Kentucky Derby 2024 Update (3-5-24)

Deterministic wins 2024 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct (Chelsea Durand Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

The Fountain of Youth, Gotham, John Battaglia Memorial, and San Felipe were the latest road to Kentucky Derby 2024 points races. In this Derby report, I will look back at those March 2 events and update my “Exceptional 11” Kentucky Derby contenders. The next points race on the docket is the Grade Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, March 9.

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Recaps

Fountain of Youth – March 2 (Gulfstream Park)

Fractions: 24.39, 48.14, 1:11.43, 1:36.95, 1:43.64

Top 5 Finishers: Dornoch, Le Dom Bro, Frankie’s Empire, Real Macho, Dancing Groom 

This race started with nine entrants. Merit scratched to run in an allowance race. Gustavo Delgado scratched maiden Victory Avenue, and Todd Pletcher was not pleased with the training of morning line favorite Locked, and he defected as well. Speak Easy, a second Pletcher runner, ran off in the post parade, hit the rail and scratched. He had some cuts and will be out of training for at least a week. All of those developments left Dornoch as the heavy favorite, but he had to work for this one. The chalk made the lead under Luis Saez and the opening quarter was soft for this caliber of runner. He fended off a challenge from 27-1 longshot Le Dom Bro and won by 1 3/4 lengths. Le Dom Bro held off Frankie’s Empire to secure the place by a neck. Dornoch will have to run faster if he expects to win his final Derby prep. 

Gotham (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 (Aqueduct)

Fractions: 23.42, 46.63, 1:10.94, 1:23.37, 1:36.37 

Top 5 Finishers: Deterministic, Just a Touch, El Grande O, Maximus Meridius, Capital Idea 

Deterministic was solid in his seven panel bow at Saratoga last summer, and this was his first start in more than half a year. He was training forwardly in Florida and clearly did not need the outing. He sat a beautiful tactical trip over the wet going under Joel Rosario, split rivals in the lane, and scored by two lengths over my top choice Just a Touch. The latter was the betting favorite, and he stalked widest of all and kept plugging away for the place. El Grande O ran a solid race once again. The consistent New York-bred chased from second, led, and was best of the rest in third. Forwardly placed runners did best in this flat mile event in the slop. The top two finishers of this race have potential moving forward. We will see how they handle two turns against better foes next time. Deterministic picked up 50 points in this race for Christophe Clement, and that all but assures him a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby. 

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

Fractions: 23.84, 48.31, 1:12.98, 1:38.07, 1:44.22

Top 5 Finishers: Encino, Epic Ride, Blue Eyed George, Mugatu, Ode to Balius

This was the final local prep for the Jeff Ruby Steaks and improving Brad Cox trainee Encino overcame post 10 to score by a length. He sat a decent midpack trip and made a nice outside run to catch race favorite Epic Ride. The latter ran a solid race and was simply outkicked. Blue Eyed George stalked the pace and was best of the rest in third. Mugatu rallied to complete the superfecta from an outer post at 68-1 odds. My top choice Bolt At Midnight was exiting a fast local maiden route win. I thought he could get out there and keep going under Martin Garcia. He did get out there but did not keep going. He set the pace and weakened to 6th. Godolphin-owned colt Encino is on the upswing and might try dirt next time. He picked up 20 Derby points for his victory in this race.  

San Felipe (50-25-15-10-5) – March 2 (Santa Anita Park) 

Fractions: 23.51, 47.04, 1:11.51, 1:37.86, 1:44.55

Top 4 Finishers: Imagination, Wine Me Up, Mc Vay, Scatify

This became a competitive four-horse heat following the defection of 1-5 favorite Nysos. Baffert wanted more time between starts and has rerouted the early Preakness favorite to the SA Derby on April 6. Baffert still had two runners and the stablemates had quite the battle. Wine Me Up was on top early but was quickly joined by post time favorite Imagination. Those two traded places from the outset and battled all the way to the wire. Imagination got his head down on the line to win a close decision over Wine Me Up, and those two were more than six lengths clear of maiden Mc Vay. Scatify had early trouble from the inside post and lost all chance. He was a distant last of four. The final time was 1:44.55.  

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)

Upcoming Points Races: 

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 25 Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Leaders (thru 3-5-24)

Timberlake (66 points)

Dornoch (60 points)

Sierra Leone, Track Phantom (55 points)

Deterministic (50 points)

Fierceness (36 points)

El Grande O (30 points)

Common Defense (27 points)

Stronghold, Catching Freedom, Just a Touch (25 points)

Mystik Dan (21 points)

Hades, Uncle Heavy, No More Time, Encino (20 points)

Locked, Liberal Arts, Mc Vay (19 points)

Northern Flame (18 points)

West Saratoga (17 points)

Scatify (16 points)

Just Steel, Honor Marie (15 points)

Nash (13 points)

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2024 Contenders (3-5-24)

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

Comments: The Remsen Stakes (G2) got another boost last weekend when Dornoch, the winner of that heat, clicked again in the Fountain of Youth (G2). Remsen show finisher Drum Roll Please won the Jerome Stakes in January, and Sierra Leone ran down Track Phantom in the Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 17. Remsen also-ran Domestic Product was second in the Holy Bull (G3) in January and is a top contender in the upcoming Tampa Bay Derby (G3). Le Dom Bro, another Remsen also-ran, landed the place in the Fountain of Youth. Chad Brown’s colt got back to work with a half-mile breeze in 49 (5/52) at Payson Park on March 2. He goes next in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 6.  

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

Comments: Last year, he was a troubled second in the Hopeful (G1), first in the Champagne (G1), and fourth in the BC Juvenile (G1). His Rebel Stakes (G2) return was solid. He stalked outside and pounced in the lane to win by two lengths as the favorite. He should get back on the worktab soon, and he will go next in the Arkansas Derby (March 30) or Blue Grass (April 6). 

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

Comments: He seems to be back on track after his disappointing sophomore bow in the Holy Bull. He has worked twice since that flat show finish. After drilling a best of 27 half-mile bullet in 48.54 at Palm Beach Downs on Feb. 23, he went four panels again in 48.89 (3/26) on March 1. The Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30 is next and the 2-year-old champ will probably have three more works prior to that race. 

4 – Track Phantom (Quality Road – Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief) – Trainer: Steve Asmussen –  Last Ranking (6)

Comments: This one just goes out there and runs his early-pressing race every time. He won the Gun Runner and Lecomte (G3), and was second best in the Risen Star (G2). He got back to work with a 5f move in 1:02.60 (19/28) at Fair Grounds on March 3. Two more works are on the docket prior to his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 23.

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

Comments: In a perfect world, he would have gotten more of a test in the Fountain of Youth. After multiple defections, he was the lone speed and that race was handed to him on a silver platter. He was classier than his four rivals and was a professional winner. We learned nothing from that paid workout and that is unfortunate because his Remsen (G2) victory over a speed favoring wet track left more questions than answers. He will get a sterner test in his next start in the Florida Derby (March 30) or Blue Grass (April 6). 

6 – Conquest Warrior (City of Light – Tea Time, by Pulpit) – Trainer: Shug McGaughey – Last Ranking (7)

Comments: It is tough to gauge how this one stacks up to the top runners in this division, but there is no doubt that he is improving. His flat mile maiden win on Jan. 13 was not fast but he overcame a troubled trip and was visually impressive. Shug took the next step and found an optional-claiming race at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream on March 1. In that heat, he stalked loose front runner Merit and easily went past that one at the top of the lane. He spurted clear to score by five lengths and was basically under a hold for much of the stretch run. It looks like he will run all day and figures to make his stakes debut in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30. 

7 – Locked (Gun Runner – Luna Rosa, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher –  Last Ranking (3)

Comments: Last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity hero came down with a fever and missed the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay on Feb. 10, and scratched from the Fountain of Youth on March 3 because Todd Pletcher was not happy with his training. He has now missed two intended starts this year and is suddenly in big trouble in regards to making the Kentucky Derby. We will have to see what is going on with him. He has time to regroup and show up in one points race prior to the first Saturday in May, but his stock is falling fast.  

8 – Stronghold (Ghostzapper – Spectator, by Jimmy Creed) – Trainer: Phil D’Amato –  Last Ranking (8)

Comments: This solid stalker keeps slowly advancing on the speed rating scale. I like the steady improvement pattern, which means he could have a big forward move in his at some point. He exits a 2 1/2 length victory as the favorite in the Sunland Derby (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 18. He returned to the worktab with a half-mile move in 49.20 (37/66) at Santa Anita on March 5, and the SA Derby on April 6 is a logical target. 

9 – Liberal Arts (Arrogate – Ismene, by Tribal Rule) – Trainer: Robert Medina –  Last Ranking (9)

Comments: I am looking forward to his next start in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on March 30. He returned from a layoff of more than three months in the Southwest (G3) on Feb. 3. The track was muddy and he showed nice interest in the stretch. He missed the show by a neck and was nine lengths clear of the rest. Mystik Dan got a dream inside trip and won by eight lengths, and Liberal Arts caught him on the gallop out. He has worked three times since the Southwest including a best of 30 half-mile bullet in 48.40 at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Kentucky on March 4. 

10 – Tuscan Sky (Vino Rosso – South Andros, by Sky Mesa) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher – Last Ranking (10)

Comments: He won both starts this year and has more room to grow. His victory over Nash on Feb. 17 was solid and he will get a chance to strut his stuff in an upcoming points race. He breezed in company with Born Noble at Palm Beach Downs on March 1 (half-mile in 49.83). His next start is to be determined. 

11 – Nash (Medaglia d’Oro – Sara Louise, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Brad Cox –  Last Ranking (11)

Comments: The idea was right but it was not the outcome they were expecting. They dropped into an optional-claiming spot to give his confidence a boost on the Risen Star undercard, and he only had two rivals. The track was wet and he was setting the pace, but highly regarded Pletcher runner Tuscan Sky wore him down and edged away. He hit the board as the beaten favorite in all three starts since his good looking dirt route maiden win at Churchill last November. He clearly has talent but has not really moved forward. The most likely explanation is the distance, and he might end up being most effective as a sprinter. He has done enough to remain on the Derby trail but needs a breakthrough performance next time. He breezed a half-mile in 49.80 (37/75) at Fair Grounds on March 3. 

Next Nine – (12) Deterministic, (13) Catching Freedom, (14) Mystic Dan, (15) Resilience, (16) Uncle Heavy, (17) Hades, (18) No More Time, (19) Just a Touch, (20) Honor Marie