Kentucky Derby 2024: Breaking down the contenders and favorites


The 150th Kentucky Derby is set for May 4 with 20 of the best horses in the world facing off in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Each horse has been bred for speed and distance and for most of these horses, this moment is three years in the making. It’s a chance to not only win the Derby, but possibly the Triple Crown. Ahead of this year’s race, Churchill Downs invested $200 million to update the paddock and raised the purse to $5 million.

While sports betting continues to grow around the United States, wagering on horses, whether at the track or through off-track betting outlets has long been part of racing history.

Here’s what you need to know to bet on the Kentucky Derby, plus some of the bets I like for Saturday:

The favorites

16. Fierceness (5-2) Trainer — Todd Pletcher; Jockey — John Velazquez

Fierceness is the favorite for good reason. He is the fastest horse in the race and destroyed the field at the Florida Derby. Fierceness has tactical speed and has elevated his overall skillset of late. His owner, Mike Repole, is the founder of Vitamin Water. Repole has dreamed of owning a Derby winner for the majority of his life and this could be the year he finally gets it done.

2. Sierra Leone (3-1) Trainer — Chad Brown; Jockey — Tyler Gafflione

Distance is not a problem for Sierra Leone, so racing a mile and a quarter is actually an advantage — he could probably go even further. Sierra Leone won his first time out, in a mile, and almost won his second start, but lost by a nostril. Even in the loss, it was his most impressive race, considering he closed from 12 lengths back.

The only negative with this horse is that deep closers often have to get lucky in the Derby, with a field of 20 to navigate.

The contenders

8. Just a Touch (10-1) Trainer — Brad Cox; Jockey — TBD

Just a Touch has three starts, but only one win. He lost to Sierra Leone in the Blue Grass Stakes. His sire is Justify, who won the Triple Crown in 2018, so there’s lots of talent in his bloodline. He has a great running style for the Derby and has the distance with the ability to close.

4. Catching Freedom (8-1) Trainer — Brad Cox; Jockey — Flavien Prat

Catching Freedom won the Louisiana Derby, has success with this distance and has improved with every race. He is a closer and needs a near perfect run to win, but he has the ability to come off the pace. Pratt is five of six finishing in the trifecta, which is incredibly strong.

11. Forever Young (10-1) Trainer — Yoshito Yahagi; Jockey — Ryusei Sakai

Many believe that Forever Young is the best colt Japan has sent to the Kentucky Derby. He has the tactical speed and this distance fits him. He is battle-tested, talented and the real deal.

15. Domestic Product (15-1) Trainer — Chad Brown; Jockey — Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Domestic Product is another Chad Brown horse that we have not seen the best of yet. The large field and faster pace will help him, and since he hasn’t raced since early March, he enters the Derby uber-fresh and arguably has the best jockey in Ortiz.

Anita’s wagers

Just A Touch (8) to win, odds 10-1
Forever Young (11) to win, odds 10-1

Exacta = 17, 2 with 4, 8,11, 15

The value is not there to bet the favorite (17) at 5/2, so you need to get creative in your wagering. I see value in the 8 and 11 at 10-1 because I believe either of those horses could pull off the upset. I will use the 17, 2, and 8, in an exacta ticket to find the value in the favorite winning

Exacta = 17, 8, with 2, 4, 11, 15

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