How the Betting Shapes up for the 150th Kentucky Derby

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On Saturday, May 4th, we will see the 150th renewal of America’s most prestigious horse race. The Kentucky Derby rarely fails to deliver in terms of action and drama, but the 2024 edition should see some extra pomp and ceremony, given the milestone anniversary of a race inaugurated back in 1875. 

As ever, the Kentucky Derby odds have chopped and changed over recent weeks and months, with bettors reacting to twists and turns in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. But who is shaping up as a potential winner of the 1st leg of the Triple Crown? Arguably, any of the horses lining up have it in them to take the crown, and we have had plenty of long-priced winners in recent years. But below, we look at some of the candidates who have had the spotlight in recent weeks:

The Favorites 

Sierra Leone (Trainer. Chad Brown)

The points leader in the 2024 Road to the Kentucky Derby (155pts) was always going to be in the betting frame in the Run for the Roses, so it’s no surprise to see Sierra Leone at the top of the markets with (most) sportsbooks. Many pundits feel the same, viewing the Blue Grass Stakes winner as a worthy Kentucky Derby favorite. Being the favorite is not the same as winning, though, and Sierra Leone has stiff competition. 

Fierceness (Trainer. Todd Pletcher)

As mentioned, several sportsbooks have plumped for another candidate as favorite. Fierceness is the 2023 Two-Year-Old Male Champion, a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, and Florida Derby winner. The latter can be a good indicator of Kentucky Derby success (21 Florida Derby winners have won at least one leg of the Triple Crown), but the fact Fierceness won by a record-breaking distance of 13½ lengths makes him all the more compelling. 

The Japanese Wild Card 

Forever Young (Trainer. Yoshita Yahagi)

Talking of record-breaking performances, Forever Young dazzled crowds in Saudi Arabia and Dubai this spring, breaking the course record in the former when taking the Grade 3 Saudi Derby. His 2yo career in Japan was also notable, with Forever Young attaining the highest-ever rating for a 2yo dirt horse in Japan. He is undefeated, and while not a household name in the United States, he soon might be. 

The Dark Horses 

Dornoch (Trainer. Danny Gargan)

There is no horse in the market with wilder swings in betting odds than Dornoch. If you shop around, you can find odds of 10/1 right up to 25/1. You can appreciate the indecision in the odds. Dornoch stood out when winning the 2023 Remsen (ahead of Sierra Leone) and looked formidable in this year’s Fountain of Youth. Yet, Sierra Leone was well ahead of him as he disappointed in his last outing in Grade 1 company in the Blue Grass Stakes. 

Honor Marie (Trainer. Whit Beckman)

Found at long odds with most sportsbooks, Honor Marie is an interesting candidate. In the plus column, he is no stranger to Churchill Downs, racing all three of his 2yo races there last year. He has been decent, without being spectacular, as a 3yo, but he has the stamina to close the race if in touch toward the finish. He may be one for the places markets, but a win for up-and-coming trainer Whit Beckman should not be ruled out. 

Conclusion: An Open Renewal 

As the big race approaches, you will likely hear cases made for nearly all runners in the Kentucky Derby. That’s natural, as any horse must have the quality to enter the iconic contest. It feels quite open this year, and there are several candidates mentioned above who have good chances. That could make it a great spectacle for the crowds at Churchill Downs, and it is a puzzle to be solved for Kentucky Derby bettors.