Kentucky Derby 2024 Update (2-6-24)

Uncle Heavy edges El Grande O in 2024 Withers Stakes (Susie Raisher Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

The Withers, Robert Lewis, Southwest, and Holy Bull were the latest road to Kentucky Derby 2024 points races. In this article, I will look back at those events and update my “Exceptional 11” Kentucky Derby contenders. The next points race is the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Recaps

Withers – Feb. 3 (Aqueduct)

Fractions: 24.14, 49.49, 1:14.44, 1:40.17, 1:53.79

Top 5 Finishers: Uncle Heavy, El Grande O, Lightline, Deposition, Khanate

The track was muddy and El Grande O had the slight early advantage, and was quickly joined by Seminole Chief and Khanate. Uncle Heavy was stalking wide and betting favorite Lightline was in the hunt in midpack. El Grande O put the other two speed horses away and was clear by 3 lengths in the stretch, and he looked home free. Uncle Heavy took up the chase and kept on grinding away, and he got up in the final jump to score by a nose. New York-bred El Grande O was a fine 2nd for Linda Rice, and Lightline moved up wide around the far turn and plugged away in the lane for the show. He has stamina but lacks quickness. 71-1 bomber Deposition missed the show by a half-length, and outside pace player Khanate weakened to 5th. The winner is a PA-bred son of Social Inclusion, and Mychel Sanchez rode the winner for Robert Reid. The was not the fastest Derby prep. 

Robert Lewis – Feb. 3 (Santa Anita)

Fractions: 22.81, 46.67, 1:11.11, 1:23.86, 1:36.65 

Top 5 Finishers: Nysos, Wine Me Up, Scatify, Mc Vay, Moonlit Sonata

We may have seen the best sophomore in the country in this race. Nysos ran off the screen for the third time in as many starts, and he passed his first route test with flying colors. Scatify was intent on the lead from the outside post and Wine Me Up chased from the inside post. Nysos was comfortable stalking the pace under Flavien Prat. He made his move around the far turn and into the stretch, and he quickly disposed of his rivals and spurted away to win by a very easy 7 1/2 lengths. Wine Me Up got past Scatify for the runner-up spot. Mc Vay, Moonlit Sonata, Better Than Gold, and Ace of Clubs also ran. The final time was 1:36.65. Nysos paid $2.20 as the overwhelming favorite and he is trained by Bob Baffert, whose Kentucky Derby ban dates back to 2022 but his horses can compete in the Preakness and Belmont. I am not sure where Nysos goes from here but they almost have to look at the Preakness and decide the best path to get him to that race.  

Southwest – Feb. 3 (Oaklawn)

Fractions: 23.56, 47.95, 1:13.23, 1:37.74, 1:43.67

Top 5 Finishers: Mystik Dan, Just Steel, Liberal Arts, Awesome Road, Common Defense

Otto the Conqueror was quickly in front and his stablemate Carbone was on the chase as the betting favorite. Just Steel stalked from post 10 and was waiting to pounce. This race was setting up for patient types, and I was hoping my top choice Liberal Arts would make a move, and he did, but another runner closed with a rush. Mystik Dan was a speed horse in his first four starts, but patiently sat in midpack in this spot under Brian Hernandez Jr. He was able to work his way inside from post 9 and save ground, and he got a great inside run in the stretch and burst away to win by 9 lengths and was geared down in the late stages. Just Steel just held off Liberal Arts for the runner-up spot, and it was 9 lengths back to Awesome Road and Common Defense. Otto the Conqueror and Carbone weakened, and they were followed by Linebacker, Charleston, Magic Grant, and Wynstock. The track was muddy and Mystik Dan was in a race by himself. I am not sure where this effort came from. I am not yet sold on the winner and want to see him do it again. Just Steel fired trifecta shots in four straight and landed the place in his last two points races at Oaklawn. He is a decent performer but does not seem like he will improve at longer distances. Liberal Arts ran a solid race in his first start since winning the Street Sense (G3) in the slop last November. He found his best stride late in the lane and was really motoring late, and he galloped out in front of romping winner Mystik Dan. Liberal Arts is the one I want out of this race.   

Holy Bull – Feb. 3 (Gulfstream)

Fractions: 25.03, 50.53, 1:14.25, 1:39.28, 1:46.07

Top 5 Finishers: Hades, Domestic Product, Fierceness, Inveigled, Dancing Groom 

This was supposed to be an easy win for 2-year-old champ Fierceness, but things do not always go according to plan. Florida-bred sprint/route runner Hades broke on top from the inside post but Fierceness was not right up there as expected. The latter turned his head at the start and was bumped around, and Johnny V had no choice but to move up four wide around the first turn. Hades was comfortable from the rail and Inveigled was battling with him. Fierceness worked his way up while three wide to challenge for the lead, and he got past Hades approaching the far turn. Hades was not done and the battle was on. Domestic Product was working out a nice inner tactical trip and had his mind on running. Fiereness started to lose momentum in the lane and Hades got the front again and won by 2 lengths while drifting out. Domestic Product was clearly second best and Fierceness was best of the rest in 3rd. Inveigled, Dancing Groom, Otello, and Sea Streak also ran. Hades ran a quality race but he really had the best of it from the rail. Domestic Product save ground throughout, swung out in the stretch, and rallied for the place in a solid effort. Fierceness did not have the greatest trip and he came up short in the lane. This is not how his connections envisioned his sophomore bow. He will regroup and return to fight another day. 

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Results

Iroquois (10-5-3-2-1) – Sept. 16 – Winner: West Saratoga ($26.96)

Champagne (10-5-3-2-1) – Oct. 7 – Winner: Timberlake ($11.80)

American Pharoah (10-5-3-2-1) – Oct. 7 – Winner: Muth ($2.80)

Breeders’ Futurity (10-5-3-2-1) – Oct. 7 – Winner: Locked ($3.52)

Street Sense (10-5-3-2-1) – Oct. 29 – Winner: Liberal Arts ($14.18)

BC Juvenile (30-15-9-6-3) – Nov. 3 – Winner: Fierceness ($35.00)

Ky Jockey Club (10-5-3-2-1) – Nov. 25 – Winner: Honor Marie ($19.62)

Remsen (10-5-3-2-1) – Dec. 3 – Winner: Dornoch ($5.40)

Springboard Mile (10-5-3-2-1) – Dec. 15 – Winner: Otto the Conqueror ($4.80)

Los Al Futurity (10-5-3-2-1) – Dec. 16 – Winner: Wynstock ($29.40)

Gun Runner (10-5-3-2-1) – Dec. 23 – Winner: Track Phantom ($11.80)

Smarty Jones (10-5-3-2-1) – Jan. 1- Winner: Catching Freedom ($5.40)

Jerome (10-5-3-2-1) – Jan. 6 – Winner: Drum Roll Please ($3.20)

Lecomte (20-10-6-4-2) – Jan. 20 – Winner: Track Phantom ($4.80)

Withers (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 – Uncle Heavy ($20.60)

Robert Lewis (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 – Winner: Nysos ($2.20) 

Southwest (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 – Winner: Mystik Dan ($24.80)

Holy Bull (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 – Winner: Hades ($20.20)

Upcoming Points Races: 

Sam F. Davis (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 10 

Risen Star (50-25-15-10-5) – Feb. 17 

Sunland Derby (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 18

Rebel (50-25-15-10-5) – Feb. 24 

Fountain of Youth (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 

Gotham (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 

John Battaglia Memorial (20-10-6-4-2) – March 2 

San Felipe (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 

Tampa Bay Derby (50-25-15-10-5) – March 9 

Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-50-25-15-10) – March 23  

Louisiana Derby (100-50-25-15-10) – March 23

Florida Derby (100-50-25-15-10) – March 30

UAE Derby (100-50-25-15-10) – March 30

Arkansas Derby (100-50-25-15-10) – March 30 

Blue Grass (100-50-25-15-10) – April 6 

SA Derby (100-50-25-15-10) – April 6 

Wood Memorial (100-50-25-15-10) – April 6 

Lexington (20-10-6-4-2) – April 13 


Top 20 Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Leaders (thru 2-6-24)

Fierceness (36 points)

Track Phantom (30 points)

Mystik Dan (21 points)

Hades, Uncle Heavy (20 points)

Locked, Liberal Arts (19 points)

Timberlake (16 points)

Just Steel, El Grande O (15 points)

Nash (13 points)

West Saratoga (11 points)

Honor Marie, Otto the Conqueror, Dornoch, Catching Freedom, Domestic Product (10 points)

Risk It (8 points) 

Moonlight (7 points)

Informed Patriot (6 points)

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2024 Contenders (2-6-24)

1 – Sierra Leone (Gun Runner – Heavenly Love, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Chad Brown –  Last Ranking (3)

Comments: First it was Nash, but he stubbed his toe, and Fierceness moved to the fore but dropped his sophomore bow. Now, Chad Brown’s $2.3 million purchase is my new top ranked Derby contender, but how long he stays there remains to be seen. He almost overcame a speed bias in the Remsen (G2), but front runner Dornoch dug in and prevailed by a nose over the muddy (sealed) racetrack at Aqueduct. He is spending the winter in Florida and has breezed seven times at a half-mile since Dec. 24. His last move was completed in 48.80 (7/67) on Feb. 3. He is expected to make his first start of 2024 in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17. 

2 – Timberlake (Into Mischief – Pin Up-IRE, by Lookin At Lucky) – Trainer: Brad Cox –  Last Ranking (4)

Comments: The Grade 1 Champagne winner is Brad Cox’s top Derby hopeful at this early stage. He is spending the winner at Fair Grounds and has breezed three times since Jan. 20. He went a half-mile in 48.60 (10/92) on Feb. 3. There are two races being considered for his sophomore bow. The Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn on Feb. 24 is the first preference due to the timing and 1 1/16 miles distance. If he is not ready for that race for whatever reason, the Gotham (G3) on March 2 is the other possibility. 

3 – Track Phantom (Quality Road – Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief) – Trainer: Steve Asmussen –  Last Ranking (5)

Comments: With all of the big juvenile names easing into the sophomore campaigns, this one stole the winter spotlight with back-to-back points race victories at Fair Grounds in the Gun Runner and Lecomte (G3). His first work since the Lecomte was a five panel breeze in 1:01 (5/34) on Feb. 3. Steve Asmussen’s front runner is expected to make his next start in the Risen Star (G2) at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 17.

4 – Fierceness (City of Light – Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Last Ranking (1)

Comments: Everything went right in his two romping wins and he was brilliant in those races. He had a bad start in the G1 Champagne and threw in a below par effort, and he had a troubled beginning in the Holy Bull and weakened to 3rd in the lane. There is no questioning his raw ability but he needs to overcome challenges if is to be considered a major Derby player. The original plan was to win the Holy Bull, skip the FOY, and wrap up his Derby preparations in the Florida Derby. He came out of the Holy Bull in good order and his next start is undecided. 

5 – Locked (Gun Runner – Luna Rosa, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher –  Last Ranking (2)

Comments: He was originally slated to run in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 10, but an elevated temperature knocked him out of that Derby prep.  Let’s see how long it takes to get him back on the worktab. Todd Pletcher is hoping to work him as early as this coming weekend. His most recent published workout was a 5f move in 1:02.02 (3/6) on Jan. 26. 

6 – Dornoch (Good Magic – Puca, by Big Brown) – Trainer: Danny Gargan – Last Ranking (6)

Comments: Mage’s brother landed the place in his first two outings last summer. He smartly went all the way in his 6 1/2 length maiden win as the favorite at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in the fall. He set a pressured pace over a speed favoring wet oval at Aqueduct in the Grade 2 Remsen at 1 1/8 miles in December. Sierra Leone closed from last and grabbed a short lead, but Dornoch came again and won by a nose as the favorite. He worked at Palm Meadows on Jan. 22 and Jan. 30, and the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 2 is his next scheduled start. 

7 – Hall of Fame (Gun Runner – Flag Day, by Giant’s Causeway) – Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Last Ranking (7)

Comments: This $1.4 million purchase rallied for the place as the favorite in his seven panel bow at Churchill Downs last November. He stretched out to 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds on Jan. 20, and he stalked the pace, took over, and graduated by 10 1/4 lengths at 80 cents on the dollar. He breezed 5f in 1:01 flat on Feb. 3 and is expected to join his stablemate Track Phantom in the starting gate in the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 17.  

8 – Conquest Warrior (City of Light – Tea Time, by Pulpit) – Trainer: Shug McGaughey – Last Ranking (8)

Comments: This one sold for a million bucks as a yearling. He caught a muddy track at 10-1 odds in his seven panel bow at Aqueduct on Dec. 2. El Capi got clear early and won by 9 1/2 lengths. This colt broke slow, moved up to 2nd, and missed the place by a neck while 7 3/4 lengths clear of the rest. That was Remsen Day and front runners captured 7 of the 10 races. He was 7-2 in a one-turn mile at Gulfstream second time out on Jan. 13. He was pinched back to 10th place early, waited for running room, steadied, angled out, and closed strongly in the lane to graduate by a half-length. His maiden win was not fast but he was visually impressive and clearly has raw talent. He worked a half-mile in 48.80 (6/66) at Payson Park on Jan. 27, and fired a half-mile bullet in 48.40 (1/67) on Feb. 3. Shug is in no rush to jump on the Derby trail. He would like to find an entry level allowance spot sometime in February.   

9 – Nash (Medaglia d’Oro – Sara Louise, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Brad Cox –  Last Ranking (9)

Comments: His two turn maiden win at Churchill Downs last fall put him on the map, but his stock has been steadily falling since that win. He was a disappointing 3rd as the strong favorite in the Gun Runner, and Track Phantom beat him again in the Lecomte (G3). He breezed a half-mile in 49.60 (36/74) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 2. They might take a step back and try to find an allowance spot to get his confidence back.  

10 – Stronghold (Ghostzapper – Spectator, by Jimmy Creed) – Trainer: Phil D’Amato –  Last Ranking (10)

Comments: The Bob Hope (G3) and Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) runner-up scratched out of the Grade 3 Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 3. Instead of running on the 3rd, he worked four panels in 48.40 (21/175) and is now targeting the Sunland Derby (G3) on Feb. 18.    

11 – Resilience (Into Mischief – Meadowsweet, by Smart Strike) – Trainer: Bill Mott – Last Ranking (11)

Comments: He ran into Locked in his career debut, and landed the place behind Stronghold in a one-turn mile second time out. He ran on for the show behind romping winner Nash in his final juvenile start. He was the chalk in a dirt route at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 1, and he stalked and pulled away to graduate by 4 1/4 lengths. He has worked four times since his graduation run including a 5f breeze in 1:03.20 (3-4) at Payson Park on Feb. 5. He is scheduled to make his stakes debut in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.  

Next Nine – (12) Catching Freedom, (13) Change of Command, (14) Snead, (15) Mystik Dan, (16) Hades, (17) Uncle Heavy, (18) Liberal Arts, (19) Speak Easy, (20) Victory Avenue