How Keeler Johnson will bet the 2024 Kentucky Derby

May 2nd, 2024

Will #17 Fierceness (5-2) win or lose the 150th Kentucky Derby (G1) on Saturday at Churchill Downs? That’s the pivotal question bettors must ponder.

On his best day, Fierceness is clearly the fastest horse in the Derby. He’s dominated the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) with powerful Brisnet Speed ratings of 112 and 106, the two highest numbers in Saturday’s field. But he’s also finished seventh in the Champagne (G1) and third in the Holy Bull (G3), two races in which he didn’t get the best trips and ran far below his best form.

Normally, it would be necessary for bettors to either take a stand supporting Fierceness or opposing him—trying to cover both possibilities would make profiting difficult. But thanks to the compelling credentials of the Derby’s second and third choices #2 Sierra Leone (3-1) and #4 Catching Freedom (8-1), we may be able to simultaneously play and oppose Fierceness and catch a nice payday whether he wins or loses.

MUCCIOLO: Tipsheet: 2024 Kentucky Derby

Sierra Leone is 2-for-2 this year, rallying to victories against deep fields in the Risen Star (G2) and Blue Grass (G1). He’s trained by Chad Brown, whose Derby starters tend to deliver career-best performances on the first Saturday in May, and the Derby pace should be hot enough to set up Sierra Leone’s homestretch rally.

Catching Freedom also stands to benefit from a quick Derby pace after finishing fast to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) by one length over Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) hero #7 Honor Marie (20-1). He’s training nicely for the Kentucky Derby and appears poised for a career-best performance.

Since I believe there’s a strong chance both Sierra Leone and Catching Freedom will finish in the top three, I’m going to think outside the box with a pair of trifecta strategies. With the first, I’ll key Fierceness on top, count on Sierra Leone or Catching Freedom to finish second, and then mix in Honor Marie, Blue Grass runner-up #8 Just a Touch (10-1), undefeated UAE Derby (G2) winner #11 Forever Young (10-1), and Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner #15 Domestic Product (30-1) for third place.

For the second strategy, I’ll exclude Fierceness entirely, since he’s shown a tendency to either win by huge margins or run poorly. Instead, I’ll count on either Sierra Leone or Catching Freedom to win and the other to finish in the top three while using Honor Marie, Just a Touch, Forever Young, and Domestic Product for the remaining slot.

  • $8 Trifecta: 17 with 2,4 with 2,4 ($16)
  • $4.50 Trifecta: 17 with 2,4 with 7,8,11,15 ($36)
  • $3 Trifecta: 2,4 with 2,4 with 7,8,11,15 ($24)
  • $3 Trifecta: 2,4 with 7,8,11,15 with 2,4 ($24)
    Total: $100

Good luck!