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The long and illustrious history of the Kentucky Derby – set for its 150th renewal in 2024 – has thrown up plenty of intense rivalries over the years. The battles between Secretariat and Sham and Affirmed and Alydar in the 1970s have become the stuff of legend. Horse racing is arguably at its best when there isn’t a clear favorite, and we certainly have that this year as two interesting candidates lead the betting.

The market leaders in the 2024 Kentucky Derby odds are Fierceness and Sierra Leone, and it feels like there is little to choose between them. Indeed, several sportsbooks are split on the question of the market leader in the lead-up to the race, with some plumping for the Road to the Kentucky Derby points leader Sierra Leone and others opting for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Two-Year-Old Horse of the Year winner Fierceness.

You can, of course, understand the predicament of sportsbook odds-setters. Pundits, too, are split on the pair, and some have swerved both horses altogether in their predictions. But that’s the Kentucky Derby for you; no horse is there to simply make up the numbers. Yet, it is clear that much of the ante-post money is coming in for leading duo. Let’s take a quick look at the tale of the tape for each.

Sierra Leone

Trained by the wily Chad Brown, Sierra Leone offers his trainer the best shot at a maiden Kentucky Derby win since Zandon went off as morning line favorite in 2022. He has two wins from two starts as a 3yo, including a statement-making performance in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes. The only blot on his copybook is a loss (by a nose) to Dornoch in the G2 Remsen Stakes back in December. He’s been perfect in 2024, though, and many believe he deserves to be the morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby 2024.


Fierceness is trained by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher and was sired by the brilliant Pegasus Cup winner City Light. Fierceness was named champion 2yo in 2023 after a spectacular victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was fairly disappointing in his first race as a 3yo, although he still held on for 3rd place in the Holy Bull Stakes. His performance in the Florida Derby caught the eye, however, as Fierceness won by a stunning 13½ lengths.

Bettors Looking for Kentucky Derby Clues

The odds will continue to change as more money flows in before race day (the 150th Kentucky Derby is on May 4th). So, it’s perfectly possible that the market settles on a clear favorite between the pair. Track conditions, gate positions, and other factors will help bettors make up their minds. However, as things stand, the two leading candidates look difficult to separate, and that creates an interesting scenario for fans.

Beyond the Favorites

If the roll of honor for the 150th Run for the Rose does not bear the name of Sierra Leone or Fierceness, it would be no surprise. Far from it – there are several intriguing horses in the race, some of whom have already beaten the leading pair.

However, a lot of the pre-race betting chatter is focused on a horse that has never run in the United States before – the Japanese star Forever Young. The horse made waves in Japan as 2yo before heading to the Middle East to dazzle the crowds in Saudi and UAE. Others of note include Dornoch, Cathcing Freedom, Resilience, and Stronghold. The Kentucky Derby is never as simple as betting on the favorites, even when there are two leading candidates. This year’s race will be as competitive as ever, but who will be the 150th winner of America’s greatest horse race?

There are more informative articles in our section on Racing & Wagering.

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