Kentucky Derby 2024 Update (4-16-24)

Catching Freedom wins 2024 Smarty Jones Stakes
Catching Freedom wins 2024 Smarty Jones Stakes (Coady Photography)

By Jarrod Horak

The Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13 was the final Kentucky Derby 2024 points race. In this article, I will look back at that event and update my “Exceptional 11” Kentucky Derby contenders.

In other Derby news, No More Time was injured during a pre-Derby workout on April 14. He is scheduled to have surgery and is off the Triple Crown trail. They hope that he will be back later this year or sometime next year.

T O Password is expected to arrive from Japan on April 26. This colt won both starts in Japan this year including the Fukuryu Stakes on March 23. He will be ridden by Kazushi Kimura.

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Recaps

Lexington Stakes - April 13 (Keeneland)

Fractions: 23.55, 47.28, 1:11.94, 1:37.22, 1:43.93

Top 5 Finishers: Encino, The Wine Steward, Dilger (IRE), Secret Chat, Footprint

Encino passed this dirt test with flying colors. Brad Cox’s surface switcher went straight to the lead under Florent Geroux. He maintained a length advantage though a half mile or so. How’s Ur Attitude pressed and faded, and post time favorite The Wine Steward took up the chase. Encino kept the latter at bay and won by 3/4ths of a length. The Wine Steward was clearly second best and ended up 8 1/4 lengths in front of show finisher Dilger (IRE). Encino has enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby. The other option is to wait for the Preakness Stakes, which would give him five weeks between starts instead of three. The Wine Steward was making his first start since landing the place in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) more than six months ago. I am not sure what is next for Michael Maker’s New York-bred son of Vino Rosso, but the timing of the Preakness makes sense.

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)

Florida Derby (100-50-25-15-10) - March 30 - Winner: Fierceness ($4.20)

UAE Derby (100-50-25-15-10) - March 30 - Winner: Forever Young ($3.20)

Arkansas Derby (100-50-25-15-10) - March 30 - Winner: Muth ($6.60)

Blue Grass (100-50-25-15-10) - April 6 - Winner: Sierra Leone ($5.32)

SA Derby (100-50-25-15-10) - April 6 - Winner: Stronghold ($6.40)

Wood Memorial (100-50-25-15-10) - April 6 - Winner: Resilience ($11.00)

Lexington (20-10-6-4-2) - April 13 - Winner: Encino ($8.62)


Top 27 Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Leaders (thru 4-16-24)

T O Password (Japan Qualifier)

Sierra Leone (155 points)

Fierceness (136 points)

Catching Freedom, Stronghold (125 points)

Resilience (110 Points)

Forever Young, Endlessly (100 points)

Dornoch, Just a Touch (75 points)

Track Phantom (70 points)

West Saratoga (67 points)

Just Steel, Honor Marie (65 points)

Domestic Product (60 points)

Catalytic, Deterministic, Society Man (50 points)

Mystik Dan (46 points)

Encino (40 points)


Grand Mo the First (40 points)

Common Defense (37 points)

Epic Ride (35 points)

Hades, Uncle Heavy (30 points)

Seize the Grey (27 points)

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2024 Contenders (4-16-24)

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

Comments: He has been at the top of my list since early February. The Gun Runner colt sports back-to-back graded wins at 1 1/8 miles, and is a nose away from a perfect 4-for-4 record. He held up the start of the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), and he was eventually loaded and went about his business. This seems like a minor issue at this point. They paid $2.3 million for this one and he has not missed a beat. Chad Brown’s strong closer can seemingly run all day and should love a mile and a quarter.

2 - Fierceness (City of Light - Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty) - Trainer: Todd Pletcher - Last Ranking (2)

Comments: He has the ability to blow a race wide open and take the closers completely out of the race. When he is good, he is visually unstoppable, but he needs everything to go right to succeed. He had less than ideal starts in both losses so a clean beginning in the Derby is vital. If he runs back to his Florida Derby romp, forget about it, but he has yet to run two alike. He looked good breezing in company with Agate Road on April 12. Todd Pletcher’s Derby favorite went a half-mile in 50.28 (13/22) at Palm Beach Downs, and was moving better than his stablemate.

3 - Catching Freedom (Constitution - Catch My Drift, by Pioneerof the Nile) - Trainer: Brad Cox - Last Ranking (3)

Comments: The LA Derby hero had his first work at Churchill Downs on April 5 (4f in 48.40), and went four furlongs again in 48.00 (14/123) on April 13. The solid closer graduated in his career debut under the Twin Spires, and won a pair of Derby points races this year.

4 - Forever Young (Real Steel - Forever Darling, by Congrats) - Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi - Last Ranking (4)

Comments: The unbeaten Japanese star is on the grounds at Churchill Downs. He arrived at Churchill on April 13 and is acclimating to his new surroundings. His trainer saddled two BC winners (Loves Only You, Marche Lorraine), and this one has won races in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai.

5 - Just a Touch (Justify - Touching Beauty, by Tapit) - Trainer: Brad Cox - Last Ranking (13)

Comments: I have always liked this one, and he might be the 2024 version of Mage. He won as the chalk in his sprint bow, and completed the exacta in the Grade 3 Gotham and Grade 1 Blue Grass. His sire Justify was an unraced juvenile as well, and his best races should be in front of him.

6 - Stronghold (Ghostzapper - Spectator, by Jimmy Creed) - Trainer: Phil D’Amato -  Last Ranking (5)

Comments: Phil D’Amato’s gem of consistency fired exacta shots in all six starts. The improving Ghostzapper colt won the Grade 3 Sunland Derby on Feb. 18 and Grade 1 SA Derby on April 6. He is probably a cut below the to contenders but continues to improve.

7 - Honor Marie (Honor Code - Dame Marie, by Smart Strike) - Trainer: D. Whitworth Beckman -  Last Ranking (7)

Comments: He breezed a half-mile in 47.80 (3/36) at Churchill on April 7, and went four panels in 48.80 (27/77) on April 14. All three of his juvenile races occurred at Churchill Downs. He won his bow and also captured the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). He was too far back early when finishing 5th in the Risen Star (G2), and rallied to finish a good second when last seen in the LA Derby (G2).

8 - Domestic Product (Practical Joke - Goods and Services, by Paynter) - Trainer: Chad Brown -  Last Ranking (6)

Comments: His trainer Chad Brown likes the way this Practical Joke has been training in advance of the Derby. They decided to train him up to the first Saturday in May after he won a slow early/fast late renewal of the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9. He has worked four times since his last start. He drilled a half-mile bullet in 48.40 (1/47) at Payson Park on March 30, and fired another half-mile bullet in 48.40 (1/58) on April 13.

9 - Just Steel (Justify - Irish Lights, by Fastnet Rock) - Trainer: Wayne Lukas -  Last Ranking (8)

Comments: He is just 2-for-11 but is a stakes winner and placed in the Smarty Jones, Southwest (G3), and Arkansas Derby (G1). He worked 5f in 1:00.80 (1/2) at Oaklawn on April 11. This very experienced son of Justify likes to stalk the pace.

10 - Resilience (Into Mischief - Meadowsweet, by Smart Strike) - Trainer: Bill Mott - Last Ranking (9)

Comments: Junior Alvarado will probably ride this one on the first Saturday in May. His Wood Memorial win was solid enough (blinkers on), but that was not a deep cast and he sat a perfect stalking trip from the inside post. It has been many years since the Wood was a productive Derby prep.

11 - Track Phantom (Quality Road - Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief) - Trainer: Steve Asmussen -  Last Ranking (11)

Comments:  He has been in steady training since last fall, and just goes out there and runs his forwardly placed race every time. The main concern is the ground lost in the stretch in his last two stakes starts at 1 1/8 miles and 1 3/16 miles. Steve Amsussen is still in search of his first Derby win, and this colt might be the one to catch turning for home. He breezed five panels in 1:02 (9/19) at Churchill Downs on April 7.

Next Nine: 

(12) Mystik Dan - 4f in 48.00 (14/123) at Churchill Downs on April 13

(13) Dornoch

(14) West Saratoga - 3f in 36.40 (5/31) at The Thoroughbred Center on April 6

(15) Encino

(16) Catalytic - 4f in 49.25 (4/20) at Gulfstream Park on April 12

(17) T O Password

(18) Endlessly - 4f in 49.00 (54/123) at Churchill Downs on April 13

(19) Society Man

(20) Deterministic