TDN Kentucky Derby Preview: And The Winner Is…

Forever Young works at Churchill | Coady Media

By

The field for the GI Kentucky Derby, ranked in “likeliest winner” order.

1) FOREVER YOUNG (JPN) (c, Real Steel {Jpn}–Forever Darling, by Congrats). O-Susumu Fujita; B-Northern Racing (Jpn); T-Yoshito Yahagi. Sales History: ¥98,000,000 Ylg '22 JRHAJUL. Lifetime Record: 5-5-0-0, $2,049,451. Last start: WON Mar. 30 G2 UAE Derby.

The 5-for-5 Forever Young resonates as the most legitimate threat a foreign-based horse has had to win the Derby since the internationalization of the race over the past several decades.

I'd hesitate to compare this colt's presence to the electrifying pre-race aura surrounding Arazi, the highly hyped colt from France who ran a disappointing eighth in the 1992 Derby. Instead, this son of Real Steel stands out more as a “complete package” contender who fuses quickness, torque and confidence into a well-rounded profile.

This Yoshito Yahagi trainee, who sold for the equivalent of $720,603 at the JRHA Select Yearling and Foal sale, enters the Derby off a convincing, more-left-in-the-tank win in the G2 UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse over 1900 meters.

Prompted for speed to achieve a forward placement from an outer gate, jockey Ryusei Sakai conceded four paths through the first turn before deftly easing Forever Young back to fifth. This colt again took the overland route around the final bend while cycling through consecutively higher gears, then powered past the pacemaker without scraping the bottom of his stamina reserves. This was accomplished against the grain of what appeared to be an inside-speed favoring track.

Forever Young's connections have explained that this colt isn't overly fond of kickback, and in his most recent race and in subsequent training he's been equipped with a mask (like blinkers without the cups) to protect his face. But Forever Young won't be the only sophomore asked to endure dirt spray (or mud) on Saturday, and the “issue” is only in the spotlight because his team has been proactive about trying to mitigate it. No one will know who the kickback will affect until the gates fly open. For the record, Forever Young won three times on the dirt in Japan despite being in spots where he was forced to take at least some kickback.

A stalking trip within the first flight will be his best shot at victory in the Derby. Forever Young must use his high cruising speed to be among the first to make a serious run at the leaders, getting a tactical jump on the deep closers.

2) SIERRA LEONE (c, Gun Runner–Heavenly Love, by Malibu Moon) 'TDN Rising Star'. O-Mrs John Magnier, Michael B Tabor, Derrick Smith Westerberg, Rocket Ship Racing LLC & Peter M. Brant; B-Debby M Oxley (Ky); T-Chad Brown. Sales history: $2,300,000 Ylg '22 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-3-1-0, $918,000. Last start: WON Apr. 6 GI Blue Grass S.

'TDN Rising Star' Sierra Leone owns the most intimidating closing kick among the Derby entrants. In terms of raw athleticism, a massive stride, and an unflinching attitude, this $2.3 million FTSAUG sale-topper has no peer in Derby 150.

Trouble is, as imposing as Sierra Leone's locomotive style is, that relentless, come-from-behind way of going doesn't match the historical profile of Derby winners. Being a deep closer is inherently fraught with peril in a 20-horse race, because the horse has to either loop the field or weave through far-turn traffic.

Speed-centric horses who raced either on the front end or just off it have crossed the finish wire first in eight of the last 10 Derbies, with Rich Strike in 2022 and Mage in 2023 the off-the-pace exceptions.

Trainer Chad Brown has fine-tuned Sierra Leone to two victories in the GII Risen Star S. and GI Blue Grass S., and this colt's Beyer Speed Figure arc of 71-91-95-98 has likely yet to reach its zenith.

If you need a convincer, take a look at Sierra Leone blowing by the well-regarded Just a Touch (Justify) in the deep stages of the Blue Grass, finishing up the final sixteenth with his ears pricked forward, indicating he was eager for more.

But body language can also be used to illustrate Sierra Leone's chief weakness, which is his habit of leaning in during his stretch runs. A bet on this colt in the Derby is a wager that you think Sierra Leone is going to shrug off that ingrained behavior so it doesn't cost him a win, like it did in his only lifetime defeat back on Dec. 2 in the GII Remsen S.

Another concern has to do with how fast Sierra Leone finishes despite the visually impressive nature of his closing kicks. In the Blue Grass, this colt closed ground through a final furlong timed in :13.43–the slowest last eighth among the nine points–awarding Derby preps run at 1 1/8 miles in 2023-24.

Fierceness | Coglianese

3) FIERCENESS (c, City of Light–Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty) 'TDN Rising Star'. O/B-Repole Stable (Ky); T-Todd Pletcher. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo, MGISW, 5-3-0-1, $1,703,850. Last start: WON Mar. 30 GI Florida Derby.

Most handicappers would likely agree that on his best day, 'TDN Rising Star' and 2-year-old champ Fierceness is capable of ripping straight to the lead and never looking back in the Derby.

But the big question looming over the morning-line favorite has to do with this colt's trustworthiness from a pari-mutuel perspective.

Simply put, can this Repole Stable homebred by City of Light, who has alternated scintillating wins with inexplicably mediocre performances through his five-race career, be relied upon to deliver a roses-worthy rout if he is tasked with overcoming some sort of in-race adversity?

His Jekyll-and-Hyde trajectory has been well-documented: Fierceness aired in his sloppy-track Saratoga debut by 11 1/4 lengths. He then looked lost when seventh as the odds-on fave in the similarly sloppy GI Champagne S. His 16-1 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory was delivered with gravitas and authority. Yet his three-year-old unveiling was an underwhelming third at 1-5 odds in the slow-paced GIII Holy Bull S.

Fierceness may have caught an extremely soft field in the GI Florida Derby, but his smash-and-grab, 13 1/4-length, redemptive blowout equated to a 110 Beyer, the fastest dirt figure by any horse of any age so far in 2024, and one that towers nine full points above the next-closest Beyer awarded any other entrant in this year's Derby.

That big Gulfstream win–a completely non-taxing effort–has been followed by a textbook Todd Pletcher “tightening the screws” training regimen over the past month that has observers raving about how Fierceness seems to be thriving at the right time.

But no matter how sharp he is right now, Fierceness still faces several daunting historical hurdles: Since the advent of the Eclipse Awards, no 2-year-old champion colt has ever lost his first race back at age three and then won the Kentucky Derby. And since the beginning of the Breeders' Cup, Juvenile winners have accounted for only two Kentucky Derby wins from 39 runnings (Street Sense in 2007 and Nyquist in 2016).

4) TRACK PHANTOM (c, Quality Road–Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief). O-L and N Racing LLC, Clark Brewster, Jerry Caroom & Breeze Easy LLC; B-Breeze Easy (Ky); T-Steve Asmussen. Sales history: $500,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 7-3-2-1, $405,000. Last start: 4th in Mar. 23 GII Louisiana Derby.

Track Phantom has one aspect of recent history on his side that doesn't apply to the three horses ranked above him on this list, nor does it apply to seven others in the Derby field: He has made three starts at age three. Between 2007 and 2016, the template of just having two starts at age three produced eight Derby winners. But since 2017? Horses with only two sophomore starts prior to the Kentucky Derby are a collective 0-for-39.

Track Phantom fits the well-seasoned profile of a number of top contenders who make it this far on the Triple Crown trail for trainer Steve Asmussen. This $500,000 KEESEP son of Quality Road has a nice foundation of seven races lifetime, all at a mile or longer, with experience up to 1 3/16 miles.

He's won three of those seven starts, and consistently breaks well enough to spearhead the field, although Track Phantom is not an absolute “needs the lead” speedster. Despite often getting disadvantaged by outside draws, he has gleaned valuable experience in dealing with keyed-up rivals to his inside, and this colt knows what it's like to have to fight to maintain his lead in the stretch.

Flashiness isn't his strong suit, but consistency sure is. Although his fourth-place try in his final prep race, the GII Louisiana Derby, has been widely panned because Track Phantom didn't win despite dictating a moderate tempo, he did keep his Beyer level at 94, and, more importantly, refused to concede the lead until the sixteenth pole despite having no fewer than five different rivals firing at him off the far turn.

5) DORNOCH (c, Good Magic–Puca, by Big Brown). O-West Paces Racing LLC, R A Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding LLC, Two Eight Racing LLC & Pine Racing Stables; B-Grandview Equine (Ky); T-Danny Gargan. Sales history: $325,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 6-3-2-0, $552,275. Last start: 4th in GI Blue Grass S. Apr. 6.

Dornoch is a full brother to 2023 Derby winner Mage. But after a subpar final prep race, his bandwagon of believers got lighter than it had been back in December when this son of Good Magic re-rallied to steal the Remsen S. over Sierra Leone.

Then, after drawing the dreaded rail post for the Derby–which hasn't produced a winner since Ferdinand in 1986–Dornoch's morning-line price ballooned to 20-1 after having closed at 12-1 in the final Derby Future Wager on Apr. 6.

Being nudged out of the Derby spotlight might end up being a good thing for this $325,000 KEESEP colt-it will tone down the pressure surrounding his big-brother storyline by a few notches.

In his only two races this year, this Danny Gargan-trained son of Good Magic wired a scratch-decimated GII Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream, then didn't fare well when fourth and catching kickback in the wake of Sierra Leone in the Blue Grass S.

The Blue Grass was an attempt to teach Dornoch to rate from off the pace, a plan that Gargan has since abandoned. Knowing that Dornoch will be reverting to a more effective running style is a plus, and Gargan wasn't fazed by the difficult gate draw.

“I don't think it's the kiss of death,” Gargan said. “There's no speed on our outside so hopefully he'll break running and we'll put him on the front end and see how it goes. We planned on keeping his face clean, now we'll keep it real clean.”

Just a Touch | Coady Media

6) JUST A TOUCH (c, Justify–Touching Beauty, by Tapit). O-Qatar Racing LLC, Resolute Racing & Marc Detampel; B-Don Alberto Corp. (Ky); T-Brad Cox. Sales history: $170,000 RNA '22 KEESEP; $125,000 Ylg '22 FTKOCT; $300,000 2yo '23 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: 3-1-2-0, $281,700. Last start: 2nd in GI Blue Grass S. Apr. 6.

Despite being a May 5 foal with only three starts who has never won beyond the maiden ranks, Just a Touch is commanding outsized respect for the polished and promising way he has gone about his business in runner-up tries behind two well-meant stakes winners.

After breaking his maiden sprinting in the Fair Grounds slop Jan. 27, this Brad Cox-trained colt ($170,000 RNA KEESEP, $125,000 FTKOCT, $300,000 OBSAPR) went off favored in the Mar. 2 GIII Gotham S. at Aqueduct. He chased the pace while very wide over another sloppy track, and ended up second behind the impressive Deterministic (Liam's Map) while earning a 93 Beyer.

In the Apr. 6 Blue Grass S., Just a Touch attended a fast pace in his first two-turn race and first race over a dry track, seized control of the lead from the three-sixteenths marker until just before the sixteenth pole, then tired (but didn't quit) when the Sierra Leone charged by him late in the lane. Beaten only 1 1/2 lengths at nine furlongs with a 96 Beyer, Just A Touch galloped out more or less on even terms with the favored winner.

Just a Touch must now buck several Derby trends related to his lack of experience.

From 1900 to the present, 26 horses have attempted to win the Kentucky Derby with exactly three lifetime starts. Only four have won: Mage in 2023, Justify in 2018, Big Brown in 2008 and Regret in 1915. Beyond those four, only one of the remaining 22 managed to hit the board (Curlin, third in 2007).

In 2018, Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without having raced at age two. Mage also triumphed over the “Apollo curse” in 2023. But beyond those two recent trend-breakers, the record of horses in the Derby without a race at age two since 1937 is 0-for-71.

7) DOMESTIC PRODUCT (Practical Joke–Goods and Services, by Paynter). O/B-Klaravich Stables (Ky); T-Chad C. Brown. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-2-1-0. Last Start: WON Mar. 9 GIII Tampa Bay Derby.

At 30-1 on the morning line, Domestic Product becomes an intriguing long shot. But in order to fully sell yourself on him, you're going to have to deemphasize a lot of what you see on paper and put more stock into the assessment of trainer Chad Brown, who has described this homebred for Klaravich Stables as “an under-the-radar real contender” for the Derby.

Domestic Product was a midpack fifth before being roused for run and surviving a three-way bob to win the non-betting GIII Tampa Bay Derby.

For the second straight race, he closed into severely slow fractions. Previously, he had run second in the Holy Bull S., in which the first two quarter-mile splits were :25.03 and :25.50. The Tampa Derby's three opening quarters were clocked in :25.25, :25.89 and :25.07.

Logic would seem to dictate that if this late runner could close ground so well into such dawdling fractions, then surely he'll benefit from what is expected to be a brisk tempo in the Derby. But that line of thinking doesn't always play out.

Domestic Product has lifetime Beyers of 59-75-67-87-82. That means he needs to find about 20 points of improvement in the Derby to win it.

But Brown believes there are intangibles: He emphasized that a muddy track was the primary reason for Domestic Product's poor seventh-place showing in the Remsen S. And he told TDN that taking the blinkers off was a positive move in each of this colt's last two starts. He also disclosed that jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who has been riding both Sierra Leone and Domestic Product, told him after unsaddling in the Tampa Derby that “going a mile and a quarter, there's not as much separating these two horses as you think.”

Gaffalione, understandably, has opted to retain the mount on the Derby's second favorite. But picking up the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr. certainly isn't going to hurt Domestic Product's chances.

8) JUST STEEL (c, Justify-Irish Lights {Aus}, by Fastnet Rock {Aus}). O-BC Stables, LLC; B-Summerhill Farm (Ky); T-D. Wayne Lukas. Sales History: $500,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISP, 11-2-4-1, $724,545. Last start: 2nd in Mar. 30 GI Arkansas Derby.

This $500,000 KEESEP son of Justify has 11 starts leading up to the Derby. That might be considered overkill by today's less-is-more training template. But by 88-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas's standards, that's simply the way you season a horse to win the Derby, which “The Coach” has done four times, with Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999).

Just Steel on three occasions at age three has finished second in points-awarding Derby prep stakes. The one time he didn't, he was five wide round both turns in the GII Rebel S.

In the GI Arkansas Derby, Just Steel ran a far grittier race than it appears on paper: He was always forcing the issue despite going four wide on the first turn, and he maintained his run through the lane in persistent enough fashion to prove he knows how to finish, coming up only two lengths behind 'TDN Rising Star' Muth (Good Magic), the presumptive favorite for the GI Preakness S.

On the minus side, Just Steel has ever won beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, and he hasn't seen the winner's circle since Nov. 25.

Based solely on race records, the 2-for-11 Just Steel compares favorably to the Lukas-trained Charismatic, who was 2-for-12 entering the 1999 Derby at a largely ignored 31-1 in the betting.

Just Steel will be The Coach's 50th Derby starter overall, dating to 1981. On the 25th anniversary of his last Derby victory, Lukas will give a leg up to Keith Asmussen, the 25-year-old son of trainer Steve Asmussen, who is making his Derby riding debut.

Resilience | Sarah Andrew

9) RESILIENCE (c, Into Mischief–Meadowsweet, by Smart Strike). O-Emily Bushnell & Ric Waldman; B-Pam & Martin Wygod (Ky); T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-2-1-1, $494,630. Last start: WON Apr. 6 GI Wood Memorial S.

Resilience needed four starts to break his maiden, but the horses who won those first three at Saratoga and Churchill all eventually became stakes winners, so it's not like he had an easy road to Louisville.

After breaking his maiden Jan. 1 at Gulfstream, Resilience ran (what at the time was) an overlooked fourth behind Sierra Leone in New Orleans. Then he delivered a big, breakout race in the GII Wood Memorial S. when adding blinkers for the first time for trainer Bill Mott.

Off at 9-2 odds Resilience broke fluidly from the rail, then conceded the lead while in a touch tight at the fence through the clubhouse turn. He enjoyed a no-excuse, ground-saving trip behind 52-1 and 80-1 shots sparring on the front end, then commenced a 4 1/2-furlong rally before collaring the spent leaders at the quarter pole.

Numbers-wise, Resilience has plateaued at 90 in his only two starts against winners. He needs to come up with about six or seven lengths of improvement to have a realistic shot on Saturday.

10) CATCHING FREEDOM (c, Constitution–Catch My Drift, by Pioneerof the Nile). O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC; B-WinStar Farm (Ky); T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $575,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-1, $877,350. Last start: WON Mar. 23 GII Louisiana Derby.

Catching Freedom is a medium-framed stayer who has made a couple of decent runs from off the tailgate to win stakes, but don't stamp him as strictly a deep closer based on what you see on paper.

Trainer Brad Cox explained that the game plan for the Louisiana Derby was for this Constitution colt ($575,000 KEESEP) to be nearer to the pace. But when Catching Freedom didn't jump all that well, Flavien Prat waited patiently behind moderate splits at the rear until 2 1/2 furlongs out before looping the group with a 12-wide bid to win by a measured length.

Two starts back in the Risen Star S., Catching Freedom ran third, only 1 3/4 lengths behind the formidable Sierra Leone. He was more forwardly placed in a bunched field that day, splitting horses on the far turn before launching an eight-wide run that didn't have quite enough oomph to reel in the top two.

Three races back in his stakes debut in the Smarty Jones S., Catching Freedom rode the rail near the back, got second run at a dueling duo, spun widest off the turn in the five path, then finished up in workmanlike fashion with his head cocked to the grandstand before widening his winning margin to 2 1/2 lengths.

This is a colt who is adept at picking off targets if he gets a long, clear run through the lane. The question is how many of those foes will Catching Freedom be able to inhale if he has to expend energy staying in touch with the fastest pace over the longest distance he has ever encountered.

Stronghold | Coady Media

11) STRONGHOLD (c, Ghostzapper–Spectator, by Jimmy Creed). O/B-Eric M. and Sharon Waller (Ky); T-Philip D'Amato. Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-3-3-0, $827,200. Last start: WON Apr. 6 GI Santa Anita Derby.

This Ghostzapper-sired homebred for Rick and Sharon Waller is a capable, hard trier who has momentum coming to Kentucky off back-to-back victories in his only two starts at age three, in the GIII Sunland Derby and GI Santa Anita Derby.

Stronghold paired lifetime-best Beyers of 89 in each of those races, so it's a concern that he's light on numbers relative to Derby norms.

In the Santa Anita Derby, Stronghold broke running, then responded to being rated back to fourth by Antonio Fresu. After stalking the pacemakers, Stronghold shadowed the leader on the far turn, split horses in upper stretch, then took over at the eighth pole without fully putting away his rival.

For the second straight race Stronghold lost but recaptured the lead in deep stretch. It's commendable that he clawed back to win both times. But those types of second chances rarely present themselves in an ultra-competitive race like the Kentucky Derby.

Although he's spent the last six months stabled in Southern California, Stronghold has already won at Churchill. In his one-turn-mile maiden victory Oct. 1, he defeated Resilience and Track Phantom, both of whom are ranked ahead of him on this list.

12) MYSTIK DAN (c, Goldencents–Ma'am, by Colonel John). O/B-Lance Gasaway, Daniel Hamby & 4G Racing, LLC (Ky); T-Kenneth G. McPeek. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-2-1-1, $641,360. Last start: 3rd in Mar. 30 GI Arkansas Derby.

Mystik Dan sports two open-length blowouts in his form. Yet both of those performances–a 7 3/4-length maiden sprint win Nov. 12 at Churchill and an eight-length splashdown in the Feb. 3 GIII Southwest S. at Oaklawn–were followed by regressions.

Last time out in the Arkansas Derby, this homebred son of Goldencents for owners Lance Gasaway, Daniel Hamby and 4G Racing didn't live up to his 101-Beyer winning, wet-track romp in the Southwest.

He encountered minor trip trouble and was carried wide in the Arkansas Derby. But that effort visually paled in comparison to the eye-opening stretch run Mystik Dan uncorked in the Southwest, when he zipped home unopposed at 11-1 odds, running a :5.93 final sixteenth that stands as the fastest closing half-furlong out of 18 points–awarding Derby prep stakes at 1 1/16 miles this season.

Trainer Kenny McPeek said after drawing post three for the Derby that Mystik Dan “can track right into the turn, and he's a horse that's proven that he can run inside horses.”

13) HONOR MARIE (Honor Code–Dame Marie, by Smart Strike). O-Ribble Farms LLC, Michael H. Eiserman, Earl I. Silver, Kenneth E. Fishbein and Dave Fishbein; B-Royce Pulliam (Ky); T-D. Whitworth Beckman. Sales History: $40,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-2-2-0, $526,175. Last start: 2nd in Mar. 23 GII Louisiana Derby.

The 96 Beyer that Honor Marie earned when second in the Louisiana Derby puts him in the hunt numerically in Louisville.

This Whit Beckman trainee also has the distinction of finishing a better-than-it-looks fifth in the Risen Star S., which ended up being the key race of the 2023-24 prep season because it yielded next-out graded stakes wins by the first-, third- and fourth-place finishers (Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom and Resilience).

However, this $40,000 KEESEP son of Honor Code hasn't won since capturing the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. at Churchill on Nov. 25, a race in which he rated from last after five horses dueled early and two others took late-race runs at the lead.

Rich Strike (2022) and Super Saver (2010) are the last two horses who crossed the finish wire first in the Derby after not winning a sophomore race prior to the first Saturday in May.

Jockey Ben Curtis will ride his first Derby. The native of Ireland has only been competing in North America since coming over from Europe in November.

Hunch play alert: Honor Marie's third birthday falls on Derby Day.

Endlessly | Coady Media

14) ENDLESSLY (Oscar Performance–Dream Fuhrever, by Langfuhr). O/B-Amerman Racing LLC (Ky); T-Michael McCarthy. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 6-5-0-0, $707,200. Last start: WON Mar. 23 GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks.

After this son of Oscar Performance won the Mar. 23 GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks S. by four lengths with a complete-control outside move that outclassed the field, trainer Michael McCarthy initially stated that this colt–who has only raced on turf or Tapeta-would likely pass on trying dirt in the Derby and instead aim for the GII American Turf S. on the Derby undercard.

But the once-in-a-horse's-lifetime chance to compete in the Derby eventually won out, and you can't blame this colt's connections for taking a shot. McCarthy noted that Amerman Racing owns both he stallion and mare of their homebred, and the prospect of a potentially life-changing win was too tantalizing not to give the dirt experiment a go.

Endlessly has already twice won over nine furlongs, and his only loss is much better than it looks. He was eighth, but beaten only 3 1/2 lengths, in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Even though Animal Kingdom (2011) and Rich Strike (2022) proved that Turfway's premier stakes can be a springboard to a blanket of roses in Louisville, the remaining participants out of the Ruby (or its differently named predecessors) have been a collective 0-for-21 in the Derby since that stakes was first run over a synthetic surface in 2006.

15) SOCIETY MAN (Good Magic–You Cheated, by Colonel John). O-Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, West Paces Racing LLC, GMP Stables LLC, Carl F. Pascarella and Yurie Pascarella; B-SF Bloodstock LLC (Ky); T-Danny Gargan. Sales History: $85,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime History: GSW, 5-1-1-1, $196,705. Last start: 2nd in Apr. 6 GI Wood Memorial S.

After nearly a year of stablemate Dornoch being the star of trainer Danny Gargan's stable, could the Louisville-raised conditioner really win the Derby with his other, far-less-heralded entrant?  Will we find out sometime early Saturday evening that we've been focusing on the wrong son of Good Magic out of the Gargan barn all this time?

This $85,000 KEESEP colt is coming off a runner-up effort at 106-1 odds in the Wood Memorial S., which was his sole source of qualifying points to make the Derby cutoff.

Society Man does have three races worth of experience at nine furlongs, but his only win was an on-Lasix score in a one-turn mile over the Aqueduct mud Mar. 9.

Since being gelded between his Saratoga debut and his second career start in December, Society Man has reportedly been a better, more cooperative learner. The Derby will be his first foray into Grade I competition.

Frankie Dettori picks up the mount. Hard to believe, but the 53-year-old, world-renowned jockey has only ridden once before in the Derby, finishing sixth in 2000 aboard China Visit.

In the future, the post position gods owe Gargan some upgraded mojo. His two Derby entrants this year randomly drew two of the most undesirable gate assignments: Dornoch in post one and Society Man in post 20.

West Saratoga | Coady Media

16) WEST SARATOGA (Exaggerator–Mo Wicked, by Uncle Mo). O-Harry L. Veruchi; B-Two Hearts Farm II LLC (Ky); T-Larry W. Demeritte. Sales History: $11,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW/MGSP, 10-2-5-1, $460,140. Last start: 2nd in Mar. 23 GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks.

This $11,000 KEESEP colt by Exaggerator has bankrolled more than 40 times his purchase price, and he's a stakes winner over the Churchill surface, having captured the one-turn-mile GIII Iroquois  S. back on Sept. 16. Sitting fourth behind a breakaway pacemaker, West Saratoga uncoiled with a long, lumbering run to score at 12-1 odds.

In most of his other nine races, this Larry Demeritte trainee has been closer to the pace, and he's always been in the hunt until upper stretch.

Trouble is, West Saratoga hasn't shown deep-stretch staying power against A-list competition, and he has yet to punch through for another victory despite taking a comparatively softer (Pasco S., GIII Davis S. and GIII Jeff Ruby S.) path to Louisville.

West Saratoga is the only gray in this year's Derby. Since Giacomo roared home at 50-1 in 2005, 41 consecutive grays have gone to post and lost the first leg of the Triple Crown.

17) GRAND MO THE FIRST (Uncle Mo–Lilies So Fair, by Giant's Causeway). O-Granpollo Stables LLC; B-John D. Gunther (Ky); T-Victor Barboza Jr. Sales History: $135,000 Ylg '22 FTKOCT. Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-2-0-4, $214,650. Last start: 3rd in Mar. 30 GI Florida Derby.

Grand Mo the First ($125,000 RNA KEESEP, $135,000 FTKOCT, $335,000 RNA OBSMAR) started off his career last summer with two wins in 5 and 5 1/2-furlong Tapeta sprints at Gulfstream.

This son of Uncle Mo has since been third in four consecutive races, ranging from a turf route stakes at Santa Anita to a dirt sprint stakes back at Gulfstream, followed by two-turn dirt attempts in the Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Derby for trainer Victor Barboza, Jr.

Putting this colt's form in the best possible light means using the Tampa effort as a Kentucky Derby measuring stick. Grand Mo the First pressed a slow pace while four wide around both turns, then was not deterred by repeated stretch jostling with eventual winner Domestic Product. He closed with gusto despite coming out on the losing end of a three-way photo for the win.

18) EPIC RIDE (Blame–Pick a Time, by Gio Ponti). O-Welch Racing LLC; B-Fred W. Hertrich III (Ky); T-John Ennis. Sales History: $160,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISP, 5-2-2-1, $253,166. Last start: 3rd in Apr. 6 GI Blue Grass S.

Epic Ride drew in off the also-eligible list Tuesday when Encino (Nyquist) scratched. You might say an upset under the Twin Spires is in his blood–his sire, Blame, beat the mighty mare Zenyatta at Churchill Downs in the 2010 GI Breeders' Cup Classic.

A $160,000 KEESEP yearling, Epic Ride wintered at Turfway for trainer John Ennis, where he compiled a maiden win and a four-length score in the Leonatus S. He was also second in the Battaglia S., then was an even third at Keeneland while never seriously threatening Sierra Leone and Just a Touch in the Blue Grass S.

Epic Ride is a May 17 foal. Although exact foaling date records are sketchy prior to 1940, 12 known May foals have won the Derby dating to 1875. and four of those winners had a May 17 or later foaling date: Vagrant in 1876 (May 17), Exterminator in 1918 (May 30), Northern Dancer in 1964 (May 27), and Thunder Gulch in 1995 (May 23).

19) CATALYTIC (Catalina Cruiser–One Show Only, by Distorted Humor). O-Tami Bobo, Julie Davies and George G. Isaacs; B-Fred W. Hertrich III (Ky); T-Saffie A. Joseph Jr. Sales History: $70,000 '21 KEENOV; $125,000 Ylg '22 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GISP, 3-1-2-0, $216,825. Last start: 2nd in Mar. 30 GI Florida Derby.

This son of Catalina Cruiser ($70,000 KEENOV, $125,000 FTSAUG) was no match for 13 1/2-length winner Fierceness in the Florida Derby, but he held second at 29-1 odds despite hitting the gate at the start and getting hooked four wide through the first turn.

In his only other two starts, this Saffie Joseph, Jr. trainee broke his maiden sprinting at Gulfstream Oct. 7, then finished second as the beaten favorite in an optional claimer/allowance sprint at Tampa Mar. 8. The combined next-race record of the horses who have run back out of those two races is 0-for-14.

T O Password | Coady Media

20) T O PASSWORD (JPN) (Copano Rickey {Jpn}–T O Rachel {Jpn}, by King Kamehameha {Jpn}). O-Tomoya Ozasa; B-Yanagawa Bokujo (Jpn); T-Daisuke Takayanagi. Lifetime Record: GISW, 2-2-0-0, $163,339. Last start: WON Mar. 23 Fukuryu S.

It is difficult to paint T O Password as anything but a sacrificial speedster in Derby 150.

This is a May 20 foal who has only started twice in Japan, and never over a counter-clockwise track like he will encounter at Churchill.

He debuted with a maiden win Jan. 6 over 1,800 meters (about nine furlongs), then registered enough qualifying points to earn a Derby berth with a win in the Mar. 23 Fukuryu S. over the same distance.

Sent off at 13-1 odds, this Daisuke Takayanagi trainee went straight to the lead but needed to be saved by the wire. He caved badly late in the lane, squandering a four-length cushion in the final half a furlong against fathomably lesser competition than he will face on Saturday.

A son of Japanese champion dirt horse Copano Rickey, T O Password will be ridden in the Derby by Kazushi Kimura, Woodbine's leading rider from last season.

AE) MUGATU (Blofeld–Union Way, by Union Rags). O-Average Joe Racing Stables, Ltd. and Dan Wells. B-JSM Equine, LLC (Ky); T-Jeff Engler. Sales History: $14,000 '23 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: 12-1-1-3, $80,570. Last start: 5th in GI Blue Grass S.

Mugatu is on the also-eligible list awaiting a scratch to get into the Derby. A $14,000 OBSAPR colt, he broke his maiden for trainer Jeff Engler in a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Nov. 18, and his best finishes in seven starts since have been a pair of thirds in allowance/optional claimers.

SCR) ENCINO (c, Nyquist–Glittering Jewel, by Bernardini). O/B-Godolphin, LLC (Ky); T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-1-0, $378,315. Last start: WON APR. 13 GIII Stonestreet Lexington S.

Encino, a Godolphin homebred by Nyquist, scratched out of the Derby on Tuesday.

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Tigerish Gives Tiz the Law A Second Winner at Horseshoe Indianapolis
  2. Maximus Mischief's Baby Dukes Runs To The Money at Parx
  3. Honor A.P. Filly Hollywood Beauty Graduates At First Asking at Parx
  4. Daughter Of The Late Arrogate Debuts A Winner At Los Alamitos
  5. The Week in Review: Bugboys Riding High Atop Delaware Standings
X

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.