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Kentucky Derby Picks 2024: Fierceness and Sierra Leone Headline the First Leg of the Triple Crown

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published May 2, 2024
7 min read

Kentucky Derby 2024 Odds

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 DORNOCH 20/1 L Saez D Gargan
2 SIERRA LEONE 3/1 T Gaffalione C Brown
3 MYSTIK DAN 20/1 B J Hernandez Jr K McPeek
5 CATALYTIC 30/1 J Ortiz S Joseph Jr
6 JUST STEEL 20/1 K Asmussen D W Lukas
7 HONOR MARIE 20/1 B Curtis D Beckman
8 JUST A TOUCH 10/1 F Geroux B Cox
9 ENCINO - (Not Running) - - -
10 T O PASSWORD 30/1 K Kimura D Takayanagi
11 FOREVER YOUNG 10/1 R Sakai Y Yahagi
12 TRACK PHANTOM 20/1 J Rosario S Asmussen
13 WEST SARATOGA 50/1 J Castanon L Demeritte
14 ENDLESSLY 30/1 U Rispoli M McCarthy
15 DOMESTIC PRODUCT 30/1 I Ortiz Jr C Brown
16 GRAND MO THE FIRST 50/1 E Jaramillo V Barboza Jr
17 FIERCENESS 5/2 J Velazquez T Pletcher
18 STRONGHOLD 20/1 A Fresu P D’Amato
19 RESILIENCE 20/1 J Alvarado W Mott
20 SOCIETY MAN 50/1 L Dettori D Gargan
21 EPIC RIDE 30/1 A Beschizza J Ennis

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My Top 3 Picks to Win the Kentucky Derby

Sierra Leone

One of the two clear favorites in the field, this son of Gun Runner has continued to impress since being purchased for $2.3 million as a yearling. In four career races, he is only a nose shy of coming into the Run for the Roses undefeated. His lone loss came last fall in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, where he rallied to take the lead before being re-passed by Dornoch on the wire. 

In 2024, he has been even better. In his seasonal debut, he came from way back to defeat the strongest field for any Derby prep this year in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes over a sloppy track at Fair Grounds. Next out, he flew home to win Keeneland’s Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes. In all of his races, he has been a powerful finisher who looks ideally suited for the 1 1/4 mile distance of the Kentucky Derby. 

Trained by one of America’s best, Chad Brown, and to be ridden by a perennial leading rider at Churchill Downs, Tyler Gaffalione, all signs point to a strong effort by the second choice on the morning line. With a strong early pace expected for this year’s Kentucky Derby, I look for Sierra Leone to be finishing best of all. He is my top pick.

Catching Freedom

Another colt who should relish a fast early pace in the Kentucky Derby is the Louisiana Derby winner, Catching Freedom. After running a solid third behind Sierra Leone in the Risen Star in his fourth career outing, the son of Constitution continued his steady improvement by coming from last to win the million-dollar race going away. 

As America’s longest major prep for the Kentucky Derby, the Louisiana Derby at 1 3/16-miles should well prepare the winner for the demanding trip on the first Saturday in May. Trained by Brad Cox, I have the two-time stakes winner rated just behind Sierra Leone, but at 8/1 on the morning line, he offers excellent value. To be ridden by Flavien Prat, he is likely to run a good race on Saturday and to be right in the mix in the late stages. 

Honor Marie

Continuing the trend of liking late runners best in this year’s field, Honor Marie is my top long shot in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Honor Code was a good rallying second last time in the Louisiana Derby behind Catching Freedom in his second start of the season. Last year, all three of his starts came at Churchill Downs and all three were good, highlighted by an impressive win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. 

Back at his home base, the 20/1 shot on the morning line should be poised to run his best race yet as a 3-year-old. Unlike the top two picks, he has yet to win in two starts this year, but his progression is good and I know he likes the track. Given a fast pace, he also should be finishing full of run in the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby Best Bets and Payout (Based on My Picks)

$5 Exacta Part Wheel

Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Mystik Dan, and Fierceness over Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Mystik Dan, Fierceness, Resilience, and Domestic Product = $150 

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$1 Trifecta Part Wheel

Sierra Leone and Catching Freedom over Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Mystik Dan, Fierceness, Resilience + Domestic Product over Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Mystik Dan, Fierceness, Resilience, Domestic Product, Just a Touch, and Forever Young = $84 

Bet on My Trifecta Pick at FanDuel Racing CTA icon

$1 Trifecta Part Wheel

Sierra Leone and Catching Freedom over Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Mystik Dan, Fierceness, Resilience, Domestic Product, Just a Touch + Forever Young over Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Mystik Dan, Fierceness, Resilience, and Domestic Product = $80

Bet on My Trifecta Pick at FanDuel Racing CTA icon

If you want to calculate your own Kentucky Derby payout then feel free to use our free horse betting calculator.

Where to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

You can bet on the first Triple Crown Race at TwinSpires or FanDuel Racing. Take a look at our selection of the best Kentucky Derby Betting Sites for more.

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How to Watch the Kentucky Derby 2024

  • What: Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) 

  • Location: Churchill Downs

  • Time: Saturday, May 4 -- 6:57 pm Eastern time

  • How to Watch: NBC

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Image for Brian Zipse


Brian Zipse

293 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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