Kentucky Derby 2024 Update (4-9-24)

Resilience makes the grade in the Wood Memorial (Adam Cogilanese Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

The Grade 2 Wood Memorial, Grade 1 Blue Grass, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby were the latest road to Kentucky Derby 2024 points races on Saturday, April 6. In this article, I will look back at those events and update my “Exceptional 11” Kentucky Derby contenders. The Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland is the final Derby points race on April 13. 

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Recaps

Wood Memorial – April 6 (Aqueduct) 

Fractions: 23.45, 47.49, 1:12.31, 1:37.35, 1:50.28

Top 5 Finishers: Resilience, Society Man, Protective, Lonesome Boy, Uncle Heavy 

Evening News, a 52-1 outsider, made the early running and 80-1 bomber Lonesome Boy chased from second. Resilience worked out a great tactical trip from the inside post. The latter sat in third, move out, struck the front, and maintained a clear advantage at the wire. The official winning margin was 2 1/4 lengths. Society Man stalked wide from post 10 and landed the place at 106-1 odds. Protective, a maiden for Todd Pletcher, rallied from last to complete the trifecta. Lonesome Boy was best of the rest in fourth, and Uncle Heavy was a wide fifth from the outside post. My top choice Tuscan Sky was a flat 7th, and Gotham (G3) hero Deterministic flopped in 8th place as the beaten favorite. I have always liked Resilience but this was not a strong race. The two favorites were no shows, and a 100-1 shot and a maiden finished second and third.  

Blue Grass – April 6 (Keeneland) 

Fractions: 23.15, 46.48, 1:10.83, 1:36.65, 1:50.08

Top 5 Finishers: Sierra Leone, Just a Touch, Epic Ride, Dornoch, Mugatu

Top Conor carved out the splits from the inside post and Just a Touch had the best trip from second. The latter made the lead in the lane and opened up by a length and a half, but Sierra Leone was making giant strides from off the pace. Chad Brown’s favorite held up the start when he refused to load. They finally got him in the gate and he was near the back of the pack for a half-mile or so. He moved up smartly on the outside under Tyler Gaffalione, and came after Just a Touch in the stretch and went right on by to score by a length and a half. Just a Touch was clearly second best and 51-1 surface switcher Epic Ride chased the pace and held the show. Dornoch was a flat fourth in a very disappointing effort. Mugatu rallied from last to split the 10-horse field at 181-1 odds. Sierra Leone is a strong closer and should love the 1 1/4 miles Derby distance. Just a Touch was solid in his first start around two turns. Brad Cox’s lightly raced colt has upside. Dornoch has seemingly not advanced enough from age 2 to 3. 

SA Derby – April 6 (Santa Anita Park) 

Fractions: 22.72, 46.73, 1;10.90, 1:36.88, 1:49.98

Top 5 Finishers: Stronghold, Imagination, E J Won the Cup, Curlin’s Kaos, Tapalo

Tapalo made the lead from post 2 and post time favorite Imagination chased from second under Frankie Dettori. E J Won the Cup stalked from the outside post and Stronghold was on the chase from post 3 under Antonio Fresu. Imagination moved up and grabbed a short lead, and was quickly confronted by Stronghold. The two favorites kicked away and Stronghold was moving slightly better and prevailed by a neck. Imagination was clearly second best and E J Won the Cup was best of the rest in third. Curlin’s Kaos completed the superfecta and was followed by Tapalo, Wynstock, Mc Vay, and Tessuto. Phil D’Amato saddled the winner and he paid $6.40. The final clocking was 1:49.98. Stronghold continues to improve and I like his tactical speed and consistency. He deserves to be in the Derby but is probably a cut below the top contenders. Imagination probably has a bit more to offer. I don’t think he has put everything together physically and mentally. The Preakness is a possible target. 

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)

Upcoming Points Races:

Lexington (20-10-6-4-2) – April 13 


Top 27 Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Leaders (thru 4-9-24)

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)

No More Time (45 points)


Grand Mo the First (40 points)

Common Defense (37 points)

Epic Ride (35 points)

Hades, Uncle Heavy, El Grande O (30 points)

Seize the Grey (27 points)

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2024 Contenders (4-9-24)

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

Comments: My longtime top ranked Derby contender maintains the top spot after a strong closing victory in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 6. He keeps advancing for Chad Brown and can seemingly run all day. He is a viable Derby win contender from off the pace if he works out a clean trip and the race shape is to his liking. 

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

Comments: He is the fastest sophomore in the land and figures to win the Kentucky Derby if he duplicates his Florida Derby (G1) romp. The key to his success is to get out of the gate in good order and put himself in the race early. He is one tough customer when everything goes his way. He romped in three races and flopped twice, and he had uncomfortable starts in his two losses. We should know his Derby fate very early.

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

Comments: His stock continues to rise, but there might be a sizable gap between the two Derby favorites and the rest. His Louisiana Derby (G2) victory was solid. He had his first workout at Churchill Downs on April 5 (4f in 48.40). Look for three more Derby works for Brad Cox’s Constitution colt.  

4 – Forever Young (Real Steel – Forever Darling, by Congrats) – Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi – Last Ranking (5)

Comments: The Japanese star is a perfect 5-for-5. His UAE Derby (G2) win was solid but not spectacular. He deserves bonus points for racing wide and running down his rival in the stretch. Fierceness earned a big number in the Florida Derby and Sierra Leone is getting faster, but none of the other sophomores have been earning big figures. I can see him making some noise in the Derby. 

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

Comments: This one just goes out there and runs his race every time. He won the Sunland Derby (G3) in February and was even better in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6. His tactical speed always leads to smooth trips and he might be the most improved sophomore on this list.

6 – Domestic Product (Practical Joke – Goods and Services, by Paynter) – Trainer: Chad Brown –  Last Ranking (9)

Comments: He moves up three spots by process of elimination. It really in tough to get a gauge on this one due to the slow early/fast late race shapes in the Holy Bull (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G3). There is definitely something here but I still have this nagging feeling that he is more of a Preakness horse. 

7 – Honor Marie (Honor Code – Dame Marie, by Smart Strike) – Trainer: D. Whitworth Beckman –  Last Ranking (10)

Comments: He looked good in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last year so we know he likes Churchill. His Risen Star (G2) return was okay and he moved forward in a big way in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He breezed a half-mile in 47.80 (3/36) at Churchill on April 7. 

8 – Just Steel (Justify – Irish Lights, by Fastnet Rock) – Trainer: Wayne Lukas –  Last Ranking (11)

Comments: One of the more consistent runners in this division, and he has already started 11 times. The Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up will give his all under the Twin Spires, and his best effort might be good enough for a share of the purse. 

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

Comments: This one returns to the list for Bill Mott. He met some quality rivals in his first three MSW starts as a juvenile (Locked, Drum Roll Please, Stronghold, Track Phantom, Nash). He added lasix in his first start of the year at Gulfstream on Jan. 1, and he came through with a big 4 1/4 length maiden win as the favorite. The Into Mischief colt finished an even fourth in the Grade 2 Risen Star on Feb. 17. In the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 6, he sat a great stalking trip from the inside post and won by 2 1/4 lengths at 9-2 odds. 

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

Comments: His stock really dropped after a flat fourth in the Blue Grass (G2). He may have been dressed up a bit after riding the speed bias to victory in the Remsen (G2), and wiring the field in a scratch-depleted edition of the Fountain of Youth (G2). 

11 – Track Phantom (Quality Road – Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief) – Trainer: Steve Asmussen –  Last Ranking (12)

Comments: The Quality Road colt is back on the list. My main concern is the 1 1/4 distance. He won three straight at 1 1/6 miles including the Lecomte (G3), and set the pace and held the place in the Risen Star (G2) at 1 1/8 miles. He weakened to fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at 1 3/16 miles. He graduated at Churchill last fall and breezed 5f in 1:02 at that venue on April 7.    

Next Nine – (12) Mystik Dan, (13) Just a Touch, (14) West Saratoga, (15) No More Time, (16) Catalytic, (17) T O Password, (18) Endlessly, (19) Society Man, (20 Deterministic