Your Guide to May’s 150th Kentucky Derby

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Tagged as the “most exciting two minutes in sport”, the Kentucky Derby has that quality of transcendence shared by only a handful of sporting events. It is, as such, both a cultural and sporting event, bringing in casual fans and those who have never watched a horse race before. It shares those qualities with the Grand National and Melbourne Cup, both of which are described as races that stop a nation.

The 2024 Kentucky Derby will be the 150th running of the iconic race, which is the most-watched and attended (up to 150,000 patrons flock to Churchill Downs) according to horse racing results. But what do you need to know about the 2024 race? Let’s dive in:

When and Where is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May, falling on the 4th of May this year. The race is held at Churchill Downs, Louisville. It goes off at 6.45 PM local time (11.45 PM if you are watching in the UK). NBC broadcasts the race in the US, whereas UK viewers can watch via Sky Sports Racing.

Race Components

The Kentucky Derby is run over 1¼ miles, making it about a quarter of a mile shorter than the Epsom Derby. It takes about two minutes to complete, hence the tagline of the most exciting two minutes in sports. The field can be up to 20 runners, and the race is open to 3yo thoroughbreds. The Kentucky Derby is considered the 1st leg of the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.


The Road to the Kentucky Derby

Qualification for the race comes through a points-based competition known as the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of races held across the United States (separate Roads are held in Japan and Europe for international horses). The prep races decide who will be in the race, while also acting as a signpost for strategizing the Kentucky Derby odds. Sierra Leone topped the leaderboard for the Road to the Kentucky Derby this term, although that’s no guarantee of success come race day.

The 2024 Kentucky Derby Challengers

The aforementioned Sierra Leone is the current betting market leader, although he shares that with the highly rated Fierceness with some sportsbooks. There’s a lot of talk about Forever Young, an exciting Japanese-trained horse who had some terrific performances in the Middle East this spring. Catching Freedom, Endlessly, Stronghold, and Resilience are also in with solid chances.

Ranking the best horse racing betting sites in the UK right now. Image of horses racing
Ranking the best horse racing betting sites in the UK right now

2024 Kentucky Derby Betting

There have been plenty of longshot winners in the past, including an 80/1 winner in 2022, Rich Strike, so you can keep an open mind when looking at the odds. Most bookmakers will offer each-way markets, usually paying for three places in the race. Placepots (betting on the finishing order) are also available. Like the UK Grand National, many bettors who don’t usually wager on horse racing will have a flutter on the Kentucky Derby. Often, they’ll simply pick a name that they like. But while every horse has a chance, there are factors and trends that can determine a Kentucky Derby winner. Everything from form to speed to gate number can make a difference.

A Racing & Cultural Festival

The Derby itself is but one highlight of a two-week-long festival of racing at Churchill Downs. However, the broader Kentucky Derby Festival is tagged as a two-week celebration of racing and springtime, with a lot of emphasis on the latter. From fireworks displays to balloon races and bluegrass music to pro-am golf events, it has something for everyone. But racing invariably takes centre stage. Aside from the main event, the Kentucky Oaks (for 3-year-old fillies) is one to keep an eye on.

The Final Word

Inaugurated in 1875, the Kentucky Derby (and its sister race, the Kentucky Oaks) is now the oldest continuously held sporting event in the United States. It came about through an envy of the great races, notably the Epsom Derby, held in Europe, but it is now a bona fide global event in its own right. Millions will watch the race, both in the US and around the world, and the betting will top hundreds of millions of dollars. Whether you have a flutter or not, it’s two minutes of pulsating action, throwing up some of the world’s best horses and riders. It’s been unmissable action 149 times, and the 150th running will be no different.

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