Finding The 2024 Kentucky Derby Winner Using Historical Data

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
kentucky derby winner

Kentucky Derby odds bring out the casual horse racing bettors, but many won’t know where to begin when picking a horse. One way to try to pick a winner is to use the profiles of past winners to find a horse from the current field that fits. What do Kentucky Derby winner trends say about the 2024 field?

Step by step, we’ll use a few key criteria and find out. The number next to each horse is the number to use at the betting window or on your racing app if you are interested in adding that Derby contender to your tickets.

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Step 1: Top-Two Finish In Last Prep Race

Horses coming in off successful results have tended to perform better in the Kentucky Derby. Here, we’re looking to eliminate horses that didn’t earn a top-two finish in their final prep race before the Derby. Since 1996, 24 of the past 27 Derby winners finished in the top two of their final prep race. The other three finished fourth in their race before the first Saturday in May.

Six horses land in this category:

  • 1. Dornoch (fourth in Blue Grass Stakes)
  • 3. Mystik Dan (third in Arkansas Derby)
  • 12. Track Phantom (fourth in Louisiana Derby)
  • 16. Grand Mo the First (third in Florida Derby)
  • 21. Epic Ride (third in Blue Grass Stakes)
  • 22. Mugatu (fifth in Blue Grass)

If you’re inclined to give a break to any of these horses, it should probably be Mystik Dan. While he finished third in the Arkansas Derby, the winning horse, Muth, won’t be entering the Kentucky Derby. And second-place finisher Just Steel is not only in the field, but was beaten by Mystik Dan in their prior meeting.

Step Two: Final Fractions Theory

With Final Fractions Theory, we’re looking to identify horses that peter out down the stretch of their most recent (longest) race.

Since all of these horses will run 1 1/4 miles for the first time, they’re venturing into unknown territory. Trying to parse out how they’ll perform on a longer run involves some guesswork.

One way to predict this performance is by seeing whether they slowed down the stretch of recent races. If they’re running out of energy near the end of, say, 1 1/8 miles, the theory goes that they don’t have the stamina for a late charge in the Kentucky Derby.

To meet the criteria of this theory, a horse must run faster than 13 seconds in their final furlong or under 38 seconds in their final three furlongs. 29 of the previous 33 Kentucky Derby winners have met this criteria, including 12 of the last 13 victors.

For the Kentucky Derby international horses, we’ve used projected times. Of the horses still in consideration, these six horses are double non-qualifiers for the Final Fraction Theory:

  • 2. Sierra Leone
  • 5. Catalytic
  • 8. Just a Touch
  • 9. Encino
  • 10. T O Password (JPN)
  • 18. Stronghold

It’s no surprise that the horses failing to qualify skew outside the top five of the Kentucky Derby points standings. What may count as more of a surprise is that top points earner Sierra Leone missed both cutoffs, albeit by hundredths of a second. Santa Anita Derby winner Stronghold also came up short in this Kentucky Derby winner trend.

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Step 3: 100+ Brisnet Speed Rating

Brisnet Speed Ratings can help us narrow down the field as well. These figures put an objective number on how fast a horse ran a given race.

When it comes to Brisnet numbers, we’re looking for contenders who accomplished 100+ in their career. Since 2000, 19 of the past 24 Kentucky Derby winners (79.2%) had a BRIS of at least 100 prior to the race. This number would have been 20 of 24 (83.3%) if Maximum Security had not been DQ’d in 2019.

Ideally, it would also come in a recent race, suggesting a strong current form at longer distances. See the attached Kentucky Derby Brisnet link to reference dates.

These horses got beyond steps one and two but fall short here:

  • 6. Just Steel
  • 7. Honor Marie
  • 13. West Saratoga
  • 14. Endlessly
  • 15. Domestic Product

The highly impressive 112 by Fierceness to top this field came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November. Also note Honor Marie barely missed here with a 99 BRIS.

Only Fierceness, Catching Freedom, Society Man, and Resilience have hit each of the three steps for identifying a Kentucky Derby winner thus far. Japanese contender Forever Young is a question mark, meanwhile, without a projected Brisnet number due to his international races.

Step Four: 95+ Beyer Speed Figure

Finally, we come to Beyer Speed Figures. Similar to Brisnet Ratings, the Beyer Speed Figures seek to objectively grade a horse’s performance. In this case, we’re looking for 95+ from the horse. Of the last 32 Kentucky Derby winners, 28 of them had posted at least a 95 BSF leading up to the race (87.5%).

With 11 of the previous 14 Derby winners running a 100+ BSF to win the roses, making a huge leap could be a lot to ask if the horse’s best Beyer is well below 95.

As for the Forever Young dilemma, the consensus seems to be his UAE Derby win would have earned below a 95 Beyer and was not nearly as fast as Derma Sotogake’s win in the same race a year ago.

Eliminated:

  • 11. Forever Young (JPN)
  • 19. Resilience
  • 20. Society Man

See the attached link for full Kentucky Derby Beyer Speed Figures, including the most recent performances.

Conclusion: Fierceness And Catching Freedom Top Contenders?

Just two horses made it through the entire narrowing process: Fierceness and Catching Freedom. This method indicates they’re the two top contenders to become the Kentucky Derby winner, with Forever Young standing as a possible wild card due to his international pedigree. His win in the UAE Derby (at a notable 1 3/16 miles) impressed the betting market enough that he’s among the favorites.

The market is well aware of the strength of Fierceness. However, Catching Freedom has longer morning line odds, around 8-1, and may represent the value play.

Lastly, if you are also looking to bet exotics, these are the horses that fit each of the steps but one:

  • 2. Sierra Leone
  • 3. Mystik Dan
  • 6. Just Steel
  • 7. Honor Marie
  • 8. Just A Touch
  • 19. Resilience
  • 20. Society Man

Post Positions And Morning Line Odds

Post PositionHorseMorning line oddsUpdated Kentucky
Derby odds
TrainerJockey
1.Dornoch20-122-1Danny GarganLuis Saez
2.Sierra Leone3-15-1Chad BrownTyler Gaffalione
3.Mystik Dan20-116-1Kenny McPeekBrian Hernandez
4.Catching Freedom8-18-1Brad CoxFlavien Prat
5.Catalytic30-132-1Saffie JosephJose Ortiz
6. Just Steel20-122-1D. Wayne LukasKeith Asmussen
7.Honor Marie20-113-1Whit BeckmanBen Curtis
8.Just A Touch10-110-1Brad CoxFlorent Geroux
9. EncinoScratchedScratchedBrad CoxAxel Concepcion
10.T O Passowrd (JPN)30-147-1Daisuke TakayanagiKazushi Kimura
11.Forever Young (JPN)10-16-1Yoshito YahagiRyusei Sakai
12.Track Phantom20-140-1Steve AsmussenJoel Rosario
13.West Saratoga50-123-1Larry DemeritteJesus Castanon
14.Endlessly30-147-1Michael McCarthyUmberto Rispoli
15.Domestic Product30-128-1Chad BrownIrad Ortiz
16. Grand Mo The First50-145-1Victor BarbozaEmisael Jaramillo
17.Fierceness5-27-2Todd PletcherJohn Velazquez
18.Stronghold20-135-1Philip D’AmatoAntonio Fresu
19.Resilience20-129-1Bill MottJunior Alvarado
20.Society Man50-146-1Danny GarganFrankie Dettori
21.Epic Ride50-144-1John EnnisAdam Beschizza
22. MugatuScratchedScratchedJeff EnglerJoseph Talamo

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