Kentucky Derby 2024 Update: No Baffert Runners

American Pharoah and Bob Baffert at Churchill Downs (Jarrod Horak Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

This is my final Kentucky Derby 2024 report for January. In this post, I will look back at the Grade 3 Lecomte and update my “Exceptional 11” Derby contenders. The Derby trail really heats up this week with four points races on Feb. 3 (Holy Bull, Robert Lewis, Southwest, Withers). 

In a major Derby development, none of Bob Baffert’s runners will be competing in the 2024 Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs extended Baffert’s Derby ban through this year, and it was widely expected that he would transfer his top Derby hopefuls to other barns prior to Churchill’s Jan. 29 deadline. That date came and went, and none of Baffert’s runners moved to other barns. In 2022 and 2023, Baffert’s top Derby contenders moved to the Tim Yakteen shedrow. This time, owners opted to stick with Baffert in a major snub to Churchill. His runners are eligible to compete in the Preakness and Belmont.  

My list gets a major shakeup due to the Baffert situation. Three of his runners were part of my “Exceptional 11” Derby list (Nysos, Muth, Pilot Commander), and three others (Coach Prime, Imagination, Prince of Monaco) were part of my “Next Nine.” 

Bill Mott recently stated that he has fallen behind with Knightsbridge. I said last time that this colt needed to return to the worktab to remain on my list. He shows two published works this month. He went an easy half-mile in 50.20 at Payson Park on Jan. 12, and breezed 51.40 on Jan. 26. Mott wanted to have him ready for the Swale Stakes on Feb. 3 but ran out of time and was unable to make that race. They are trying to get him back in action in March. Based on all of that information, I have decided to drop him off my list.  

Drum Roll Please, winner of the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 6, was injured in a workout on Jan. 19 and is off the Derby trail. He is expected to be out of action until the summer. 

Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Race Recaps

Grade 3 Lecomte – Jan. 20 (Fair Grounds)

Fractions: 24.01, 48.36, 1:13.15, 1:38.01, 1:44.73 

Top 5 Finishers: Track Phantom, Nash, Lat Long, Ethan Energy, Tiz Indy

Track Phantom ran his record to 3-for-3 in route races with another front running point race victory. Nash tried to go with Track Phantom early, but the latter beat him to the punch and was clear by a length and a half after the opening quarter. Joel Rosario rode Steve Amsussen’s Derby hopeful, and he remained clear, opened up by 3 lengths in the stretch, and won comfortably by 2 3/4 lengths over Nash. Brad Cox’s runner-up tried hard throughout and was clearly second best, and Lat Long stalked the pace and was 8 1/2 lengths clear of the rest. 

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)

Upcoming Points Races: 

Southwest (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 

Holy Bull (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 

Robert Lewis (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3 

Withers (20-10-6-4-2) – Feb. 3

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 15 Kentucky Derby 2024 Points Leaders (thru 1-30-24)

Fierceness (30 points)

Track Phantom (30 points)

Locked (19 points)

Timberlake (16 points)

Liberal Arts, Nash (13 points)

West Saratoga (11 points)

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

Risk It (8 points) 

Moonlight (7 points)

Informed Patriot, Lat Long (6 points)

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2024 Contenders (1-30-24)

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

Comments: The juvenile champ is gearing up for his seasonal debut in the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream on Feb. 3. The BC Juvenile hero has worked seven times at Palm Beach Downs since 12-12-23. His most recent morning move was a half-mile breeze in 49.55 (20/29) on Jan. 27.   

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

Comments: Last year’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) hero was last seen landing the show in the BC Juvenile. He has been on a similar work schedule at Palm Beach Downs as his stablemate Fierceness (7 works since Dec. 12). His most recently traveled 5f in 1:02.02 (3/6) on Jan. 26. 

3 – Sierra Leone (Gun Runner – Heavenly Love, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Chad Brown –  Last Ranking (8)

Comments: This $2.3 million purchase almost overcame a speed bias in the Remsen (G2), but front runner Dornoch dug in a prevailed by a nose over the muddy (sealed) racetrack at Aqueduct. He is spending the winter in Florida and has breezed six times at a half-mile since Dec. 24. His last move was completed in 49.60 (25/66) on Jan. 27. Chad Brown used the Risen Star and Blue Grass as preps for his stable star Zandon in 2022, and that is the same path he is using with this colt.    

4 – Timberlake (Into Mischief – Pin Up-IRE, by Lookin At Lucky) – Trainer: Brad Cox –  Last Ranking (6)

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 twice since Jan. 20. He went a half-mile in 49.20 (27.82) on Jan. 28. There are two races being considered for his sophomore bow. The Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn on Feb. 24 is first preference due to the 1 1/16 miles distance. The Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 17 is the other possibility but that race is at 1 1/8 miles and Cox would rather run his charge at 1 1/16 miles in his first start after a layoff.  

5 – Track Phantom (Quality Road – Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief) – Trainer: Steve Asmussen –  Last Ranking (7)

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

6 – Dornoch (Good Magic – Puca, by Big Brown) – Trainer: Danny Gargan – Last Ranking (12)

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 (unranked)

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 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 (unranked)

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. Shug is in no rush to jump on the Derby trail. He would like to find an entry level allowance spot next month.   

9 – Nash (Medaglia d’Oro – Sara Louise, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: Brad Cox –  Last Ranking (4)

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). 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: He was part of the exacta in all four starts, and exits back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Bob Hope (G3) and Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). He had every chance to get past Wynstock as my top choice in the latter race but failed to get the job done. Phil D’Amato’s colt has some ability but I am concerned about his overall stamina. He has worked five times at Santa Anita this year, most recently logging 5f in 59.20 (3/64) on Jan. 28. He is nominated to the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita on Feb. 3.  

11 – Resilience (Into Mischief – Meadowsweet, by Smart Strike) – Trainer: Bill Mott – Last Ranking (15)

Comments: This one is steady improving for Bill Mott. He was unplaced in his flat mile bow at the Spa last summer (Locked 1st). He landed the place behind Stronghold in a one-turn mile second time out, and he rallied for the show behind romping winner Nash in his final juvenile start. He was the favorite in a dirt route at Gulfstream on Jan. 1, and he stalked and kicked away to graduate by 4 1/4 lengths as the favorite. The Into Mischief colt will make his stakes debut in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17.  

Next Nine – (12) Catching Freedom, (13) Change of Command, (14) Snead, (15) Otello, (16) Speak Easy, (17) Victory Avenue, (18) Big City, (19) Lightline, (20) The Wine Steward