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Eddie Olczyk Derby Picks 2024: Which Kentucky Horses Are A ‘Must Use’ For The NBC Handicapper?

Andy Newton
eddie olczyk

The Eddie Olczyk Derby picks ahead of the big race in Kentucky this Saturday are taking shape as the popular former NHL player and now respected NBC handicapper highlights his ‘Must Use’ selections. Plus also has one Kentucky Derby horse earmarked as his best longshot.

Who Is Eddie Olczyk – The NBC Horse Racing Handicapper?

Many horse racing fans will, of course, have their own opinions on Saturday’s 150th running of the Kentucky Derby – as the latest batch of 3 year-old start their journey in trying to become the next Triple Crown winner in the USA.

However, whether they are experienced punters or not, a lot will also have one ear to the ground when it comes to listening to the best horse racing handicappers and experts. Including NBC’s Eddie Olczyk.

Olczyk is a former NHL star that played in the National League for 16 seasons with six sides that included the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, of which he was also became head coach for in 2003.

Since hanging up his skates, Eddie Olczyk began a career in the media commentating on NHL for NBC. And through that came an avenue to also showcase his interest in horse racing with the same channel snapping him up as an analyst and handicapper.

This has led to Olczyk covering all the big US horse races through the season – including the Kentucky Derby – Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup and Preakness Stakes for the NBC network.

Eddie Olczyk Derby Picks 2024: “Catching Freedom Top-Listed”

catching freedom

Eddie Olczyk Derby Picks 2024: Top Listed Quartet

See below Olczyk’s ‘top listed’ four with Catching Freedom a horse he likes a lot, plus hot Kentucky Derby favorites Sierra Leona and Fierceness also respected, along with Resilience. With these three in no particular order.

You can also WATCH below why Eddie Olczyk is making a case for these four Kentucky Derby horses ahead of the 150th running of the Run For The Roses. Plus also gives out his ‘longshot’ of the race.

  • Sierra Leone
  • Resilience
  • Fierceness

CATCHING FREEDOM: “Very Impressive In Louisiana Derby”

Watch below as Eddie Olczyk chats to Jeremy Plonk about the chances of Catching Freedom.

The Brad Cox team landed the Kentucky Derby in 2021 with Mandaloun. Who was awarded the race after Medina Spirit was disqualified after a failed drug test.

However, Eddie Olczyk thinks the barn can go close to winning the race in their own right with CATCHING FREEDOM. 

Olczyk goes onto say that he feels the Constitution 3 year-old was very impressive in winning the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in March. With his closing style being well-suited to a fast-run Kentucky Derby.

Yes, he adds, the horse will need a lot of luck in-running coming from off the pace. But his proven experience of running at Churchill Downs (twice) is another big plus, including winning at the Kentucky venue.

With the Cox team also having Just A Touch in the race, Olczyk goes onto say this horse could set up the pace nicely for the Flavien Prat-ridden Catching Freedom.

SIERRA LEONE: “Chad Brown Is Overly-Excited About His Chance”

This season’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Sierra Leone is another Eddie Olczyk Kentucky Derby pick 2024 that he feels should certainly have as a ‘must use’.

Olczyk comments on the way Chad Brown has become over-excited about the horse’s chance and this is out of character for him. Being a ‘poker face’ kind of guy normally.

Sierra Leone is likely to be another of the closers in the race based on his previous running style. However, Olczyk feels there will be enough pace is the race for the field to come back to this Gun Runner colt.

The only negative Olczyk pointed out was his lack of a run at the Churchill Downs track (different surface) and also his antics at the starting gates last time.

However, he went onto say than despite “playing-up” beforehand overcame this to race very professional in winning that Blue Grass Stakes. Which is enough for Olczyk to have him as a ‘must use’ in Saturday’s race.

Sierra Leone has also landed Kentucky Derby post position draw 2, so will be looking to become the first winner from this gate since Affirmed in 1978.

RESILIENCE: “Impressive In The First-Time Blinkers Last Time”

See below what Eddie Olczyk think about the chances of the Bill Mott-trained Resilience, who heads here as the Wood Memorial winner last time out.

The last winner to win that Aqueduct race and follow up in the Run For The Roses was Funny Cide in 2003. So at the moment the jury is very much out about the Wood Memorial being a decent Kentucky Derby prep race.

That said, Eddie Olczyk feels this Into Mischief colt is another ‘must use’ ahead of the race with the first-time blinkers last time really improving him. Prior to that win was also only 3 1/2 lengths behind Sierra Leone in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

While he also goes onto say the slightly longer trip should be right up Resilience’s street based on breeding.

FIERCENESS: “A Worthy Kentucky Derby Favorite”

The Todd Pletcher-trained Fierceness will be looking to give the barn their third Kentucky Derby win and the best US racebooks seem to think he’s the one to beat.

It’s hard to knock the form of his easy 13 1/2 length Florida Derby win last time at Gulfstream Park and Eddie Olczyk agrees Fierceness is a worthy favorite. Comparing him to Life Is Good, who was a four-time Grade One winner and was also trained by Pletcher.

Olczyk adds – he’ll be a ‘must use’ in his Saturday bets for the Kentucky Derby after training well and this Mike Repole-owned colt could easily be the ‘real deal’ from the front.

Eddie Olczyk Kentucky Derby Longshot: “Just Steel Is Battle-Tested”

Finally, if you are looking to play the Eddie Olczyk Derby pick 2024 longshot. Then look no further than – JUST STEEL.

This D. Wayne Lukas runner is the most experienced in this year’s race with 11 past starts – winning twice.

He was last seen running second in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park at the end of March. With the winner that day Muth lot running here being a Bob Baffert-trained horse.

Eddie Olczyk feels that his ‘battle-tested’ profile will be a big plus in a rough race like the Kentucky Derby and also has solid form at the Churchill Downs track with two runs. Including a win in the Ed Brown Stakes last November.

He goes onto say Just Steel is bred for the distance – trying this longer trip for the first time. Being out of former Triple Crown winner Justify.

Is also trained by veteran handler D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Kentucky Derby four times. With Olczyk’s final point being the horse has been badly drawn in his last three runs too but has still shown enough to overcome this and run well. He’s drawn better here in gate 6.

When is the Kentucky Derby 2024?

The 2024 Kentucky Derby will be run on Saturday, May 4 at Churchill Downs racetrack.

  • 📅Time/Date: 6:45pm, Saturday May 4, 2024
  • 🏇Racecourse: Churchill Downs
  • 💰 Purse/Winner: $5m / $3.1m
  • 📺 TV: NBC (Live Stream: You Tube, Peacock, fuboTV)
  • 🎲 Kentucky Derby Odds: Sierra Leone +300 | Fierceness +350 | Forever Young +800

WATCH: Eddie Olczyk Talks About Some Of The Other 2024 Kentucky Derby Horses

Forever Young: Raider From Japan 

Just A Touch: Blue Grass Stakes Runner-Up

Dornoch: Fountain Of Youth Stakes Winner

Stronghold: Proven Churchill Downs Winner

2024 Kentucky Derby Betting Odds

See the latest 2024 Kentucky Derby odds that you can get by joining up with the best Kentucky Derby betting sites in the US:

  • Dornoch: +2000
  • Sierra Leone: +300
  • Mystik Dan: +2000
  • Catching Freedom: +800
  • Catalytic: +3000
  • Just Steel: +2000
  • Honor Marie: +2000
  • Just a Touch: +1000
  • Encino: 20-1 (scratched)
  • T O Password: +3000
  • Forever Young: +1000
  • Track Phantom: +2000
  • West Saratoga: +5000
  • Endlessly: +3000
  • Domestic Product: +3000
  • Grand Mo the First: +5000
  • Fierceness: +250
  • Stronghold: +2000
  • Resilience: +2000
  • Society Man: +5000

Note: Odds are subject to change

Note: Others on request, but all current Kentucky Derby odds correct as of 09:00 ET on Wednesday, May 1 2024.

Andy Newton
Andy Newton

Andy Newton is a horse racing handicapper who specializes in key race trends for the biggest events in the sport around the world. His statistical approach to finding winners is one that has paid off time and time again. Check out the latest trends and Kentucky Derby stats from Andy on the site.