Looking ahead to the Kentucky Derby

As May draws closer, the eyes of the horse racing world inevitably turn towards Louisville and Churchill Downs. On Saturday, May 4th, the National Historic Landmark and iconic racetrack will once again host the world-famous Kentucky Derby.

Around 10,000 spectators watched the first ever Kentucky Derby back in 1875, as Aristides was ridden home by jockey Oliver Lewis. This year, 150,000 racing fans will cheer on their horse in the 150th anniversary of the most popular and prestigious horse race in the USA.

With its unique history and tradition, this sporting spectacle has been described by Forbes as one of the ‘Greatest Bucket-list Sporting Events’ in America. Although, it’s more famously known as the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”.

The Road to the 2024 Kentucky Derby

To earn a spot in this year’s race, horses must travel down the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of select races at tracks across the US. Points are awarded to the first five finishers in each race. The 18 horses with the most points will earn a place at Churchill Downs.

Similarly, the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby and the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, will provide one spot each for a horse from Japan and Europe. A total of 20 horses will earn a place in the starting gate and a shot at immortality.

The line-up for the race is still taking shape but you can check out the very latest Kentucky Derby odds here. Here’s our round up of the early favorites for the 150th Kentucky Derby:

Price: $325,000 at 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale

A full brother to the 2023 winner Mage, Dornoch is trained by Danny Gargan and looks a real contender. Victory in the 2023 Remsen (G2) showed determination and belief as he reclaimed the lead in an exciting finish with fellow Derby contender, Sierra Leone. Should he finishes in front of Sierra Leone again on Saturday May 4th, many believe he will be crowned champion.

Price: $2.3 million as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale

Sierra Leone gained 50 points on the 2024 Road to the Kentucky Derby after his half-length win in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Rallying down the center of the track, he passed Track Phantom at the line to virtually guarantee his spot at the Kentucky Derby.

After a win on his career debut in a maiden race for 2-year-olds at Aqueduct in November, and a narrow defeat to Dornoch in the Remsen (G2), Sierra Leone looks like being among the favorites.

Fierceness was the 2-year-old champion after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November 2023 at Santa Anita, cruising home against a field packed with very talented horses. That win remains his best career race so far, and despite a disappointing third-place finish at the Holy Bull in his 3-year-old debut in February, fans will find it hard to forget the ability he showed back in November.

  • Secretariat ran the fastest ever Kentucky Derby (1:59.40) in 1973.
  • Three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988).
  • The last Triple Crown winner was Justify in 2018.
  • The largest crowd to ever assemble on Derby Day was in 2015, when 170,513 packed Churchill Downs Racetrack to watch the 141st running.
  • Mage (2023) is only the third horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year old, joining 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify (2018), and Apollo (1882).

The Kentucky Derby remains one of the most popular sporting occasions in America, and for those who aren’t lucky enough to be track side this year, they can join the millions watching on TV. Last year’s race saw NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage peak at 16.6 million viewers as the winner Mage crossed the line.

The 149th Kentucky Derby averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 14.8 million viewers for NBC Sports, making it the most-watched sporting event since Super Bowl LVII in February. 2023 also saw streaming views rise 50%, making the Kentucky Derby the most streamed horse race ever.

Of course, sporting immortality and a place in the history books isn’t the only thing awaiting the winner. This year’s race will be the richest in history with a $2 million increase in prize money to a record $5 million. The winner will not only write their name in history, but also receive $3.1 million for crossing the line first. The question is, which of those 20 horses is it going to be?

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