Kentucky Derby Betting Guide 2024: Best Bets and Predictions

In addition to being the most famous test in Thoroughbred racing, the 2024 Kentucky Derby (G1) figures to be one of the best betting races of the year. With a planned 20-horse field full of still-developing 3-year-olds, the 150th edition of the Run for the Roses offers plenty of options to cash for both casual and hardcore bettors alike.

The Kentucky Derby has produced some of the biggest payouts in recent years. Last year’s race was won by Mage at odds of 15-1 while the 2022 edition featured an upset for the ages when Rich Strike shocked the world as an 80-1 long shot. 

For those looking to make some money on the first leg of the Triple Crown, as well as its sister race, the $1.5 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies on May 3, we have a rundown of what some of the best bets might be. 

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Best Bets and Predictions for the Kentucky Oaks

Before the Kentucky Derby takes center stage at Churchill Downs on May 4, 14 of the nation’s top 3-year-old fillies are set to headline Friday’s card beneath the Twin Spires. 

Tarifa (7-2)

The 7-2 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-miles Kentucky Oaks is the Brad Cox-trained Tarifa, winner of both the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) this season. Blessed with tactical speed that allows her to sit in an ideal stalk-and-pounce position, Tarifa has suffered just one loss in five starts but is far from a sure thing in what looks to be a depth-laden Oaks field. 

Just F Y I (9-2)

The reigning 2-year-old filly champion, Just F Y I captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last November. The 9-2 second choice on the morning line has had just one start this year — a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 5 — but has been training up a storm under the watch of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The rain that is currently in the forecast for Oaks day also will not hurt Just F Y I as she won the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at Aqueduct last October over a sealed, sloppy surface. 

“She seems like having the race at Keeneland under her belt, she’s begun to wake up,” Mott said. “Over the winter, they kind of let down and they’re going through the motions in their training but sometimes it takes a race to really put them on edge and I think we accomplished that with her race in the Ashland.”

Ways and Means (5-1)

The Todd Pletcher-trained Leslie’s Rose, 4-1 on the Oaks morning line, defeated Just F Y I in the Ashland but will have to make her run from the far outside post No. 14. And if the favorites aren’t on their game, the lightly-race Ways and Means could give trainer Chad Brown his first Oaks victory. 

Ways and Means, who is 5-1 on the morning line, returned from a seven-month layout to finish second behind fellow Oaks entrant Power Squeeze (12-1 on the morning line) in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2)  on March 30. Brown has called the daughter of Practical Joke the best filly he has trained on dirt and said he expects her to be battling for the lead in the early going. 

“She’s a super talented horse and she’s actually found trouble in all three of her starts,” Brown said of Ways and Means. “The key to her is if she can leave there clean and forward. I want her very forward in the race if not on the lead.”

Prediction: Just F Y I, Tarifa, Ways and Means.

Best Bets and Predictions for the Kentucky Derby

Though far from a two-horse race, this year’s Kentucky Derby does feature a pair of clear standouts in reigning juvenile male champion Fierceness and Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner Sierra Leone. As expected, the two colts were deemed the top two betting choices on the morning line at 5-2 and 3-1, respectively. 

Fierceness (5-2)

The outcome of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby likely hinges on which version of Fierceness leaves the starting gate. As brilliant as the Todd Pletcher trainee was when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) by 6 1/4 lengths and the Florida Derby (G1) last time out by 13 1/2 lengths, he was equally as puzzling in his two losses, including a third-place run in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3).

Sierra Leone (3-1)

Sierra Leone has been a much more consistent performer with his only loss being a nose defeat to fellow Derby entrant Dornoch in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last November. In the Blue Grass Stakes, he overcame a pre-race fit at the starting gate and was able to get himself together to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

“He was so impressive in the Risen Star making up all that ground, but I was even more impressed with him the last time in the Blue Grass,” said Tyler Gaffalione, jockey of Sierra Leone. “With that little bit of fit he threw behind the gate, for him to compose himself and get his mind back on running and put on the performance he did I thought was incredible. It shows the mind frame he has and the talent he has.”

If Fierceness gets out well from post 17 and has his way with things on the front end, it could be all she wrote for the rest of the field by the time they reach the top of the stretch. 

Sierra Leone, meanwhile, should get the fractions he needs up front and even if they go slower than expected, he closed into a tepid when he won the Risen Star. 

While history has been relatively kind to Derby favorites over the last decade with six straight betting choices winning from 2013-2018, there are a number of contenders who could pounce if Fierceness faces adversity and has no answer.

Stronghold (20-1)

Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner Domestic Product (30-1) is another who could loom a threat if speed materializes up front while Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Stronghold (20-1) has the look of a horse going the right way on the trajectory.

Forever Young (10-1)

The wild card in all this could be unbeaten Forever Young (JPN), one of two Japanese-based contenders in the Derby. Japanese-bred horses have taken some of the globe’s top races in recent years and Forever Young is arguably the best runner they have brought to the first Saturday in May. The son of Real Steel (JPN) impressed with his wins in the UAE Derby (G2) and Saudi Derby (G3) and if he can handle the calvary charge and dirt kickback in his face, there could be a wild celebration breaking out halfway around the world. 

Prediction: Sierra Leone, Stronghold, Forever Young, Fierceness 

More: 2024 Kentucky Derby Horses | 2024 Kentucky Derby Exacta, Trifecta & Superfecta Picks

Kentucky Derby Post Positions and Odds

🐎 Post PositionTrainerJockeyMorning Line Odds
1. DornochDanny GarganLuis Saez20-1
2. Sierra LeoneChad Brown Tyler Gaffalione3-1
3. Mystik DanKenny McPeekBrian Hernandez Jr.20-1
4. Catching FreedomBrad CoxFlavien Prat8-1
5. CatalyticSaffie Joseph Jr.Jose Ortiz30-1
6. Just SteelD. Wayne LukasKeith Asmussen20-1
7. Honor MarieWhit BeckmanBen Curtis20-1
8. Just a TouchBrad CoxFlorent Geroux10-1
9. Encino (SCRATCHED)Brad CoxAxel ConcepcionSCRATCHED
10. T O Password (JPN)Daisuke TakayanagiKazushi Kimura30-1
11. Forever Young (JPN)Yoshito YahagiRyusei Sakai10-1
12. Track PhantomSteve AsmussenJoel Rosario20-1
13. West SaratogaLarry DemeritteJesus Castanon50-1
14. Endlessly Michael McCarthy Umberto Rispoli30-1
15. Domestic ProductChad BrownIrad Ortiz Jr.30-1
16. Grand Mo the FirstVictor Barboza Jr.Emisael Jaramillo50-1
17. Fierceness Todd Pletcher John Velazquez5-2
18. Stronghold Phil D'AmatoAntonio Fresu20-1
19. Resilience Bill Mott Junior Alvarado20-1
20. Society ManDanny GarganFrankie Dettori50-1
21. Epic RideJohn EnnisAdam Beschizza 50-1
AE 22 MugatuJeff Engler Joe Talamo50-1

Kentucky Derby Wagering Menu

There will be no shortage of betting options at Churchill Downs this weekend, specifically on the 14-race Kentucky Derby card. The betting menu will include five Pick 5s, five Pick 4s, and a mandatory payout in the 20-cent Derby City 6 Jackpot.

Kentucky Derby Wager Minimums

  • Win, Place, Show: $2
  • Exacta: $2 ($1 Box & Wheels)
  • Daily Double, Super High-5: $1
  • Trifecta, Pick-3, Pick-4 and Pick-5: $0.50
  • Superfecta: $0.10 ($1 Oaks & Derby Days)
  • Derby City-6: $0.20
  • Two-Day Pick-6: $1 (separate event from the regular oaks Day card)

Note: Derby Day, Churchill Downs plans to offer two wagers, placement determined when race cards are set: Derby Day: All Stakes, All Dirt Pick 5 ($0.50 minimum) | All 3 YO Pick 3 (American Turf, Pat Day Mile & Kentucky Derby) ($3 minimum).

About the Author
Alicia Hughes

Alicia Hughes

Senior Writer
Alicia Hughes is a senior writer and award-winning horse racing journalist at Gaming Today. She previously served as a digital content editor for TVG and racing editor for The Blood-Horse following 12 years at the Lexington Herald-Leader. A graduate of Pace University in New York and a diehard New Jersey Devils fan, Hughes is a past president of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.

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