LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Thoroughbred horse racing is set to resume at Churchill Downs on Saturday some three weeks after the track's Spring Meet was originally scheduled to open. The coronavirus pandemic prompted the delay and forced officials to postpone the 146th Kentucky Derby until Sept. 5.
While the return of competition is surely welcomed by racing enthusiasts, there remains an obstacle for folks who want to bet the ponies -- fans will not be permitted at Churchill Downs during the meet. Only authorized employees and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission license holders providing support for horses stabled at the track will be allowed on the property until officials lift restrictions.
But there are still options available for those who wish to make a wager. Using a desktop computer or smartphone application, fans can place bets and follow the action from the safety of their homes.
-- TwinSpires is billed as the "official online wagering home of the Kentucky Derby," but fans can use the service, which is affiliated with Churchill Downs, to bet on horse races throughout the country. You can sign up by visiting Twinspires.com on your computer or searching for TwinSpires in the app store on your smartphone.
-- Cable television station TVG also has a website and smartphone app that facilitates wagering. Sign up at TVG.com or search for TVG in the app store.
-- Another good option is Keeneland Select, which is affiliated with the legendary Lexington racetrack. Sign up at Keeneland.com/select or search for Keeneland Select in the app store.
All three services are similar, so personal taste and comfort level with the various features will probably be the biggest factor when deciding which to use. All three offer user-friendly interfaces for depositing and withdrawing funds, placing bets and following the races. They even offer free handicapping services with tips from experts and betting tutorials to help you make informed decisions. You can also watch the races unfold live through the phone apps or websites.
None of the three charges a subscription service, but all three charge a $5 flat fee each time you make a deposit, no matter the amount. Once you sign up for an account you can use a credit or debit card to make a deposit. That balance is what you'll use to fund your bets. Instead of using a card, you can also sign up using your bank account.
You can use the services to place any wager you could make in-person at the track, be it a $2 bet to show or a $500 trifecta box. All three have various promotional programs to incentivize participation.
Keeneland Select offers a $100 sign-up bonus for new users, but to earn the bonus you must wager $300 within 30 days of activating your account. Keeneland also has a rewards program that gives you $50 for every $5,000 you wager. TwinSpires will pay new users a sign-up bonus of $100 if they bet $500 or more within 30 days of signing up.