Why I'm Betting Sierra Leone in the Kentucky Derby

May 4th, 2024

Sierra Leone closed fast in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on April 6 to earn another 100 points and morning line odds of 3-1 for today's Kentucky Derby. This son of Gun Runner's record of 4-3-1-0 is just one reason why I will be betting on #2 Sierra Leone in the 2024 Kentucky Derby.

This star is trained by Chad Brown, who may not yet have a Derby win but does have two Preaknesses on his resume. Even better, Sierra Leone has jockey Tyler Gaffalione in his corner. Not only has Gaffalione won a Preakness himself with War of Will in 2019, but also is the leading jockey at Churchill Downs so far in 2024. That means the 29-year-old is intimately familiar with the racing surface, especially if the ground is still holding on to moisture after Friday's rains. 

Gaffalione skillfully moved Sierra Leone around horses on the far turn in the Blue Grass to mount a bid down the middle of the track. That understanding of what the colt is capable of could be key today.

Additionally, this Derby second choice is a closer who is not afraid to run in company. He has been toward the back of the pack in each of his four starts and does not shy away from winding his way through traffic to find an advantageous running lane in the stretch. In the Remsen, he and Dornoch dueled down the stretch, with Sierra Leone eking out a short lead inside the last sixteenth, Dornoch's game final surge the only reason why he missed out on victory that day. Each start had been eight furlongs or longer and his closing move in the Blue Grass hints that another furlong will not be a problem. 

With a leading jockey and the ability to turn on the speed in the stretch, Sierra Leone has the potential to be the one getting the blanket of roses today in the 150th Kentucky Derby.