before it became a Grade 1 affair in 2019. The first winner of the race when it was a Grade 1 was Mitole, who also went on to win the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.


The speed record set over the current distance was set by Alannan in 2001. He won the Churchill Downs Stakes in a time of 1:20.50. Meanwhile, Barbizon Streak (1974) and Dreadnought (1981) are the horses to have achieved the widest winning margin. Both horses finished five lengths clear of second.

Churchill Downs Betting Information

Betting on Derby day is hugely popular, which means that there will be a number of wagers placed on this Grade 1 in 2021. Below you can learn more about the most popular markets that you will be able to place a wager on this year.


  • Win: Gamblers can put a stake on the horse that they think will win the Churchill Downs Stakes.

  • Place: The Churchill Downs Stakes will be a competitive renewal in 2021. Therefore, gamblers can instead wager on a selection to finish in a place position.

  • Exacta: Bettors can also place a stake on the horses that will be the first two past the post. However, the finishing order must be correct in order to get returns.