By HRI Foreign Staff — As the 2024 Kentucky Derby approaches, the excitement builds around the top contenders and their potential to win one of the most prestigious events in horse racing. This year’s favorites emerge from a pool of talented three-year-olds, each with a unique path to Churchill Downs.
Fierceness: The Enigmatic Track Prodigy
In the 2023 racing season, Fierceness emerged as a beacon of talent, clinching the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. This remarkable victory underpinned his status as the champion juvenile in 2023. Bred and owned by Mike Repole, Todd A. Pletcher, a U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee, has trained this bay colt. Fierceness’s journey to the 2024 Kentucky Derby is marked by anticipation, with odds at +700.
His performances, characterized by speed and stamina, have placed him at the pinnacle of Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby 2024 contenders list. The racing community eagerly awaits his next challenge at the 2024 Holy Bull G3, poised to offer further insights into his formidable form.
Locked, another exceptional talent from Todd Pletcher’s stable has demonstrated his mettle on the racetrack with notable achievements, including a third-place finish in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile G1.
The 3-year-old colt, sired by Gun Runner out of the Malibu Moon mare Luna Rosa, carries the legacy of his Kentucky breeding by Rosa Colasanti. Representing Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm, Locked has showcased his racing prowess at prestigious venues such as Keeneland, Santa Anita, and Saratoga, with significant victories at Keeneland and Saratoga.
His crowning achievement came with a stakes win at the 2023 Breeders’ Futurity (G1). With odds of +1700 for the Kentucky Derby, Locked is poised to make his 3-year-old debut, a crucial time to gauge his progress and readiness for the Derby.
Nysos: Dark Horse Favorite
Emerging as a force to be reckoned with, Nysos has quickly ascended the ranks from 2023 to 2024, showcasing his prowess on the racetrack. Sired by Nyquist out of the Bernardini mare Zetta Z, this 3-year-old colt is a testament to his distinguished lineage.
Under the tutelage of renowned trainer Bob Baffert and racing for Baoma Corp, Nysos has left an indelible mark at prestigious venues such as Del Mar and Santa Anita, with notable victories at both tracks. His stakes wins, including the 2024 Robert B. Lewis (G3) and the 2023 Bob Hope (G3), underline his competitive edge and readiness for higher challenges. The best betting sites have released odds for the event, and with odds of +1500 for the Kentucky Derby, Nysos is certainly a contender worth watching.
Unfortunately, Baffert has not met the barn-transfer deadline and Nysos cannot run in the Derby. Instead, it is expected to be pointed to the Preakness on the third Saturday in May.
Sierra Leone made an unforgettable entrance into racing with a win in his career debut, a maiden race for 2-year-olds over a mile at Aqueduct on November 4, 2023. A dramatic performance followed his promising start in the Grade 2 Remsen, where he nearly clinched victory with a strong closing move, only to be narrowly defeated by Dornoch at the finish line.
The performance showcased Sierra Leone’s tenacity and his potential for greatness on the track. With odds of +1800 for the Kentucky Derby, Sierra Leone’s journey is one of high anticipation and promise.
With odds of +1600 for the Kentucky Derby, Dornoch has proven to be a formidable contender. His victory in the 2023 Remsen G2 displayed resilience and skill, particularly in the face-off against Sierra Leone, where he managed to reclaim the lead in a thrilling finish. This win highlights Dornoch’s fighting spirit and ability to perform under pressure, qualities that will serve him well in the run-up to the Derby.
Recent prep races have provided glimpses of other potential contenders. Hades, Mystik Dan, and Uncle Heavy have all secured wins in their respective races, setting the stage for their journey to the Kentucky Derby. These victories award them valuable points towards qualification and offer insights into their form and resilience.
The road to the 2024 Kentucky Derby is lined with talented contenders, each bringing their unique strengths to the forefront. As the prep races unfold, they will determine the field for the Derby and shape the narratives around these remarkable horses. The blend of proven champions and emerging talents makes this year’s Derby an event full of anticipation and excitement. With each race, the favorites will aim to solidify their positions, while the underdogs look to disrupt the rankings, promising a spectacle of speed, strategy, and sportsmanship at Churchill Downs.