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Jamie Clark

This is precisely where to find free Kentucky Derby picks by experts and pro handicappers. They study all the form, speed figures and pedigrees of the thoroughbred racehorses heading to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, so you don’t have to.

Who Are the Kentucky Derby Favorites in 2024?

Without further ado, it’s time to launch right into the Kentucky Derby tips by looking at the most fancied runners first. They are where most bettors will focus their attention, after all.

Precisely who the favorite is in the latest Kentucky Derby odds will change as prep races and key trials come and go at other racetracks across America and the world. These horses are the leading contenders this year, however, and worth a closer look. Here’s what our Kentucky Derby handicapping experts have to say:

Sierra Leone

Gun Runner colt representing the Chad Brown barn and the Coolmore partners. Risen Star Stakes success at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, but skipped Louisiana Derby in favor of the Blue Grass Stakes run at Keeneland. That decision paid off as he went from last to first. He’s now of the best picks for Kentucky Derby 2024 after turning about past form with Dornoch.


Hugely impressive in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park in the fall. Form franked by the runner-up Muth winning twice since including the Arkansas Derby. Made all and turned Florida Derby into a procession with a bloodless victory at Gulfstream Park, which punched his ticket to Churchill Downs. Expect this Todd Pletcher trained colt to be among many experts’ top Kentucky Derby picks this year.

Forever Young

Forever Young is one of the Kentucky Derby picks this year

Japanese thoroughbred who has won both the Saudi Derby and UAE Derby in the Middle East over the winter. Latter victory qualified him for Churchill Downs. Hard to judge how that international form line equates with American prep races and trials, but transpacific runners always respected in the Derby.

Catching Freedom

Risen Star Stakes third who bounced back with Louisiana Derby victory at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. Represents the Brad Cox barn and by the same sire as one-time Kentucky Derby second Tiz The Law. Back form franked when runner-up from Oaklawn Park Listed victory filled same spot in Arkansas Derby. Likely to feature in many a Kentucky Derby prediction this spring.


Sunland Park and Santa Anita Derby victories catapulted this colt by Ghostzapper into contention. Prevailed in sustained battle with Imagination up the home stretch in California, but has clearly improved this year. One of the leading Kentucky Derby picks if taking another step forward and he didn’t have too hard a race the last day.

Kentucky Derby Picks And Analysis From Our Experts

Such is the variety of wagers you can place today, that it’s not just about finding winners. Visit any of the leading Kentucky Derby betting sites online and you’ll find lots of different wagering options on the racebook. That is also reflected in what we’ve asked of our experts.

Their Kentucky Derby selections don’t just cover an outright win in the futures betting on the big race, but top 3 picks to make the show and even longshot outside bets on horses that might surprise a few and outrun their odds. Here are their predictions in these three areas:

Kentucky Derby Picks to Win

Any win only wager is precisely that. The chosen horse with a Kentucky Derby prediction such as this must finish first (or be awarded the race on the day). Anything less and it was the wrong call. That is the only way to receive Kentucky Derby payouts on such a bet.

Fierceness silks KD Fierceness

Despite a draw that has as yet never produced a winner, it is hard to get away from Fierceness and his phenomenal display in the Florida Derby. If he turns up at Churchill Downs in the same form, then he is the one they all have to beat. That Gulfstream Park prep race success was a major statement.

Horses aren’t supposed to win recognized trials for the Kentucky Derby by wide margins. Fierceness has delivered on the two biggest days of his career to date. After routing Muth, who would be a leading contender here if his barn could have runners, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in the fall, he surpassed that with a 13 1/2 lengths demolition of the field in Florida.

The Todd Pletcher barn has won two previous editions of the Kentucky Derby and jockey John Velazquez has three victories. Everything but an unlucky post position of gate 17 in the initial draw is in the favor of Fierceness. With the scratching of Encino, however, he effectively moves down one to post 16 and that only enhances his claims.

Kentucky Derby Top 3 Picks

They call second spot in a horse race placing and finishing third showing. You can wager in pari-mutuel betting pools on these outcomes, i.e. a top 2 or top 3 finish. The beauty of that is you don’t just have to find Kentucky Derby winners, but those in the first two or three.

You can also cover more bases. A smart gambling option to explore with the best Kentucky Derby picks is the Across The Board bet (ATB). This is where you wager on the same horse for a win, place and show, but put down treble your unit stake to cover each outcome.

Place Bet – Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone silks No horse has won the Kentucky Derby from gate 2 since Affirmed in 1978, so Sierra Leone tries following some huge hoofprints. That one went on to complete the Triple Crown, emulating Seattle Slew from the previous year and the mighty Secretariat earlier in the decade.

Sierra Leone has rock solid claims of placing if bucking the trend about Blue Grass Stakes winners going on to Churchill Downs. One of two in the race for the Chad Brown barn this year, he has already beaten many horses in the field.

If Sierra Leone already has the numbers of Track Phantom, Catching Freedom, Resilience and Honor Marie on Risen Star Stakes form, plus Just A Touch, Dornoch and the two Kentucky Derby reserves from his final prep run, he should give Fierceness a race.

Show Bet – Forever Young

Forever Young silks If able to bring his A-game from an unbeaten career in Japan and the Middle East, then Forever Young can at least make the show. He crosses the Pacific off the back of winning both the Saudi and UAE Derbies.

Forever Young beat a horse in Riyadh who previously routed West Saratoga in a Black Type race at Tampa Bay Downs. That one has again placed in the Jeff Ruby en route to the Kentucky Derby. This helps bettors and handicappers get a handle on the form of Forever Young.

It’s tougher tackling the American thoroughbreds in their own backyard, but this globetrotting colt has already proven he travels well. Forever Young will be looking to better the sixth spot Derma Sotogake managed here 12 months ago.

Kentucky Derby Longshot Picks

You only have to go back a couple year to 2022 when Rich Strike recorded one of the most sensational Kentucky Derby results in the race’s history. He only snuck into the final field as a reserve when there was a late scratching, but defied final odds of 80-1 and won the race.

This was one of the biggest upsets in the storied history of Churchill Downs for sure. It proves that longshots and outsiders can confound all Kentucky Derby picks and analysis done by pro handicappers beforehand by pulling off a shock success.

Just Steel

Just Steel silks At bigger Morning Line odds, and thus a better dividend for the show, Just Steel appeals. It might be 25 years since D Wayne Lukas last won the Kentucky Derby, but the Hall of Fame trainer has a lively longshot on his hands here.

Just Steel posted a much improved effort when placing behind Muth in the Arkansas Derby in his final prep race. Based on that run, he turned about past form with Mystik Dan. Just Steel also meets Catching Freedom, who has much shorter odds, off better terms from their previous clash in the Smarty Jones Stakes.

Like his old rival, he has won a race at Churchill Downs before. Gate 6 isn’t too near the fence for traffic to be a worry either. Just Steel could easily outrun his odds and get in amongst favored runners.

Exotic Kentucky Derby Picks by Experts

Now that we’ve dealt with what they call straight wagers, it’s time to move on exotic bets. These are more complicated and involve betting two or more horses in the Kentucky Derby to finish in the correct or any order.

While exotic bets like the Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta and Super High Five are all more difficult to win money off of than straight wagers, some are easier than others. The more horses required by the bet to finish in a set or any order, the tougher it is.

Kentucky Derby Exacta Picks

An Exacta requires two picked horses to finish first and second in the correct order. Bettors can cover any order by using the Quinella bet instead. It’s up to you if you cover all bases with our free Kentucky Derby picks on either wager, or just bet the two horses you like best.

Kentucky Derby Quinella – 2 & 17

There are two standout horses in the race this year, even if the draw could’ve been kinder to them. Sierra Leone (2) and Fierceness (17) are the obvious but logical Exacta or Quinella picks. History is against both the favorites, but they don’t know the stats and trends that say which gates are best.

Bettors are basically wagering on Sierra Leone not meeting trouble near the fence round one of the turns. Fierceness has a wider post position (effectively 16 now with Encino scratched from gate 9), but had no problem going forward and making all the running in the Florida Derby. If this pair run to form at Churchill Downs, then they fight out the finish.

Kentucky Derby Trifecta Picks

The Trifecta involves three (or more) horses to finish first, second and third in a set order. When considering Kentucky Derby Trifecta picks, think about the increased difficulty.

This is a harder wager to pull off than Exactas and Quinellas as a result. Out experts build on the above selections for the Kentucky Derby in this next level exotic bet.

Trifecta Box Kentucky Derby 2024 – 2, 6 & 17

We’re going for the two favorites in Sierra Leone (2) and Fierceness (17), plus longshot Just Steel (6) in a boxed Trifecta this year. There are six different permutations covered here. The unit stake wagered multiplies by six for the total gambled. These are the different finishing orders our bet covers:

  • 2-6-17
  • 2-17-6
  • 6-2-17
  • 6-17-2
  • 17-2-6
  • 17-6-2

Kentucky Derby Superfecta Picks

With a Superfecta, you need four (or more) horses to finish first, second, third and fourth. Again, the difficulty kicks up a notch. Anybody who can make correct Kentucky Derby predictions for the whole top four is doing something right and will win big if wagering on such a bet.

Kentucky Derby Superfecta Bet – 17-2-6-11

In our Superfecta this year are favored pair Fierceness (17) and Sierra Leone (2), plus Arkansas Derby second Just Steel (6) and UAE Derby winner Forever Young (11). Each of this foursome featured in Kentucky Derby tips for straight wagers above, so it makes sense they also appear here.

Kentucky Derby Super High Five Picks

The ultimate test of Kentucky Derby handicapping is the Super High Five. Even more demanding than a Superfecta, with this wager you must find the five horses that cross the wire first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Massive payouts are the reward for this incredibly rare feat.

Super High Five Bet – 17-2-6-11-18

There will be no living with our experts if they pull off a Super High Five, so here goes. Joining Fierceness (17) and Sierra Leone (2) in this wager are Just Steel (6), Forever Young (11) and the Santa Anita Derby winner Stronghold (18).

Stats And Trends Behind Kentucky Derby Picks And Predictions

We all a bit of data, right? Well, when it comes to knowing how to bet on the Kentucky Derby, there are lots of statistics readily available to both bettors and handicappers. These can help you reach decisions about which horses to bet on and why.

  • Trainers & Jockeys – Certain barns and riders have been more successful at Churchill Downs than others. John Velazquez is the best of active Kentucky Derby jockeys with three winning mounts since 2011. Flavien Prat, meanwhile, has enjoyed a victory, a place and a couple shows in the saddle during the last five years.
  • Speed Figures – Bayer publish times and top speeds for every single horse lining up in the Kentucky Derby, so you can see who the fastest is.
  • Prep Races & Trials – Lots of Kentucky Derby prep races happen where the horses warm up en route to Churchill Downs. Look out for the Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby in particular.
  • Post Positions – The draw when it is made can be key to a horse’s chances. A low gate from Kentucky Derby post positions is historically a disadvantage. Ideally, a middle draw is best.
  • Following Favorites – Six consecutive favorites did the business on the track at Churchill Downs from 2013 to 2018, but they haven’t fared so well since. Think about that before betting.

Where to Find the Kentucky Derby Predictions of Expert Handicappers

Top Kentucky Derby picks are ones that ultimately predict what will happen correctly. We may not be the only ones who make the right call come the first Saturday in May or for Triple Crown picks and tips. Let’s front up about it. There are other places you can go and read the views of expert handicappers on the big race.

Away from Kentucky Derby Betting Sites, check out respected sources like Daily Racing Form. They’ve been doing it for even longer than we have. The official website is also worth looking at for more wagering information.

Media outlets will have their own handicappers providing Kentucky Derby expert picks from national outfits to state-level and localized ones. These, along with dedicated horse racing websites, are all worth considering as you look for the winner.

Wherever you source your information from, everyone is doing the same thing. Handicappers analyze the same data and information, yet can often come to different conclusions. The reason for this is a race like the Kentucky Derby is as competitive as it gets and we all interpret things differently.

How We Make Kentucky Derby Expert Picks

We’re gonna let you into the secrets of how our handicappers come up with their selections for the big race. We asked them to tell us all about what goes into their best Kentucky Derby picks so that you understand their thinking:


Foremost in our experts’ thoughts is what a horse has achieved on the track during The Road to the Kentucky Derby. While there’s a lot to be said for future potential, that is intangible. What you can definitely judge is how horses have shaped in their prep races and the caliber of opposition encountered in them. Whether you are making Kentucky Oaks picks or prefer to stick to the Derby, form matters.

The Draw

There’s no getting away from the fact that post positions can play a big part too. Get a gate draw too low and the jockey may have to rush their horse upfront too soon in the race, or risk losing out on the ideal spot where they want to be. Somewhere amongst middle post positions has proven best down the years.


As none of the qualifying races and recognized trials for the Kentucky Derby are actually over the same distance, a thoroughbred’s pedigree can give you clues about them. What you are looking for in their breeding isn’t just speed, but stamina. If any close relatives like the sire, dam or siblings have won at Churchill Downs or at least run well in this big race, they are positive signs.


Are expert Kentucky Derby picks based on breeding?

What general Kentucky Derby tips and advice should I consider before betting?

Are there Kentucky Derby picks and parlays?

How do pro handicappers come up with their Kentucky Derby selections?

Who are the top picks for the Kentucky Derby this year?

Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark is an expert handicapper with more than a decade of experience in the gambling industry. He has found winners of races all over the world, including the biggest in America like the Kentucky Derby.