Kentucky Derby 2024 Update (3-26-24)

Churchill Downs Photo by Stacy Edwards

By Jarrod Horak

The Louisiana Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks were the latest road to Kentucky Derby 2024 points races on Saturday, March 23. In this article, I will look back at those events and update my “Exceptional 11” Kentucky Derby contenders. The Grade 1 Florida Derby, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, and Grade 2 UAE Derby are the next points races on the schedule for March 30. 

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Recaps

Louisiana Derby – March 23 (Fair Grounds)

Fractions: 23.49, 48.33, 1:12.54, 1.37.38, 1:56.16

Top 5 Finishers: Catching Freedom, Honor Marie, Tuscan Gold, Track Phantom, Common Defense

Track Phantom made the lead as expected. It looked like he might be able to scoot clear by a few lengths early, but Common Defense hounded him and stayed about a half-length back for much of the running. With no clear lead and possible distance limitations, Track Phantom was in trouble in the stretch, and the closers were coming. 3-1 second betting choice Catching Freedom rallied down the middle of the stretch in a last-to-first victory by a length over Honor Marie. The latter rallied from 10th place and grabbed the place by a bit less than a length over Tuscan Gold. Chad Brown’s lightly raced show finisher may have been best. He stalked wide from post 11 and missed the whole ball of wax by 1 3/4 lengths. His inexperience and wide trip cost him the win. Track Phantom was less than a length away from the show and was clear of 5th place runner Common Defense. Antiquarian, Agate Road, Next Level, Awesome Ruta, Hall of Fame, and Real Men Violin also ran. I am not sure how strong this race was. The top two finishers closed from the back of the pack, and the top four were separated by 2 1/2 lengths. Catching Freedom is getting better for Brad Cox and is capable of showing more positional speed. Honor Marie and Track Phantom have earned enough points to run on the first Saturday in May, and both are headed to Churchill Downs. Track Phantom drops out of my “exceptional 11” after losing ground in the stretch in his last two starts at 1 1/8 miles and 1 3/16 miles. Tuscan Gold will likely target the Preakness and/or Belmont Stakes.   

Jeff Ruby Steaks – March 23 (Turfway Park)

Fractions: 23.33, 48.57, 1:13.00, 1:37.93, 1:50.15

Top 5 Finishers: Endlessly, West Saratoga, Seize the Grey, Triple Espresso, Lucky Jeremy

Lucky Jeremy tried to shake loose early from post 2, but he ended up dueling with Northern Flame, and those two set the table for the patient runners. West Saratoga sat in midpack from an outer post after the opening quarter, and moved up to engage the two leaders after four panels. Post time favorite Endlessly was back in 7th place, and he circled the field and pulled away to win by an easy 4 lengths. Five horses were across the line for the minor awards. West Saratoga held the place by a head over Seize the Grey. Triple Espresso was another head back in fourth from the far outside post, and Lucky Jeremy was a nose behind him. It was another head to Woodcourt. Dancing Groom, Northern Flame, Otello, and Noted also ran. Endlessly has now qualified to run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but he might skip both. His trainer Michael MCcarthy mentioned the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs at 1 1/16 miles on turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard as a possible target. We will have to see if they stick to that plan. He has 100 Derby points and could still end up in the Derby starting gate if they change their mind.    

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)

Sam F. Davis (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 10 – Winner: No More Time ($8.60)

Risen Star (50-25-15-10-5) – Feb. 17 – Winner: Sierra Leone ($7.40)

Sunland Derby (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 18 – Winner: Stronghold ($4.40)

Rebel (50-25-15-10-5) – Feb. 24 – Winner: Timberlake ($3.60)

Fountain of Youth (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 – Winner: Dornoch ($2.40)

Gotham (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 – Winner: Deterministic ($9.80)

John Battaglia Memorial (20-10-6-4-2) – March 2 – Winner: Encino ($13.38)

San Felipe (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 – Winner: Imagination ($3.80) 

Tampa Bay Derby (50-25-15-10-5) – March 9 – Winner: Domestic Product (non-wagering event)

Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-50-25-15-10) – March 23 – Winner: Endlessly ($4.88) 

Louisiana Derby (100-50-25-15-10) – March 23 – Winner: Catching Freedom ($8.60)

Upcoming Points Races:

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 25 Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Leaders (thru 3-26-24)

Catching Freedom (125 points)

Endlessly (100 points)

Track Phantom (70 points)

West Saratoga (67 points)

Timberlake (66 points)

Honor Marie (65 points)

Dornoch, Domestic Product (60 points)

Sierra Leone (55 points)

Deterministic (50 points)

No More Time (45 points)

Common Defense (37 points)

Fierceness (36 points)

El Grande O (30 points)

Seize the Grey (27 points)

Stronghold, Le Dom Bro, Tuscan Gold, Just a Touch (25 points)

Mystik Dan (21 points)

Hades, Uncle Heavy, Encino (20 points)

Liberal Arts, Mc Vay (19 points)

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2024 Contenders (3-26-24)

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

Comments: The early Kentucky Derby favorite has been my top ranked Derby contender since Feb. 6. The Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct was the most productive points race last year, and he missed by a nose in that heat. He closed from off the pace to take the Risen Star (G2) as the favorite in his sophomore debut on Feb. 17. He has breezed four since his last start including a half-mile move in 49.60 (22/44) at Payson Park on March 24. He has been targeting the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 6 for several weeks. 

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

Comments: Last year’s Grade 1 Champagne hero began his 3-year-old campaign with a popular victory in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn on Feb. 24. He has breezed three times since the Rebel including a 5f move in 1:00.40 (5/36) at Fair Grounds on March 23. He is heading back to Oaklawn for the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on March 30, and he drew post 2 and is the 9-5 second choice on the morning line.  

3 – Fierceness (City of Light – Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Last Ranking (3)

Comments: He was outstanding in his sprint bow in the mud at Saratoga last summer. He lunged at the start and threw in a clunker in the Grade 1 Champagne in the slop second time out. His BC Juvenile victory was strong. He pressed, took over, and cruised by 6 1/4 lengths. He had an uncomfortable start and finished a flat third as the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Feb. 3. He has been training forwardly in advance of the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30, and he figures to bounce back with a quality effort as the favorite.  

4 – Dornoch (Good Magic – Puca, by Big Brown) – Trainer: Danny Gargan – Last Ranking (5)

Comments: I am still not quite sure if this one deserves such a high ranking. He rode the track bias to victory in the Grade 2 Remsen late last year, and that was a key race. He made his sophomore bow in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream on March 2. All of his main foes scratched and he controlled the pace and defeated four rivals in a workmanlike effort. He goes next in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 6. 

5 – Catching Freedom (Constitution – Catch My Drift, by Pionnerof the Nile) – Trainer: Brad Cox – Last Ranking (12)

Comments: He is the big mover this week after going last-to-first in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 23. He won the Smarty Jones Stakes earlier this year and was a solid third in the Risen Star (G2). This $575k Constitution colt is trending the right way. He showed improved workouts leading up to the LA Derby, and has six weeks to prepare for his biggest career test on the first Saturday in May.      

6 – Conquest Warrior (City of Light – Tea Time, by Pulpit) – Trainer: Shug McGaughey – Last Ranking (6)

Comments: This $1 million City of Light colt has been patiently handled by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. He overcame trouble to graduate at Gulfstream on Jan. 13, and was fortunate to have an allowance race fill on March 1. In the latter event, he stalked slow fractions, pounced in the stretch, and won geared down at 1 1/8 miles. He has breezed three times since his last start and will make his stakes debut in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30. He needs to finish first or second to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. 

7 – Stronghold (Ghostzapper – Spectator, by Jimmy Creed) – Trainer: Phil D’Amato –  Last Ranking (7)

Comments: He has been a steady stakes performer with runner-up finishes in the Bob Hope (G3) and Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), and a victory in the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby on Feb. 18. He sports four works since his last including a 5f bullet in 58.40 (1/64) at Santa Anita Park on March 25. The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby is the next start for Phil D’Amato’s Ghostzapper colt.

8 – Liberal Arts (Arrogate – Ismene, by Tribal Rule) – Trainer: Robert Medina –  Last Ranking (8)

Comments: His Grade 3 Southwest show finish was underrated. Mystik Dan stole the show that day, but this one ran a quality race as well. He rallied to just miss the place and galloped out in front. He has worked six times since his last start and has been targeting the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby for several weeks. 

9 – Tuscan Sky (Vino Rosso – South Andros, by Sky Mesa) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Last Ranking (9)

Comments: He won both starts this year for Todd Pletcher. His victory over Nash at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17 looks better now after that runner came back to romp in the Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn on March 23. He has worked four times since his last start including a half-mile breeze in 50.50 (20/38) at Palm Beach Downs on March 22. He will probably make his next start in the Blue Grass or Wood Memorial on April 6. 

10 – Deterministic (Liam’s Map – Giulio’s Jewel, by Speightstown) – Trainer: Christophe Clement – Last Ranking (10)

Comments: Christophe Clement had this one ready to roll off a layoff in the Gotham (G3), and he bested my top choice Just a Touch that day. He returned to Florida after the Gotham and worked 5f in 1:03.60 (4/7) at Payson Park on March 21. It looks like he will be back in New York for the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 6. He was solid in both one-turn wins and will get a class and distance test in the Wood. 

11 – Domestic Product (Practical Joke – Goods and Services, by Paynter) – Trainer: Chad Brown –  Last Ranking (11)

Comments: He got no pace help in the Holy Bull (G3) and came running for the place. In the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on March 9, the pace was slow again, and he stalked and surged to win a close decision over No More Time. Chad Brown originally stated that he would like to run him again after the Tampa Bay Derby, but he is now thinking that he will train him up to the Kentucky Derby. 

Next Nine – (12) Track Phantom, (13) Honor Marie, (14) West Saratoga, (15) Mystic Dan, (16) Hades, (17) No More Time, (18) Forever Young, (19) Encino, (20) Resilience