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What: Kentucky Derby (G1)

When: Saturday, May 4, 2024

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY

Why: The Kentucky Derby is known as the "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" and kicks off the American Triple Crown of horse racing

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How do I bet the Kentucky Derby?

You can bet the Derby on NYRA Bets! Look for Churchill Downs in Today's Racing menu on race day, Saturday, May 4. Bet it early with the Kentucky Derby Future Wager!

How do I watch the Kentucky Derby?

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History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs. The race is known as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" due to its running time, and it is the first leg of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It is also one of the most popular horse races in the world and attracts millions of viewers each year.

The Kentucky Derby was first run in 1875 and has since become a cultural icon in the United States. The race is steeped in history and tradition, with iconic elements such as the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home," the garland of roses presented to the winning horse, and the elaborate fashion worn by spectators.

The Kentucky Derby & You

With NYRA Bets, you can bet on the Kentucky Derby from anywhere. NYRA Bets offers a simple and efficient way to place bets on the Kentucky Derby and other major horse races across the United States. You can earn points for every dollar bet and redeem them for betting credits, as well as take advantage of daily bonuses.

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It is never too early to start getting ready for the Kentucky Derby as NYRA Bets expert handicapper Matthew DeSantis gives you his Top 25 Kentucky Derby contenders for 2024.

How are they ranked? Rankings are based on a combination of factors from performance, pedigree, potential, and more. It is not uncommon for some horses to peak at two-years-old so just because a horse won a prep race does not mean that they are a stronger contender than a few horses that may have run behind them that seem to have brighter futures.

Kentucky Derby Eligibility: Horses are eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby based off accumulating points in designated “prep” races, which started in September and will run through April 2024. It is important to note that Churchill Downs has indefinitely suspended trainer Bob Baffert from entering horses at their track, none of his promising contenders are listed as they are not eligible to earn Kentucky Derby points until they transfer to a different trainer.

  1. Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) – He has been on the bench since finishing second to Dornoch in the Remsen Stakes (G2) back in December but is slated to return in the Risen Star (G2) next week at Fair Grounds. Impressive closer who ran against track bias at the Remsen. He has assumed the #1 ranking by default as those above him have stumbled, but he has a chance to display his talent soon.
  2. Track Phantom (Quality Road) – Winner of three straight, the Steve Asmussen runner has shown impressive speed and stamina in winning the Gun Runner and Lecomte Stakes (G3) the last two times out. Will likely have to contend with deeper waters when he runs in his next prep, but he has shown the ability with withstand strong fractions and put away his competition.
  3. Dornoch (Good Magic) – Another runner who has not been on the track since the Remsen (G2), he showed incredibly resilience battling back to beat Sierra Leone. He is training in South Florida and suddenly that circuit looks easier to navigate. Presumably we can expect to see him in the Fountain of Youth (G2) next time out. He has the pedigree to win the Kentucky Derby as he is the full sibling to last year’s winner, Mage.
  4. Honor Marie (Honor Code) – The Whit Beckman-trained son of Honor Code is making his 2024 debut in the stacked Risen Star (G2) field next week. He was last seen winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) while putting away several other horses on this list. He appears to get stronger as the races get longer and has been working out very well at Fair Grounds.
  5. Catching Freedom (Constitution) – The first of many Brad Cox entries, Catching Freedom already claimed some Kentucky Derby points by winning the Smarty Jones Stakes last time out. He has improved his speed every time out and displayed an impressive ability to come from off the pace. He is one of seven entries on this list that are pointed to the Risen Star (G2), which appears to be a race that will start to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
  6. Change of Command (Into Mischief) – The $1 million+ yearling purchase for trainer Shug McGaughey is starting to return dividends winning his last two races at Gulfstream Park. He is slated to test stakes company this coming weekend in the Sam F. Davis, which appears to be a very gettable field. He has a great running style for these prep races as he stalks the pace, but there will always be questions about whether his sire, Into Mischief, is reliable at the Classic distance.
  7. Locked (Gun Runner) – A spiked fever has prevented him from running in the Sam F. Davis (G2) but he is likely still on the Derby Trail, but the stakes will get bigger since he might lose at least one opportunity to gain more Kentucky Derby points. The Todd Pletcher colt won the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The talent is there, but how he returns in 2024 is a bit more of a question after his stablemate, Fierceness, fell flat in his 2024 debut.
  8. Timberlake (Into Mischief) – Similar to Locked, Timberlake has not been seen since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) where he finished fourth. He also has a Grade 1 win under his belt in the Champagne (G1) and a second in the Hopeful (G1). He has just made his return to training in late January, so expect him to run again at the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park. Trainer Brad Cox has a fleet of horses he will be sending across the country.
  9. Fierceness (City of Light) – The 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champ made his 2024 debut in the Holy Bull (G3) and completely fizzled. He had some trouble at the break, but never looked comfortable stalking extremely slow fractions and was empty turning for home. Perhaps trainer Todd Pletcher did not have 100% cranked up for this race, but it has become a disturbing trend for Fierceness who alternates between domination and puzzlement. He appears to be a horse that needs things to go his way and lacks the maturity to deal with setbacks in a race.
  10. Bergen (Liam’s Map) – Perhaps this is a bit high for the Brad Cox trainee coming off a win in the Jimmy Winkfield stakes, but Cox made it known that he would hit the Derby trail next time out in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct. It is a one-turn mile, so it should suit a horse that has shown incredible ability sprinting. His lone attempt at two turns was a solid second in a field that has produced the Southwest (G3) winner. One to keep an eye on moving forward.
  11. Real Men Violin (Mendelssohn) – Part of the stacked field that will be running in the Risen Star (G2), Real Men Violin broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last October and then followed it up with a strong second-place effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) finishing behind Honor Marie. Ken McPeek just scored a Kentucky Derby Prep victory last weekend with Mystik Dan, but this would appear to be his better chance at winning the race. Working out very well leading up to his 2024 debut.
  12. Who Dey (Liam’s Map) – The undefeated Ohio-bred for trainer Tom Drury Jr. might seem an unlikely entry on this contenders list, but after taking two Ohio-bred stakes races as a two-year-old, he defeated Bergen, Informed Patriot, and Mystik Dan in his next race at Churchill Downs. He has not been seen since that November 25 victory, but just recently returned to training at Turfway Park. Very possible he is going to take the Animal Kingdom/Rich Strike/Two Phil’s route to the Derby running on the synthetic in Florence, Kentucky.
  13. Conquest Warrior (City of Light) – Another relative newcomer for trainer Shug McGaughey, Conquest Warrior broke his maiden impressively last time out after overcoming a difficult trip and showing off a stunning turn of foot for a dirt horse. He was a $1 million purchase in the Keeneland September sales and will be stepping up to face stakes company next time out. His workout pattern has been very impressive since exiting that maiden victory and this is a horse that is bursting onto the Kentucky Derby scene a little late, similar to Mage last year.
  14. Uncle Heavy (Social Inclusion) – The upset winner of the Withers (G2) last weekend at Aqueduct has given trainer Butch Reid a Kentucky Derby contenders. He is now a two-time stakes winner and looked impressive running against the track bias on in the Withers as he came from off the pace and on the outside on a day when the rail was golden. Is he as good as some of the horses behind him on this list? Maybe not, but he gained 20 points and is pointed toward the Wood Memorial (G2) in a circuit with a shallow pool of contenders. He seems logical to get into the starting gate and appears to like the added distance.
  15. Just Steel (Justify) – Similar to Uncle Heavy, Just Steel has been racking up Kentucky Derby prep points his last two races finishing second in the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G2) stakes his last two races. He might struggle as the races get longer but trainer D. Wayne Lukas is going to give him a shot in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and this son of Triple Crown winner Justify has proved doubters wrong as he has stretched out and been competitive.
  16. Liberal Arts (Arrogate) – The winner of the Street Sense (G3) nearly nabbed Just Steel in the Southwest (G3) but had to settle for third. He was also running against the track bias on a sloppy day at Oaklawn Park but clearly likes more distance. We saw Arrogate produce the Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1) winner last year with Arcangelo, so the pedigree is there for success as the races get longer. Look for him to continue to take steps forward as we get further along in the Kentucky Derby Trail.
  17. Nash (Medaglia d’Oro) – The Steve Asmussen colt who looked impressive breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs in November has not taken the next step since competing against stakes company. He finished behind Track Phantom in both the Gun Runner and Lecomte (G3). While there is no reason to be discouraged by those results, his inability to track down a frontrunner who was setting strong fractions does make you question whether he will be able to take another step forward seeing as his speed figures have regressed in each of his last two races.
  18. Informed Patriot (Hard Spun) – Another Steve Asmussen trainee, this son of Hard Spun could be an intriguing entry in the Turfway Park circuit considering his strong synthetic pedigree. He has only won once, but has shown the ability to hit the board against good fields finishing third in both the Street Sense (G3) and Smarty Jones. While he is training at Fair Grounds, it would appear his target race will be the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
  19. Hades (Awesome Slew) – The winner of the Holy Bull (G3) upset many pundits who tabbed Fierceness as being nearly invincible in that spot. The Awesome Slew gelding was able to divvy out slow fractions on the front end and control the pace. Whether he will be able to do that as the water gets deeper later in the Derby Prep season remains to be seen. He is undefeated and it could be a cold day in “you know where” before he loses.
  20. Domestic Product (Practical Joke) – Chad Brown’s lesser entry on this list (Sierra Leone is his top entry) turned in a solid second at the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Don’t look now, but the Remsen (G2) might be coming back as a key Kentucky Derby Prep race as it has churned out Sierra Leone, Dornoch, Domestic Product, and Drum Roll Please (who won the Jerome before taking off the Derby Trail). Practical Joke offspring are always a question mark when running two turns as the sire as a 6.5-furlong average winning distance. However, we saw one of his other progeny, Practical Move, sweep the California Derby Prep season last year.
  21. Moonlight (Audible) – After being stuck on sloppy tracks the last two times out in the Street Sense (G3) and the Remsen (G2), the Pletcher trainee might continue to build the resume of the Remsen if he runs well in the Risen Star (G2) next time out. He has been working out nicely a Palm Beach Down ahead of his 2024 debut. Again, it will be interesting to see whether the Pletcher contenders fire off the bench after seeing the lackluster performance of Fierceness in the Holy Bull (G3).
  22. Mystik Dan (Goldencents) – The surprise winner of the Southwest (G3) last time out, he has inserted himself in the Kentucky Derby picture for trainer Ken McPeek. The son of Goldencents rode a good rail under a brilliant ride from Brian Hernandez Jr. under sloppy conditions at Oaklawn Park. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to replicate that effort over a dry fast track, but he did demonstrate the ability to rate off the pace in that Southwest effort, which should serve him well moving forward.
  23. Snead (Nyquist) – The Brendan Walsh-trained son of the former Kentucky Derby winner finished second in the Gun Runner to Track Phantom and has shown significant progress since breaking his maiden. Perhaps the biggest missing piece to this Derby Contenders list is fellow Nyquist offspring, Nysos, for trainer Bob Baffert who will be ineligible to run in the Kentucky Derby. Brendan Walsh’s horse appears to be targeting the Risen Star but has had a very irregular workout schedule and remains a question mark.
  24. Agate Road (Quality Road) – His addition to this list could look foolish in a week’s time, but trainer Todd Pletcher is moving the Pilgrim (G2) winner back to the dirt after running on the grass in his last four races. He made his debut on the dirt in a race that was intended for turf, but showed he could handle the footing when finishing a driving second. He has an incredible turn of foot and will likely come from the back of the field. He will be running in the Sam F. Davis (G3) on Saturday and the quality of that field certainly opens the door for him to earn a placing and Kentucky Derby points.
  25. West Saratoga (Exaggerator) – Coming off a second-place finish in the Pasco Stakes, West Saratoga feels like a slightly lesser version of Bergen as a horse that is stretching back out to two turns after running well in a sprint stakes. Unlike Bergen, the son of Exaggerator took down a graded stakes dirt route race last year in the Iroquois (G3) before running fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). Like Agate Road, he is catching a softer field in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and already has Kentucky Derby Prep points in the bank thanks to his Iroquois victory. However, he needs to get significantly faster if he wants to make an impact.
The Derby Early
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