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May 3, 2024 3:28 pm

150th Kentucky Derby: Preview, Odds, Prediction

sierra leone

Fierceness remains the consensus favorite the day before the historic 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, despite breaking from the 17th post position — the only post yet to yield a Derby winner.

Fierceness is being offered Friday at 9-5 at Twin Spires, ahead of his closest rivals in Sierra Leone (6-1), Forever Young (8-1) and Catching Freedon (9-1).

POST. HORSE (ODDS), JOCKEY
1. Dornoch (15-1), Luis Saez
2. Sierra Leone (6-1), Tyler Gaffalione
3. Mystik Dan (27-1), Brian Hernandez
4. Catching Freedom (9-1), Flavien Prat
5. Catalytic (42-1), Jose Ortiz
6. Just Steel (34-1), Keith Asmussen
7. Honor Marie (16-1), Ben Curtis
8. Just A Touch (17-1), Florent Gerouz
10. T O Password (61-1), Kazushi Kimura
11. Forever Young (8-1), Ryusei Sakai
12. Track Phantom (52-1), Joel Rosario
13. West Saratoga (32-1), Jesus Castanon
14. Endlessly (52-1), Umberto Rispoli
15. Domestic Product (38-1), Irad Ortiz
16. Grand Mo The First (64-1), Emisael Jaramillo
17. Fierceness (9-5), John Velazquez
18. Stronghold (43-1), Antonio Fresu
19. Resilience (28-1), Junior Alvarado
20. Society Man (73-1), Frankie Dettori
21. Epic Ride (63-1), Adam Beschizza
22. Mugatu (87-1), Joseph Talamo

PREDICTION
Long-time owner Mike Repole is favored to get his first Derby win with Fierceness, but the post position is cause for concern. If Sierra Leone is able to handle the long wait from the second post, we like his deep closing speed.

LONGSHOT
Stronghold’s (43-1) odds have lengthened at Twin Spires despite coming off a win in the Santa Anita Derby in which he battled Imagination, who is not in the Derby due to trainer Bob Baffert’s ban. Stronghold pulled away to win by a neck, has finished no worse than second in each of his six career starts and jockey Antonio Fresu will have a close eye on Fierceness from the No. 19 post.

Another to keep an eye on is Just Steel, the son of Justify who is trained by D. Wayne Lucas. Just Steel (34-1) enters Saturday with 11 previous career starts, the most recent of those being a second in the Arkansas Derby in which he nearly tracked down the highly acclaimed Muth.

THE NEWS
Fierceness is the most accomplished of the 3-year-olds that will go to post Saturday, with the homebred son of City of Light coming off a dominating 13 1/2-length win in the Florida Derby in late March.

A winner in three of his five career starts, Fierceness was named Champion 2-year Male of the Year in 2023, based largely upon his 6 1/4-length win in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His lone hiccup this year came in the Holy Bull Stakes in February where he faded to a third-place finish.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velasquez, Fierceness will be the eighth colt to go to post in the Repole Stables silks, whose orange and blue color scheme is a nod to the New York Mets. He would have been the ninth had Forte not been scratched on the morning of last year’s race by Churchill Downs track veterinarians due to a bruised right hoof.

Repole, whose best finish in the Derby to date has been fifth, feels fortunate to be in this position again.

“There’s 20,000 foals born every year, so the Derby favorite was one out of 20,000 and now you come back a year later and are one out of 20,000 again,” he said. “This is like the greatest luck in the world. Maybe it was meant to be.”

A colt with tactical speed, Fierceness may not see his main rival, Sierra Leone, until the deep stretch.

Sierra Leone, who has finished no worse than second in his four career starts, is a deep closer who passed eight of his nine rivals en route to a 1 1/2-length win in the Blue Grass Stakes in his most recent start. Sierra Leone will break well inside of Fierceness from the No. 2 hole — potentially presenting a problem as he will be among the first in the large field to load.

In the Blue Grass, Sierra Leone resisted going into the gate for several minutes. Trainer Chad Brown placed the blame partly on the large crowd at Keeneland that day. With more than 150,000 expected in Louisville on Saturday, three times the Keeneland crowd, Brown added schooling sessions to Sierra Leone’s Derby week prep.

“He’s visited the gate twice this week and did really well,” Brown said.

Catching Freedom, the son of Constitution, boasts a one-length victory in the Louisiana Derby. Catching Freedom is trained by Brad Cox, who on Tuesday scratched Encino from the Derby field, allowing also eligible Epic Ride to draw in.

This year’s Derby field is distinguished by the presence of multiple Japanese-bred colts. Forever Young earned his way into the field after his win in the UAE Derby, while T O Password qualified by accumulating the most points in the four-race Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Both colts are making their North American racing debuts.

–Field Level Media

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