Kentucky Derby preview: 150th run for roses is at starting gate

The Sporting Tribune's Louie Rabaut is in Louisville and previews the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Derby is upon us, a mishmash of three year-old horses from every corner of the country — and every country of the world.

Qualifying races were run in Japan, Europe and all over North America. We’ve settled on our final field of 20 for Saturday’s race.

If a rainy Kentucky Oaks on Friday is any indication, Churchill Downs will be rocking.  They will pack 150,000-plus spectators into the Downs with another 15 million or more watching on television.

If you missed this week’s opening week preview, then you can find it here.  There are a bunch of great horses in this year’s field and not all of them from the most expected places.

Let’s go through which horse has the best shot to win the Derby:


Trainer: Todd Pletcher.  Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione.  

More than 20 guests this week were asked if Fierceness runs his race, does he win the Kentucky Derby? Everyone said yes and he’s the class here.

It’s fairly rare, however, that the favorite shows up and wins the Derby.  In wagering terms, it’s hard to be enthusiastic to bet a horse in a 20-horse field at 2-1 (+300). 

The concerns are two-fold: 1.) He is affected by the noise and environment; 2.) The pace gets too fast out front, he chases it and tires before he can win the race.

Win chance: Must include.


Trainer: Bill Mott.  Jockey: Junior Alvarado.

Endlessly won the Jeff Ruby Steaks, a win-and-in for the Derby race.  The prep is a bit controversial, as it is the only final prep that is not run on dirt. 

The good news?  Last year’s second-place finisher came out of there, as did 2022’s surprise winner, Rich Strike.

Jennie Rees — one of the most influential female turf writers — developed a theory called the Final Fractions Theory, which predicts the ability of these Derby runners to move from a race at 1⅛ miles to the Derby distance of 1¼ miles.

The Theory asks which horses finish their Derby prep races the fastest.  The news on this front?  Endlessly is third in the rankings.  Fierceness, the favorite, is sixth.  

Oh, and he’s currently 47-1.  Let’s go. 

Win chance: Must include

Catching freedom

Trainer: Brad Cox.  Jockey: Flavien Prat.  

Catching Freedom might be the most overlooked top contender. He won the Louisiana Derby — the longest of the prep races — with an off-the-pace style that works well in the Derby. The connections (jockey and trainer) on this horse might be the best in the field and he sits second on the Final Fractions list.  

Win chance: Must include.

Sierra Leone

Trainer: Chad Brown.  Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione.

Sierra Leone is the best closer in this field and falls under the threshold of the Final Fractions to be included as a potential winner.  He’s going to have to do a ton of work to win, but that isn’t any different than any of his other races. 

Don’t be surprised if he’s last at some point during the race.  He spends much of the first part of a race getting his motor running and does his best running down the stretch.

Win chance: Must include.

Other contenders

Some other horses that looked good on paper and in person this week:

  • T O Password has looked like the better of the two Japanese entrants, which is a massive surprise.
  • Domestic Product is the Final Fractions’ top horse.  We haven’t seen his best racing yet.
  • Resilience is the best looking Wood Memorial winner in a decade.  It’s a terrible predictor for success in the Derby recently, but if a Wood winner is going to win this thing, it might be him.

Final prediction: 14 (Endlessly)-4 (Catching Freedom)-17 (Fierceness)-2 (Sierra Leone).