2024 Kentucky Derby Beyer Speed Figures: Who Can Catch Fierceness?

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Written By Dave Bontempo | Last Updated
beyer speed figures

Beyer Speed Figures (BSF) are among the most useful handicapping tools in Kentucky Derby betting. Of the last 32 Kentucky Derby winners, 28 of them had posted at least a 95 BSF leading up to the race (87.5%); 11 of the previous 14 posted a 100+ BSF. There’s a strong correlation between a horse’s best Beyer and winning the Kentucky Derby.

How does the field stack up against one another after the post position draw? We’ll look at the best and most recent BSF for each horse in the current Kentucky Derby probable.

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What Are Beyer Speed Figures?

Horse racing handicapper Andrew Beyer designed BSF in the early 1970s as a handicapping tool. The purpose was to quantify a horse’s speed in a given race to compare it with other horses. Win margin tells only half the story – was the field fast? Slow? BSF sorts through track length, field strength, and all other variables to create a tidy number that can be applied to future races.

2024 Kentucky Derby Beyer Speed Figures Standings

Post PositionHorseML OddsMost Recent BSFPast Notable BSF
2Sierra Leone3-19891
3Mystik Dan20-192101
4Catching Freedom8-19789
6Just Steel20-19588
7Honor Marie20-19692
8Just A Touch10-19691
10T O Password (JPN)30-1N/AN/A
11Forever Young (JPN)10-1N/AN/A
12Track Phantom20-19490
13West Saratoga50-18574
15Domestic Product30-18287
16Grand Mo the First50-18781
20Society Man50-18781
21 (AE)Epic Ride50-19388
22 (AE)Mugatu50-187< 87
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BSF Notes

The two triple-digit BSFs by Fierceness did not come in back-to-back races, as he posted just a 79 in the Holy Bull Stakes, the first of his two races as a three-year-old in 2024, before the career-best Beyer in the Florida Derby.

Forever Young and T O Password do not have any official Beyer Speed Figures as Japanese horses that have run overseas; however, Forever Young’s estimated BSF by most accounts for the UAE Derby win is closer to 90 than 95.

Honor Marie’s second-best BSF of 92 did not come this year. It came as a two-year-old in the Kentucky Jockey’s Club in November, but it was at Churchill Downs.

Mystik Dan unfurled his career-best number in the slop for the Southwest Stakes. He tailed off in the Arkansas Derby last time out with a 92. Still not bad, but it opens the door to skepticism that he can run back to a triple-digit number if the track is not sloppy.

Using BSF Numbers To Pick A Kentucky Derby Winner

The Kentucky Derby countdown, launched into high gear with the completed prep circuit, poses two questions for horse-racing bettors:

Should recent upsets by Rich Strike and Mage change how gamblers interpret the Beyer Speed Figures? Or will the recent dominance of 2024 favorite Fierceness restore a traditional view of them? This is an interesting backdrop before the Run for the Roses on May 4.

What BSF Do Kentucky Derby Winners Post?

The traditional Beyer Speed Figure has long been considered a projection of Kentucky Derby excellence. It’s a number assigned to each horse’s finishing time relative to the existing track record and surface conditions, among other factors, on a given day. The numbers give the public a baseline to predict top horses.

But in an index for which 100 is a gold standard, Rich Strike seized the 2022 Derby with a pre-race best BSF of 84. Mage carried a 94 into the Derby he won last year.

Stack that against Fierceness, who brings one of the highest pre-Derby Beyers of all time, 110, into the 2024 Run for the Roses.

Perhaps it’s time to consider both a reigning Beyer figure and an emerging Beyer pattern to forecast a Derby stalwart.

In 11 of the last 13 editions of the Run for the Roses, the winning horse logged a 100+ BSF. In 2022, Rich Strike posted a 101 in his historic upset. Last year, Mage posted a 105. The lone outright winner to run earn less than 100 came in 2014 (California Chrome, 97). In 2019, Country House received the win with a 99 BSF. However, that came after the disqualification of Maximum Security.

Most likely, the May 4 winner will run a career-best BSF. But betting on a horse to exceed their previous best by 10+ BSF points is generally asking a lot.

Beyer Speed Figure Theories For The Kentucky Derby

A few factors may be impacting the Beyer figures.

  1. Some prep races have enormous fields because of the qualifying points needed to reach Churchill Downs. That creates traffic logjams for some excellent horses. Mage, for instance, was checked in the 2023 Fountain of Youth and lost decisively to Forte, who he then nearly beat in the Florida Derby. Mage continued the momentum to win the Kentucky Derby at 15-1.
  2. Another angle might be the Road to the Kentucky Derby format. Sprint races don’t get points anymore. There are no six-furlong rabbits to force a stalker to move earlier. The idea now is to gain position and try to make one decisive run down the lane. That will impact a Beyer figure.
  3. A third influence is the different prep distances, making some Beyer comparisons hard to correlate.
  4. We must give credit to training excellence. The best trainers have found ways to make their horses peak for one major event. Hence the 2022 Preakness, when Early Voting had only recorded a 78 in winning the Withers at Aqueduct. He ran much better than that but connections bypassed other preps to finish in 14th place in Derby points before skipping the Run for the Roses. Lo and behold, two weeks later, he won the Preakness.
  5. Finally, new track conditions may be hard to quantify in a number. A surface that is “muddy and sealed” can be deep and tangled to the point of causing slow times and lower Beyer figures, especially at Aqueduct in New York.

Carry the scenario to this year. What got into Fierceness? The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner did a 79 in the Fountain of Youth, running third to Hades. It happened after a three-month layoff. But bettors knew something about his training regimen. They made him the even-money Florida Derby pick, and he made that look like stealing. Improvement was imminent, but 31 Beyer points?

Fierceness got away to modest fractions in the first half mile but got the 110 Beyer number despite finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.2. He could have finished a second faster, maybe getting five more points, if he needed too.

Given the improvement arc of young horses, Beyers are likely to fluctuate, even wildly, in some Derby prep campaigns. But they remain an instantly accessible focal point for gamblers.

Horses On The Bubble

This area could be tabbed the Rich Strike Pool. This is where he was two years ago before being entered one day before the race and winning at 80-1.

From the top 20 this year, Endlessly and Deterministic are all but out of the Derby. Connections for Deterministic did not like his performance in the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial, won by Resilience. 

Endlessly has done his best work on turf. He’s being aimed at the $600,000 American Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard. So, there are going to be openings for some or all of these horses. The question is whether the connections think their horse is good enough to enter.

How Does 2024 Compare To The 2023 Field?

In general, the 2024 Kentucky Derby field is not as deep as the 2023 field. Last year, 12 horses in the field had run at least one race with a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. This year, that number is only nine:

Fierceness is the only horse to have run a 100+ BSF in his most recent race, the longest distance any of these horses have run before stretching out again to an even longer 1 1/4-mile distance for the Kentucky Derby. Not only that, he posted a 110. His second-best BSF in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile of 107 last year is also the second-best Beyer in this field. No other hose in the 150th Derby has run a 105 Beyer.

Mystik Dan is the only horse with at least one 100+ BSF on his resume, and many are skeptical of it.

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