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BetUS Horse Racing Writers Offer Kentucky Derby Expert Picks

Well, we ain’t always right, but we’ve never been wrong when making a case for a horse. Picking a Kentucky Derby winner is hard to do, but BetUS horse racing writers Daryl Curnow, Donald Norton and Mark Pukalo are up to the task. There are many directions to go in the 150th edition of the Run for the Roses, which is evident in our expert selections below.

Post time is 6:57 p.m. ET. NBC provides the television coverage.

BetUS Horse Racing Writers Offer Kentucky Derby Expert Picks
Sierra Leone | Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

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Daryl Curnow: High ‘Sierra’

  • Sierra Leone (post 2) is the top pick to win the Kentucky Derby, and it’s not hard to see why. The Chad Brown-trained colt has gone from strength to strength at his last two runs, and I’m not the only bettor thinking the same. His odds have firmed steadily throughout the week, and he will likely start at a generous 4-1. He was 5-1 in the early betting. His win in the Blue Grass Stakes shapes as the best form guide in 2024, so he should be right in the thick of the finish.
    It’s about time North American audiences paid some respect to international runners. The Breeders’ Cup showcases the best from around the world, but it’s yet to happen in the Kentucky Derby. That could change with Forever Young (11), who is a tough Japanese runner. He’s unbeaten from five starts, including Saudi Derby and UAE Derby wins. He’s a great each-way bet if his form stays true.
  • Fierceness (17) needs to be included on his last win alone. His inconsistent form isn’t ideal, and he draws extremely wide, but the class edge is there. It wouldn’t be wise to leave him out, so we’re happy to play him in trifecta options.
    Honor Marie, Mystik Dan and Catching Freedom are also worth including in trifectas. They are upset dangers to a quality Derby field.


THE BETS: 2 to win. 11 to win and place. Trifectas 2,11 with 2,3,4,11,17 with 2,3,4,7,11,17


Donald Norton: ‘Honor’ Thy Longshot

  • Fierceness (post 17) looms large as the early 5-2 favorite who packs a 110 Beyer speed figure. His 13½-length victory in the Florida Derby shows what he’s capable of on his best day. Fierceness, though, has demonstrated a good race, bad race pattern, so he cannot be completely trusted. He seems destined for a good trip, though, but we’ll try to get him beat.
  • Honor Marie (7) will have to pass about 15 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, but he’s capable of doing so. The post is excellent and he should have a fast pace to work with – two key factors if he is to reach the winner’s circle. Also, the potential for an off track shouldn’t matter.
    Honor Marie makes his third start of the year – an ideal time for it – and is working up a storm for trainer Whit Beckman, a Louisville native with his first Derby horse.

“To win a Derby would be life-changing,’’ Beckman told Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. “I’m just hoping he has a good trip and then we’ll see how the cards fall. I’m just happy to be here, happy to have the experience.”

Honor Marie’s career-high 96 Beyer doesn’t measure up to Fierceness, but it is in line with the other horses. He was 14-1 in the early wagering, down from his 20-1 morning line, but still great value in the horse racing odds for a colt who lost to Catching Freedom by only one length in the Louisiana Derby. Catching Freedom (4) will be around 8-1 at post time. We will use Catching Freedom underneath in our exactas and trifectas along with fellow closer Sierra Leone (2).

Honor Marie was born on May 4, 2021. Is there a better way to celebrate your third birthday?

THE BETS: 7 to win. Exactas 7,17 with 2,4,7,17. Trifectas 7,17 with 2,4,7,17 with 2,4,7,17


Mark Pukalo: Cox Duo Could Take Down Favorites

Fierceness and Sierra Leone will be the worthy favorites on Saturday. If either gets the perfect trip, they probably win.

The fear with Fierceness is that he regresses off a dominant Florida Derby to his form in the Holy Bull, where he was a dull third. The fear with Sierra Leone is he does not have a clean enough run with his deep closing style. So we will try to beat them.

When searching for more value, we end up at trainer Brad Cox’s barn with improving Just a Touch (8) and Catching Freedom (4). We would hope perhaps the morning-line odds for Catching Freedom (8-1) and Just a Touch (10-1) inflate just a bit.

Catching Freedom may be rounding into his best race after a last-to-first jaunt in the Louisiana Derby, going very wide to outrun Honor Marie. He’ll need a trip like Sierra Leone, but jockey Flavien Prat knows when to hit the switch.

Just a Touch was run down by Sierra Leone in the Blue Grass Stakes, but kept trying after being part of the pace. His dad (Justify) won the Triple Crown, so he has the blood lines to sit behind a hot pace and get first jump.

Better-than-his-numbers Domestic Product (15) for trainer Chad Brown, Honor Marie (7) and Japanese hope Forever Young (11) may be good to use underneath.

THE BETS: 4 and 8 to win. Exactas 4,8 with 2,4,7,8,15. Exactas 17 with 4, 7, 8, 11,15



Questions Of The Day

Who is favored to win the 150th Kentucky Derby?

Fierceness, with John Velazquez riding, was the 5-2 morning-line favorite to win the 150th Kentucky Derby.

Is the 150th Kentucky Derby on television?

Yes. The race can be seen on NBC. Post time is 6:57 p.m. ET.

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