In the year 2024, as the calendar has turned, we find ourselves in a different phase of the horse racing season. Many of the major horse racing events for the previous year are now in the books. However, the journey towards the Triple Crown is just beginning, and some of the most promising contenders have yet to make their mark on the national stage.
Just recently, in December 2024, we witnessed the debut of Arcangelo, who would go on to claim victory in this year’s Belmont Stakes. It’s a reminder that the path to greatness often starts quietly, with promising horses honing their skills in maiden races.
As we look ahead, it’s worth noting that some of the top talents may still be waiting in the wings. In this same period last year, the eventual Kentucky Derby champion, Mage, had not yet made his career debut, which occurred on January 28th, 2024.
In contrast, however, eventual Preakness winner National Treasure was twice Grade-I placed as a two-year-old. The juvenile champion, Forte, also had a pretty major impact on the three-year-old scene this year, so it may be worth it to look at some of the most successful two-year-olds of 2024 when considering bets on the sophomores of 2024.
Dornoch is a son of Good Magic out of the Big Brown mare, Puca. If those cross sounds familiar, it’s because that is the exact parentage of the aforementioned Mage, who took this year’s Run for the Roses. His little brother appears to have possibly just as much talent, along with a dose of precocity.
Dornoch already has more than half of the career starts as Mage did, having run four times so far in his career. This has resulted in two wins and two places, with one of those wins being in the Grade II Remsen Stakes, which he won by a nose after a hard-fought battle with Sierra Leone. As a result, Dornoch has 10 points on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.
The Remsen was not Dornoch’s only stakes experience, either; on August 26th he finished second by a length in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park as a maiden, meaning he was yet to win his first race.
Read how to bet on Dornoch here: https://www.twinspires.com/betting-guides/what-do-horse-racing-odds-mean/
Locked also has two wins from four career starts. He was third in his August 5th debut at Saratoga before breaking his maiden the following month at the same track. He then won a thrilling edition of Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity over The Wine Steward. Locked then became the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and while he didn’t win, he hardly embarrassed himself with a third-place finish. His efforts have earned him a spot on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 19 points.
Locked is by Gun Runner, a formidable young sire who has already produced such Triple Crown contenders as Disarm, Red Route One, Taiba, and Cyberknife. His dam, Luna Rosa, is a winning daughter of Malibu Moon.
Timberlake has the most experience of any horse on this list, with five career starts as of this writing. Perhaps even more impressive, he has raced at four different tracks across the United States. He began his career rather inauspiciously, finishing sixth in a June 15th maiden at Ellis Park as the favorite. He made up for that loss on July 21st at Ellis Park, demolishing the field by over nine lengths.
From there, he was bound for stakes company, and he ran a good second to Nutella Fella in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga before taking an easy victory in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. He finished the year running fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park and 16 points on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.
Timberlake is a son of leading sire Into Mischief, who has Kentucky Derby winners in Authentic and Mandaloun as well as a Kentucky Oaks winner in Pretty Mischievous. Timberlake’s dam is Pin Up, an Irish-bred daughter of Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky.
In contrast to Timberlake, Honor Marie has only run at one track in his three-race career. However, that track is Churchill Downs, the host track of the Kentucky Derby, and he appears to have quite an affinity for it. He won his debut on September 29th, closing fast to beat favored Bourbon Boss by a head. A month later, he was second in an allowance optional claiming race. He came to national prominence in his next start, however, when he drove clear in the stretch to take the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by two lengths, going six wide in the turn to do so.
Honor Marie is one of the top horses sired by the beautifully bred Honor Code, who also got Max Player and Honor A.P. among his progeny. Honor Marie is out of Dame Marie, a Smart Strike mare who was second in the Grade II Churchill Distaff Mile Stakes in 2014.
The current leader on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard is, of course, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Fierceness. The colt had one of the most head-turning debuts of the year when he exploded to an 11 ¼-length win at Saratoga on August 25th. His dull effort in the Belmont Park slop in the Champagne may have lost him a few supporters, but he proved his mettle in his championship race. At Santa Anita Park, he sat behind General Partner until the stretch, where he cruised to a 6 ¼-length win over the best his crop had to offer, making it look easy.
Fierceness is from the second crop of multiple Grade-I winner City of Light, who was also the sire of two-year-old Grade-I winner Chop Chop. His dam, the winning Stay Thirsty mare Nonna Bella, was fourth in the 2017 Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Promising Contenders in the Kentucky Derby 2024
As we anticipate the Kentucky Derby 2024, it’s essential to delve into the competition that these promising horses will face. While we’ve highlighted the standout two-year-olds, it’s equally crucial to assess the field’s overall strength. In addition to the mentioned horses, other contenders may emerge, each with their unique strengths and track records. Understanding the competition’s depth and variety is vital for bettors and enthusiasts seeking to make informed choices when backing their favorites.