Who Are The Horses On The Kentucky Derby Bubble

The countdown to the start of the Triple Crown series in the United States is getting closer, as the 150th Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 5, at Churchill Downs.

A talented field of runners will be looking to join the list of Kentucky Derby this year, and it promises to be one of the most engaging betting heats in the long history of the race. You can find the complete list of previous winners here: twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/winners/

However, who are some of the leading contenders that could be set to make history at the iconic edition of the race in its anniversary year?

Sierra Leone

Chad Brown’s long wait for a Kentucky Derby winner could come to an end in 2024. The trainer has already won the Preakness Stakes on two previous occasions, but he is yet to land victory in the Churchill Downs showpiece. Sierra Leone looks set to go off as the favourite in the race this year after dominating high-quality fields on each of his two starts this year.

He ended last season with a narrow defeat in the G2 Remsen Stakes, but has looked a transformed contender so far in 2024. Sierra Leone made a winning return to the track at Fair Grounds in late February, beating the highly regarded Track Phantom by just under a length in the G2 Risen Star.

However, his standout victory was achieved in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland when finishing over a length clear of Just A Touch. That run scored a speed figure in the 100s, which is typically an indicator to finding the Derby winner, and there is every chance he will improve when stepped up to this extended distance.


Todd Pletcher has trained the winners of six Triple Crown races during his career, which includes victories in two Kentucky Derby’s. In truth, Fierceness has always ranked among the leading contenders for the opening leg of the series, and he was in stunning form when besting a very talented field to land the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the end of last season, eventually finishing six lengths clear of the talented Muth.

His comeback to the track was far from ideal after being outstayed by Hades in the G3 Holy Bull Stakes, but his price in the Derby betting never drifted to a big price. Fierceness likely delivered the standout performance on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the G1 Florida Derby, finishing over 13 lengths clear of Catalytic.

That form can be questioned, as there were few standout runners in behind, but the manner of the run was most impressive as he streaked clear of the field. He isn’t likely to get his own way out in front at Churchill Downs, which would be a major concern. But, he remains one of the most talented runners in the Derby bubble this year.

Forever Young

There have been some talented Japanese raiders to make the journey over to the United States to compete in the Kentucky Derby in recent years, but it could be argued that few have boasted the solid claims that Forever Young does.

The runner from Yoshito Yahagi could be the only unbeaten runner in the field this year after winning on all four of his career starts. After dominating fields in Japan, Forever Young looked to book his spot in the Derby field by competing in the qualifying races in the Middle East. He was excellent against a well-touted American rival in the G3 Saudi Derby, finishing a head clear of Book’em Danno. However, his standout run to date came in Dubai, as he booked his place in the Derby with a demolition job in the eleven-runner G2 UAE Derby.

Forever Young travelled excellently over the distance at Meydan, eventually sprinting well clear of Auto Bahn to land success by a two-length margin. Visually, he looks like a potential superstar, and he could be Japan’s best ever chance of a Derby winner.

Catching Freedom

Brad Cox last landed Derby success in 2021 with Mandaloun following the decision to reverse the result due to Medina Spirit’s failed drugs test. However, he holds very strong claims in the race this year with a number of interesting contenders.

The shortest priced of those is Catching Freedom, who has won three from four career starts, and is two from three in stakes company. After winning a pair of maiden special weights, he made his first jump into stakes company when third in the G2 Risen Star Stakes, eventually finishing just under two lengths behind Sierra Leone. However, he got a first win in stakes company at the end of March when bossing the G2 Louisiana Derby field.

That was an excellent performance from such an inexperienced runner in a big field, and there is every chance that the hustle and bustle, as well as the extended distance could bring out further improvement in the Derby this year.