The 2024 Kentucky Derby is fast approaching, and this year will take place on May 4th at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

First held in 1875, it is one of the biggest horse races in the world, mainly due to its long history and the large prize money involved.

The Grade I stakes race is open to three-year-old thoroughbreds and is run over a distance of 1+1⁄4 miles (10 furlongs or 2km).

What makes this race so special is that it is also the first leg of the Triple Crown, with the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes making up the other two legs.

Only 13 horses have ever won the Triple Crown, so can any of this year’s Kentucky Derby runners race their way into the history books and join them?

As one of the most watched and best-attended horse races in the United States, the 2024 Kentucky Derby will mark the 150th running of the event.

So just which three horses have caught the eye of fans and enthusiasts and worth betting on? Without further adieu, let us present the top three contenders for “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”.

Kentucky Derby 2024 Odds

With approximately 20 horses set to run in this year’s Kentucky Derby, although only 18 ran in 2023, we have the latest odds (from Betfred) on the race below.

There is no guarantee they will all run, so check the odds are Non Runner No Bet so that if your horse does get withdrawn, you will get your stake back.

Horse Name Odds
Sierra Leone 11/4
Fierceness 10/3
Forever Young 8/1
Catching Freedom 9/1
Just A Touch 14/1
Stronghold 16/1
Endlessly 20/1
Honor Marie 20/1
Mystik Dan 20/1
Domestic Product 25/1
Dornoch 25/1
Encino 25/1
Just Steel 25/1
Resilience 25/1
T O Password 25/1
Track Phantom 25/1
Society Man 33/1
Epic Ride 40/1
Catalytic 50/1
West Saratoga 50/1
Grand Mo The First 66/1
Mugatu 100/1

Sierra Leone

With just four runs under his belt, Sierra Leone is proving to be quite a formidable challenger.

Bagging three wins to date, the three-year-old has only been running since November 2023, when he won the Maiden Special Weight at Aqueduct.

The prize money may not have been as significant as later races but it started the earnings pot with nearly £40K.

A month later, and again at Aqueduct, he could only manage second place in the Remsen Stakes (Grade 2) when beaten by a nose but he more than made up for that next time out at the Fair Grounds.

Another Grade 2, this time around it was the Risen Star Stakes and with jockey Tyler Gaffalione on board, it was his first major win, adding nearly £190K to the coffers.

So what makes him the favourite for the Kentucky Derby? That would be his win last time out in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, his first Grade 1 win.

After that, the road to the Kentucky Derby was on and now only two minutes stand between him and victory.

But it won’t be all plain sailing with rival Fierceness also in contention and fancied by many. That’s also why they are so close in the odds!

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Fierceness

Just behind Sierra Leone in the odds but with plenty of fans is Fierceness from trainer Todd Pletcher.

Likely to be ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby winner John R. Velazquez, it is fierceness in name and fierceness in nature for the young colt who has already notched up three Grade 1 wins.

With slightly more experience, more Grade 1 wins, and more money in earnings, Fierceness has already made history by winning the Curlin Florida Derby (30th March 2024) by a staggering 13 1/2 lengths.

Is that enough to see him pip Sierra Leone to the winning post? Time will tell.

Forever Young

And that leaves us with the third favourite runner in the betting markets, Forever Young.

Hailing from Japan and trained by Yoshito Yahagi, Forever Young is arguably better on paper than either Sierra Leone or Fierceness.

With four wins from four starts and earnings in excess of £1.6 million, the major difference is that none of them have been on US soil and there are no Grade 1’s to brag about.

That isn’t to say that the Saudi Derby or the UAE Derby are to be sniffed at, they just maybe come up short against the calibre of the races that his two rivals have already won this season.

However, before we dismiss him out of hand completely, he has plenty of stamina and could give a really good account of himself on the day.

Stall Numbers

Post positions were drawn a week ahead of the 150th running, with the positions correlating with the stalls in the starting gate for the race.

The No. 1 post is the closest to the rail on the inside of the track.

So, what does that mean in terms of winning prospects for the runners? They are quite significant in the Kentucky Derby because of the specific track layout at Churchill Downs.

The 1 1/4-mile race starts on the home stretch, slightly past the final turn, meaning positions can influence a horse’s ability to secure a good path.

Inside positions (1-5) can be too close to the rail, especially in posts 1 or 2, and riders run the risk of getting boxed in by other horses.

The middle positions (6-15) are generally considered the most advantageous, and horses starting from these gates have more flexibility in terms of finding a good position.

The outside positions (16 and beyond) can be challenging because horses have to travel a greater distance, potentially going wide on the first turn.

However, they also avoid the immediate crush at the start, which can be beneficial, especially in a very crowded field.

Horses like Big Brown (2008) and Animal Kingdom (2011) have won from post 20, showing that a skilled jockey and a strong horse can overcome less favourable positions.

Historically, though, certain posts have produced more winners. For example, posts 5 and 10 have been notably successful.

Horse Name & Stall Number
1. Dornoch
2. Sierra Leone
3. Mystik Dan
4. Catching Freedom
5. Catalytic
6. Just Steel
7. Honor Marie
8. Just a Touch
9. Encino
10. T O Password
11. Forever Young
12. Track Phantom
13. West Saratoga
14. Endlessly
15. Domestic Product
16. Grand Mo the First
17. Fierceness
18. Stronghold
19. Resilience
20. Society Man

A maximum field of 20 runners can run in the Kentucky Derby. This year, if a horse is scratched from the race before Friday at 9 a.m. then Epic Ride and Mugatu respectively are eligible to be added to the field.

Prize Money In 2024

There was big news this year in terms of prize money for the Kentucky Derby when Churchill Downs announced the purse would be an all-time high of $5 million.

That is up from the $3 million in prize money that had been up on offer since 2019.

The $5 million will be split among the top five finishers in the Derby:

  • $3.1 million for the winner
  • $1 million for the runner-up
  • $500,000 for third place
  • $250,000 for fourth place
  • $150,000 for fifth place

So who will win, and can one of them go on to also win the Triple Crown in 2024? It’s going to be exciting to find out!