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Kentucky Derby Quick Preview

Apr 30, 2024 EST

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The historic 150th edition of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is set for Saturday and once again the opening leg of the Triple Crown stands center stage in the sport. A field of 20 with two also-eligible entrants was entered and, as usual, the cream of the 3-year-old crop will meet at a challenging 1 ¼-mile distance in America’s most famous horse race.

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Racetrack: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky. Date: May 4

Purse: $5 million Distance: 1 1/4 miles

Race: 12

Post Time: 6:57 p.m. ET

Notable winners: Justify (2018), American Pharoah (2015), Affirmed (1978), Seattle Slew (1977), Secretariat (1973), Citation (1948), Assault (1946), Count Fleet (1943), Whirlaway (1941), War Admiral (1937), Omaha (1935), Gallant Fox (1930), and Sir Barton (1919).

First held: 1875

With a field that big, racing luck will play a key role in deciding the outcome of a race that is always a handicapping puzzle with the runners being asked to travel as long as 10 furlongs for the first time.

1. Dornoch (20-1, morning-line odds): A full-brother (same dam [mother], same sire [father]) to 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage, he looked like a major player in the race until the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes when he failed to flash his typical early speed and wound up fourth. Will need to break quickly from the rail and should be part of the early pace but that could be problematic in a field filled with front-runners.

JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Danny Gargan

2. Sierra Leone (3-1): His lone loss in four starts was by a nose to Dornoch in the 2023 Remsen Stakes. Looked like a classic winner in taking the Risen Star Stakes and Blue Grass with a late-running style. The post can be issue as there’s a strong possibility of being shuffled back in the early stages. With a smooth trip, he should be a major force.

JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Chad Brown

3. Mystik Dan (20-1): Rain would definitely help his cause as he won the Southwest Stakes by eight lengths in the mud. Was third in the Arkansas Derby last time out and will need to take a step forward – or get some help from Mother Nature – to be a top contender.

JOCKEY: Brian Hernandez Jr.; TRAINER: Ken McPeek

4. Catching Freedom (8-1): Was impressive winning the Louisiana Derby at 1 3/16 miles despite an unusually wide trip. With a late-running style, he will need a clean trip and, if that happens, there’s every reason to believe he can make his presence felt at the end.

JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Brad Cox

5. Catalytic (30-1): Finished second in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa but he was 13 1/2 lengths behind Fierceness. The distance also seems a tad long for him.

JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.

6. Just Steel (20-1): Finished a game second in the Arkansas Derby for legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has four Kentucky Derby wins. Was also second in the Southwest Stakes and can be in the picture at the end if he can duplicate his last start.

JOCKEY: Keith Asmussen; TRAINER: D. Wayne Lukas

7. Honor Marie (20-1): A fast-closing second in the Louisiana Derby paints him as an intriguing longshot possibility. He also owns a stakes win at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, which is a key asset in a race like this.

JOCKEY: Ben Curtis; TRAINER: Whit Beckman

8. Just a Touch (10-1): Was a game second in the Blue Grass and has gotten better with each start. He should be part of the early pace scenario, which figures to be lively and potentially costly for some of the participants.

JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Brad Cox

9. Encino (SCRATCHED): Encino was removed from consideration for the Kentucky Derby on April 30 by trainer Brad Cox.

JOCKEY: Axel Concepcion; TRAINER: Brad Cox

10. T O Password (30-1): One of two Japanese entrants, he’s the lesser regarded of the them.  He’s only started twice, winning both times, but his lack of racing experience may come back to haunt him here.

JOCKEY: Kazushi Kimura; TRAINER: Daisuke Takayanagi


11. Forever Young (10-1): He’s also undefeated, but has started five times. He won the UAE Derby Sponsored By Atlantis The Royal and the Saudi Derby and should pose a stretch threat. Perhaps he’s the one that will give Japan its first taste of success in the American classics.

JOCKEY: Ryusei Sakai; TRAINER: Yoshito Yahagi

12. Track Phantom (20-1): Another starter with keen early speed. He was quite impressive at 1 1/16 miles but was second in the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star and fourth in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby. The abundance of speed and added distance do not bode well for him

JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen

13. West Saratoga (50-1): The second most experienced 3-year-old in the field with 10 starts (Just Steel has raced 11 times). He was second on the Tapeta Footings all-weather surface in the Jeff Ruby Steaks to earn his way into the field, but he did win the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Hard to toss him out at his morning-line price.

JOCKEY: Jesus Castanon; TRAINER: Larry Demeritte

14. Endlessly (30-1): Won the Jeff Ruby Steaks but this will be his first dirt race. A challenging spot for an initial try on a new surface.

JOCKEY: Umberto Rispoli; TRAINER: Michael McCarthy

15. Domestic Product (30-1): Posted a gutsy neck win in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Has trained sharply since then and merits a close look as “the other” Chad Brown starter in the race who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Chad Brown

16. Grand Mo the First (50-1): Was third in the Florida Derby and the Tampa Derby. Looks to be on the upswing but will need to take a huge step forward to catch Fierceness, who beat him by 16 lengths in the Florida Derby.

JOCKEY: Emisael Jaramillo; TRAINER: Victor Barboza Jr.

17. Fierceness (5-2): A deserving favorite off a landslide win in the Florida Derby by 13 1/2 lengths. He has plenty of speed but should be challenged for the early lead. A carbon copy of the Florida Derby should make him a winner here, but he has yet to put together back-to-back wins. No horse has ever won the Derby from post-position 17 but that seems like a statistical quirk rather than a reason to bet someone else.

JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher

18. Stronghold (20-1): Highly consistent and improving 3-year-old has never been worse than second in six career starts. Comes off wins in the Sunland Park Derby and Santa Anita Derby. The key question involves the strength of this year’s California-based runners.

JOCKEY: Antonio Fresu; TRAINER: Phil D’Amato

19. Resilience (20-1): Rose to prominence with a convincing win in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino. Was fourth in the Risen Star before that. His speed figures are solid but will need a good trip from post-position 19 to avoid racing wide throughout.

JOCKEY: Junior Alvarado; TRAINER: Bill Mott

20. Society Man (50-1): He was second at 106-1 in the Wood Memorial, but a bigger longshot was that trainer Danny Gargan would enter two horses and they would be bookends, drawing post positions 1 and 20. The outside post does not help his chances but he will attract some interest at the betting windows, if only because he will be ridden by famed European star Frankie Dettori.

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