2024 Kentucky Derby: Make Your Pick


Read along for a look at each horse competing in the 2024 Kentucky Derby.

2024 Kentucky Derby favorite Fierceness trains beneath the famed Twin Spires
2024 Kentucky Derby favorite Fierceness trains beneath the famed Twin Spires. Photo by Grace Clark

In 2021, 17,779 Thoroughbred foals in the United States alone were registered with the Jockey Club. This Saturday, only 20 Thoroughbreds — two of them born in Japan — will load into the starting gate for one of the most illustrious races in the world: the Kentucky Derby. 

Dubbed “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” the 1 ¼-mile race will showcase the 20 3-year-olds that qualified for the Derby via a points system. A crowd of about 150,000 will gather beneath Churchill Downs’ iconic Twin Spires, adorned in their eye-catching hats and best spring attire. Meanwhile, millions of viewers will tune in via television to find out which horse will be presented the winning garland of roses.  

The 2024 Kentucky Derby Field

Will it be an impressive favorite or a shocking long shot crossing the Churchill Downs finish line first this year?

Any horse in the race has a shot—which is exactly what produces so much excitement, and, of course, many betting strategies. Let’s take a look at each horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby, organized by post position and listed with their morning line odds.

1. Dornoch (20-1)
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Jockey: Luis Saez
Race Record: 6 starts: 3 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $552,275

Certainly the most intriguing detail about Dornoch is that he is a full brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mage. He was the winner of a small field in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) in March, and most recently finished fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) behind Sierra Leone, Just a Touch, and Epic Ride.

With an especially tricky post position along the rail, Dornoch will need to call upon the promise he showed in his earlier form.

2. Sierra Leone (3-1)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Race Record: 4 starts: 3 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $918,000

The second choice on the morning line, Sierra Leone enters the Kentucky Derby off a decisive win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) just down the road at Keeneland. His only loss to date was by the narrowest of margins to Dornoch last December in the Remsen Stakes (G2), a rival he soundly defeated last out.

An impressive colt that seems to only be improving, Sierra Leone is rightfully one of the top contenders in this race, if he gets the trip.

3. Mystik Dan (20-1)
Trainer: Kenny McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr.
Race Record: 6 starts: 2 wins, 1 second, 1 third
Career Earnings: $641,360

Although a dominant winner of the Southwest Stakes (G3) two starts back, Mystik Dan failed to repeat that performance next out, finishing third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his final prep. He does own a win over the Churchill Downs surface as a 2-year-old, but it will take a much improved effort to be crowned the Derby champion.

4. Catching Freedom (8-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Race Record: 5 starts: 3 wins, 0 seconds, 1 third
Career Earnings: $877,350

Winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2) last out, Catching Freedom has steadily improved and overcome immaturity over the course of his career. His recent speed figures are among some of the best in the 2024 Kentucky Derby field, and he couldn’t ask for a much better rider than Flavien Prat.

With the right trip, and as long as he has continued to mature, Catching Freedom could be a top player.

5. Catalytic (30-1)
Trainer: Saffie Joseph
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Race Record: 3 starts: 1 win, 2 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $216,825

One of the most inexperienced horses entered in the 2024 Kentucky Derby, Catalytic only has three lifetime starts under his belt, including only one route race. That came last out in the Florida Derby (G1), in which he finished second to Derby favorite Fierceness. He performed well enough to be second, but was defeated by 13 ½ lengths.

To win here would be asking a lot of this lightly raced colt.

6. Just Steel (20-1)
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
Jockey: Keith Asmussen
Race Record: 11 starts: 2 wins, 4 seconds, and 1 third
Career Earnings: $724,545

A win from Just Steel would be a heartwarming ending to this year’s Derby, as it would give Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s young son Keith his first Derby victory in his very first Derby start. Keith of course has the mount for another Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, who has won this race four times.

The most experienced horse in the field with 11 starts, Just Steel has won only two of those. But, he has faced difficult trips in many of his races, and last out received a great ride from Asmussen in their first start together, finishing second in the Arkansas Derby (G1). While he’s shown signs of improvement, it would take a big jump from him to defeat this field.

7. Honor Marie (20-1)
Trainer: Whit Beckman
Jockey: Ben Curtis
Race Record: 5 starts: 2 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $526,175

Although winless this year, Honor Marie was a strong second last out in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He does have two victories at Churchill Downs to his record, with a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and his debut as a 2-year-old last fall.

He is training well and clearly loves the Louisville oval, so he could be worth a look as a longshot.

8. Just a Touch (10–1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Race Record: 3 starts: 1 win, 2 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $281,700

Looking to follow in his sire Justify’s footsteps with a win in the Derby off of just three previous starts, all in his 3-year-old year, Just a Touch is worthy of a glance. A strong second to Sierra Leone in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) last out, his solid speed figures keep improving and he’s proven he can handle a fast early pace well — and that’s certainly something to be expected in the Derby most years.

Though he may get bet down as a “wise guy” horse, Just a Touch may just deserve to be included in the discussion of top picks.

9. Encino – SCRATCHED

10. T O Password (JPN) (30-1)
Trainer: Daisuke Takayanagi
Jockey: Kazushi Kimura
Race Record: 2 starts: 2 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $163,339 

The longshot of the two Japan charges, T O Password is the most lightly raced horse in the group, with only two starts under his belt. He earned a Japan Road to the Derby berth with a win in the Fukuryu Stakes, but barely held on to win that race, crossing the wire a head in front.

Not only is this a huge jump in class for T O Password, but his fatigue in the late stretch of a shorter race last out certainly creates distance concerns for the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby.

11. Forever Young (JPN) (10-1)
Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi
Jockey: Ryusei Sakai
Race Record: 5 starts: 5 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $2,049,451 

Undefeated in five starts, including a convincing win last out in the UAE Derby, Forever Young may be the most formidable horse Japan has sent to the Kentucky Derby. He’s certainly up for the distance, and has proven himself head and shoulders above his peers up to this point.

It’s always a bit of an unknown when an international horse competes in the Derby, but Forever Young looks to be a real contender.

12. Track Phantom (20–1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Race Record: 7 starts: 3 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third
Career Earnings: $405,000

Track Phantom was a leading contender early on in the road to the 2024 Kentucky Derby, but he enters here off of two losses. Most recently fourth behind Catching Freedom and Honor Marie in the Louisiana Derby, the colt does, however, have strong speed figures.

Based on how he’s faltered in his last two races, Track Phantom doesn’t seem like he wants the distance here. He gets the addition of blinkers for the Derby, but the question is if that will make enough of a difference.

13. West Saratoga (50–1)
Trainer: Larry Demeritte
Jockey: Jesus Castanon
Race Record: 10 starts: 2 wins, 5 seconds, 1 third
Career Earnings: $460,140

One of the longest shots on the morning line, West Saratoga would be a fairytale winner for connections who are just happy to be in the game. The colt has a graded stakes win over the Churchill Downs surface to his credit, having won the Iroquois Stakes (G3) there as a 2-year-old. However, he has not won since and his speed figures don’t stack up against the others.

But if you like to bet the gray, West Saratoga is your Derby horse — he’s the only gray in the field.

14. Endlessly (30–1)
Trainer: Mike McCarthy
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli
Race Record: 6 starts: 5 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $707,200

While he has done little wrong in his career, Endlessly has been facing much lighter competition than this and has only raced on turf and synthetic surfaces. He was a dominant winner of the Jeff Ruby (G3) last out, and certainly has talent, but the dirt is a big question for him.

15. Domestic Product (30–1)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Race Record: 5 starts: 2 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $314,200

A game winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) last out in March, Domestic Product does appear to have improved as a 3-year-old and certainly has accomplished connections. He has been training well, but it would take a massive jump in effort and speed for him to pull the upset.

16. Grand Mo the First (50-1)
Trainer: Victor Barboza, Jr.
Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo
Race Record: 6 starts: 2 wins, 0 seconds, 4 thirds
Career Earnings: $214,650

One of three 50-1 longshots on the morning line, Grand Mo the First not only hasn’t won since last September, but he has never won against stakes company. He picked up Kentucky Derby points with several third-place finishes on the Derby trail this year, but it would take by far the best effort of his life to shock the crowd here.

17. Fierceness (5-2)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Race Record: 5 starts: 3 wins, 0 seconds, 1 third
Career Earnings: $1,703,850

Fierceness stamped himself as the 2024 Kentucky Derby favorite with a 13 ½-length romp in his final prep, the Florida Derby (G1). The colt was last year’s Eclipse Champion 2-Year-Old Male, which he clinched with a dominant win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). 

He does seem like the kind of horse to need just the right trip to win and his recent training has left a bit to be desired. But on talent and speed figures alone, he is the best of this field on paper.

18. Stronghold (20-1)
Trainer: Phil D’Amato
Jockey: Antonio Fresu
Race Record: 6 starts: 3 wins, 3 seconds, 0 thirds
Career Earnings: $827,200

Fresh off a game win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Stronghold has never been worse than second in his 6-start career thus far. The question of how competitive of company he’s faced does create some worry, but he has done very little wrong.

19. Resilience (20-1)
Trainer: Bill Mott
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Race Record: 6 starts: 2 wins, 1 second, 1 third
Career Earnings: $494,630

Most recently a clear winner of the Wood Memorial (G2), Resilience seems to have only recently come into his own. The Into Mischief colt also leaves a bit to be desired as far as speed figures go, but he should benefit from the long distance of the Derby. It will take a big jump for him to find the wire first.

20. Society Man (50-1)
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Jockey: Frankie Dettori
Race Record: 5 starts: 1 win, 1 second, 1 third
Career Earnings: $196,705 

While every horse in the gate has a chance, Society Man does seem to be the most overmatched in the Kentucky Derby field. He only just broke his maiden in March, and then followed that up with a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial (G2). Prior to that, he’d only hit the board once in three other maiden special weight efforts.

21. Epic Ride (30-1)
Trainer: John Ennis
Jockey: Adam Beschizza
Race Record: 5 starts: 2 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third
Career Earnings: $253,166

It was just two years ago when #21, drawn in off the scratch of a main body entrant, made Derby history as Rich Strike surprised everyone with his 80-1 Kentucky Derby upset. While Epic Ride likely won’t go off at odds quite that high, it would still take a surprising effort from him to pull the upset. He was a respectable third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) behind Sierra Leone and Just a Touch last out, but he will have his work cut out for him.

Let us know in the comments here, or on Facebook (Horse Illustrated) or Instagram (@horseillustrated) who your 2024 Kentucky Derby pick is! Click here to subscribe to Horse Illustrated.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here