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What: Kentucky Derby (G1)

When: Saturday, May 3, 2025

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY

Why: The Kentucky Derby is known as the "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" and kicks off the American Triple Crown of horse racing

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History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually on the First Saturday in May in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs. The race is known as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" due to its running time, and it is the first leg of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It is also one of the most popular horse races in the world and attracts millions of viewers each year.

The Kentucky Derby was first run in 1875 and has since become a cultural icon in the United States. The race is steeped in history and tradition, with iconic elements such as the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home," the garland of roses presented to the winning horse, and the elaborate fashion worn by spectators.

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To get you ready for the Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 4, NYRA Bets handicapper Matthew DeSantis provides his Top 20 list less than a month out to help you get acquainted with the top names to consider. Looking for his Derby Picks? Catch our Must Bet Race of the Week!

How are they ranked? My rankings are based on a combination of talent and value. This year’s crop features some horses with extraordinary potential for greatness, but also come with legitimate questions. Overall, I am trying to identify horses that are going to be in top form, follow historical trends regarding the “type” of horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, and will be providing you with good betting value when the windows open.

  1. Horse: Catching Freedom
    Sire: Constitution
    Trainer: Brad Cox
    Analysis: Few lists will have this Brad Cox trainee as their top contender, but for me he has shown consistency, the ability to overcome obstacles, and should provide good potential value on Kentucky Derby Day. The winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2) is hardly a flash in the pan having broken his maiden last year at Churchill Downs, which is always a huge plus in terms of owning a win over the track. He won the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park before finishing third in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds over a sloppy track, which was a race that produced the eventual Wood Memorial (G2), Blue Grass Stakes (G1), and Louisiana Derby (G2) winners. His effort in the Louisiana Derby (G2) was particularly noteworthy because he dropped back to last early before moving wide and sweeping by the entire field while running well out in the middle of the track. The last two Kentucky Derby winners (Mage and Rich Strike) both closed from more than 13 lengths back after the ½ mile mark of the race, so closers have done well in recent years. He has been smartly campaigned, has run against top competition, and never runs a bad race. He is likely to be somewhere between the third and fifth betting choice, which provides better value. Cox has an official Kentucky Derby win with Mandaloun and ran third in the race last year with Angel of Empire.
  2. Horse: Sierra Leone
    Sire: Gun Runner
    Trainer: Chad Brown
    Analysis: Everything I mentioned about Catching Freedom could be applied doubly for this incredibly stunning son of Gun Runner. He is 3-4 winning in his brief, but decorated, career and already owns victories in the Risen Star (G2) and Blue Grass Stakes (G1). His only blemish was in his second career start when he was running against the track bias at Aqueduct when finishing second in the Remsen (G2). He showed some immaturity in that effort as he seemed to let up ever so slightly after he got by his rival, Dornoch, who was able to rally past him at the wire. In the Risen Star (G2) he showed that he could close from the back behind a modest pace and in the Blue Grass (G1) he showed that he can handle a fast track without any moisture. So why isn’t he my #1 contender? Price. Due to his smashing victory last weekend at Keeneland he is likely to be the first or second choice on the board but possesses even more of a deep closing style than Catching Freedom. If I am going to take a swing on a closer, I at least want decent odds, but I will not get it with this Chad Brown trainee. Brown has won the Preakness (G1), but has yet to win a Kentucky Derby, though he has had a second (Good Magic) and a third (Zandon) in the Run for the Roses.
  3. Horse: Just a Touch
    Sire: Justify
    Trainer: Brad Cox
    Analysis: The runner-up to Sierra Leone in the Blue Grass (G1) might seem too high on my list for a horse that only has one career victory until you remember each of the last two Kentucky Derby winners (Mage and Rich Strike) also only possessed one win before taking the biggest race of their careers. The son of Justify reminds me more of Mage in that he is a lightly raced horse (three starts) but has been highly productive while coming up short in his two career graded stakes efforts. The Brad Cox-trained horse broke his maiden at Fair Grounds before being immediately thrown into the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on a miserable day of weather over a sloppy sealed track. Despite the conditions and his lack of experience, he finished second and showed the ability to handle more ground. Last time out in the Blue Grass (G1) he arguably ran a better race than the eventual winner since he was pressing a very strong pace and was able to take over the lead before Sierra Leone took advantage of the pace and came storming by to win. In some ways, that effort resembled the 2023 Florida Derby (G1) where Mage had gotten to the front before eventual winner, Forte, came charging from the back just in time to win. Just a Touch has every reason to continue to develop entering what will only be his fourth career race while providing outstanding value as a horse that will likely be an even bigger price than Catching Freedom.
  4. Horse: Fierceness
    Sire: City of Light
    Trainer: Todd Pletcher
    Analysis: Some might quibble with this designation, but I believe there is little debate that at this point in their respective careers, Fierceness has the highest ceiling of any horse running in the 2024 Kentucky Derby. At his best, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) winner is simply astonishing at how easily he can dispatch competition. The problem, which is why he is ranked #4, is that he does not always do that every race. In five career efforts he has turned in three spectacular performances and two disappointing headscratchers. He dazzled in debut at Saratoga before lunging at the start and finishing a distant sixth in the Champagne (G1). He followed that up by blowing out the best juveniles in the country with a 6+ length victory over a field that included the eventual Rebel Stakes (G2) winner (Timberlake) and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner (Muth). His heavily hyped 2024 debut at the Holy Bull (G3) was supposed to be a walkover, but he got sandwiched at the break and had to travel wide the entire trip while pressing slow fractions and still came up empty turning for home. Last time out in the Florida Derby (G1) he broke like a rocket under jockey John Velazquez and turned the race into a personal workout as he blew away the field by 13+ lengths while never being asked. In recent memory, the Florida Derby had been a highly productive final prep race for the Kentucky Derby and few trainers have gotten more horses to the Run for the Roses than Todd Pletcher. However, Fierceness is a horse that represents a high variability of outcome. The Kentucky Derby is not kind to horses that need a perfect trip. When 20 three-year-old thoroughbreds go barreling out of the starting gate and making a mad sprint to the first turn, crazy things can happen. To this point in his career, Fierceness has never shown he can adapt if his first plan (go to the front) is not available to him. Due to his visually stunning victories, he will likely be the first or second choice on the board but will be dependent on post position and getting the ideal trip. Those are a lot of “ifs” for a horse that will take a significant amount of money.
  5. Horse: Honor Marie
    Sire: Honor Code
    Trainer: Whit Beckman
    Analysis: The runner-up of the Louisiana Derby (G2) has been a consistent performer who owns a Grade 2 victory and has shown steady improvement in his two races in 2024. The son of Honor Code broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in September 2023 before eventually capturing the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at the Twin Spires in November. He is the only horse in the field that can claim two victories over the track where they will run on the first Saturday in May. After a three-month layoff he caught a sloppy track in the Risen Star (G2) while also encountering some traffic trouble. He took a nice step forward last time out finishing behind Catching Freedom while making a very similar run as the winner. Like Catching Freedom and Sierra Leone, he is another closer who will rely on a strong pace. Looking at the projected field, it feels like there is a good chance he will get the ideal setup and it is just a matter of continuing to move forward. Whit Beckman might not be a household name as a trainer, but he was an assistant for both Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, so it is safe to say that he knows what it takes to get horses ready for big races. Another added benefit is that due to the timing of the Louisiana Derby (March 23) both he and Catching Freedom have already made it to Churchill Downs and have settled into their training regimen while others are still enroute. He will be a very generous price in the range of 15/1 to 20/1 and provides some legitimate upside and familiarity with the track.
  6. Horse: Forever Young (JPN)
    Sire: Real Steel
    Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi
    Analysis: The winner of the UAE Derby (G2) will carry the annual hopes of Japan to win their first Kentucky Derby and while there are reasons to be optimistic, there are also barriers. On the positive side, he is a perfect 5-5 winning and has captured consecutive graded stakes victories in the Middle East after winning his first three career starts in Japan. Watching him run, it is obvious that he is still a work in progress, but there is little doubt about his class, which was perhaps most evident in his race two back. In the Saudi Derby (G3) he broke poorly, had to go six or seven paths wide around the turn and still tracked down the leader, Book ‘em Danno, despite never switching leads. Overcoming adversity is always a positive attribute to see for any horse coming into the Kentucky Derby, even if the adversity might have been self-inflicted. Another positive is that unlike most of the horses listed above, he does not possess either a “need the lead” or deep closing style. He prefers to track close to the pace, which traditionally has been a winning trip in the Kentucky Derby. If he seeks to make history, he has the right trainer on his side as Yoshito Yahagi is the man that brought Japan their first two Breeders’ Cup titles with Marche Lorraine and Loves Only You back in 2022. However, there are two reasons he is not higher on my list. First, no horse has ever made the trip from Dubai and even hit the board in the Kentucky Derby, let alone win it. Second, he wears a special head covering due to the fact he hates taking kickback, which is a huge red flag for a Kentucky Derby horse. Unless he gets the lead, which feels unlikely based upon the way he broke at the Saudi Derby (G3) and the UAE Derby (G2), he is going to have to face kickback over the deep Churchill Downs dirt course. Much like Fierceness, the talent is there, but he will need the ideal trip. There has been increased enthusiasm for Japanese horses in recent years, so expect him to take a significant amount of money and be among the top four choices come post time.
  7. Horse: Stronghold
    Sire: Ghostzapper
    Trainer: Phil D’Amato
    Analysis: The lone California entry in the Kentucky Derby field, the homebred son of Ghostzapper is another horse that could be peaking at the right time. In six career starts he has never finished out of the exacta while owning three victories including the Sunland Park Derby (G3) and the Santa Anita Derby (G1). He was very well campaigned by trainer Phil D’Amato who is best known for his stable of outstanding turf horses in California. D’Amato knew the Kentucky Derby Prep trail in California might be tough with so many Bob Baffert horses running despite them not being eligible to earn points toward the Derby due to Baffert’s continued suspension from Churchill Downs. As a result, D’Amato took this horse on the road and picked up a nice win at Sunland Park before coming back to California and finally turning the tables on Baffert by winning a thrilling stretch duel against Imagination in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). He has the most enviable running style of the group as he does not need the lead, does not close from the clouds, and is perfectly content to sit somewhere between fourth and eighth in a 20-horse field, which is an ideal spot. He needs to get faster, but he has progressed in every race, so expecting another jump in speed figures would not be shocking. It will be interesting to see how much money he takes once betting opens as Californians might flock to bet him as the only West Coast horse in the race, but D’Amato is not a common name on the Derby Trail and many probably believe he is only the third or fourth best horse in California behind several Baffert runners like Maymun and Nysos. Still, I would not sell his chances short. There is a lot to like about this horse.
  8. Horse: Resilience
    Sire: Into Mischief
    Trainer: Bill Mott
    Analysis: The Wood Memorial (G2) winner is looking to overcome recent history as no winner of the race has come back to win the Kentucky Derby since Fusaichi Pegasus did it back in 2000. Resilience has had an interesting road to this spot as it took him five races to break his maiden, but in that time he ran against some of the best horses in this crop, but just seemed to come up on the wrong end of things. He finally broke through with a win at Gulfstream Park and trainer Bill Mott immediately stepped him up to the Risen Star (G2), which was an ambitious placement. He ran fourth, but that effort was enhanced when fellow Risen Star (G2) runners Catching Freedom and Sierra Leone came back to win their next Derby Prep races. Mott added blinkers prior to the Wood Memorial and commented on what a difference it made for him in training, which certainly showed on the track as he cruised to a relatively easy victory under the guidance of jockey John Velazquez. However, he will need a new jockey for the Kentucky Derby as Velazquez is committed to riding Fierceness. Additionally, there is a pedigree question with Resilience as Into Mischief is not known for producing great Classic distance horses. His best offspring typically max out at nine furlongs, so getting the 1 ¼ miles will be a question. Due to recent lack of Wood Memorial success in the Kentucky Derby combined with his slow path to development, he will be overlooked a bit at the betting windows but could still be an interesting horse to use in your deeper vertical wagers like trifectas and superfectas.
  9. Horse: Just Steel
    Sire: Justify
    Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
    Analysis: Perhaps the most synonymous figure with the Kentucky Derby during my youth in the 1980s and 1990s was trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who is fondly referred to as “The Coach.” Lukas, with his Stetson hat and dark sunglasses, has won the Kentucky Derby four times and has a total of 14 Triple Crown victories. Over the last 10 years he has not had as much success, but in this son of Justify he seems to have a horse that just keeps exceeding expectations. He is a typical Lukas horse in that he has been campaigned early and often with 11 career starts, which is by far the most of any top contender. His only two victories were sprinting, though one of those was a stakes race at Churchill Downs, so he is another one who likes the surface. Despite only getting to the winner’s circle twice, he has repeatedly shown the ability to run well against the top competition as he finished second in the Smarty Jones Stakes, Southwest (G3), and the Arkansas Derby (G1). His effort last time out in the Arkansas Derby (G1) was particularly notable as he took a big step forward in terms of his speed figures and showed improved conditioning to handle the distance. I have long believed he would be better at sprinting, but it turns out I might not know as much as The Coach (shocking development, I know). My biggest hesitation with Just Steel is that due to people’s love of Lukas, I expect this horse to probably take more money than he should, which will hurt his overall value. From a race standpoint, he has good tactical speed and should be in the mix early. Jockey Keith Asmussen, the son of North America’s all-time winningest trainer Steve Asmussen, will have his first Kentucky Derby mount.
  10. Horse: Mystik Dan
    Sire: Goldencents
    Trainer: Ken McPeek
    Analysis: The weather forecast is going to be a key variable in the potential success for Mystik Dan. Unlike some horses who bristle at the thought of running over a sloppy track, Mystik Dan appears to relish the slop as evidenced by his dominating win in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Yes, he probably rode a “golden rail” that day as well, but there was no denying that he took to the sloppy conditions that day better than anyone else in the field. If rain is in the forecast for the first Saturday in May, then Mystik Dan needs to be upgraded. However, he is more than just a one-trick pony. He ran well last out over a dry, fast track in the Arkansas Derby (G1) where he finished third behind Just Steel and Muth. He has shown the ability to win a few different ways, having won up front as well as tracking off the pace. Like Catching Freedom and Honor Marie, he also has a win at Churchill Downs as he broke his maiden there last November. He has been slightly inconsistent during his six-race career having turned in a pair of fifth-place efforts, but for a horse that will likely be north of 20/1 come post time, he has shown flashes of great potential and if the track comes up wet on May 4, then he feels like a horse that should appreciate the conditions.
  11. Horse: Domestic Product
    Sire: Practical Joke
    Trainer: Chad Brown
    Analysis: The oft-overlooked Chad Brown runner has not gotten as much shine as his stablemate, Sierra Leone, but that should not distract from his impressive resume. After facing a gauntlet of top horses in debut at Saratoga in a race that featured fellow Kentucky Derby runner Just Steel in addition to Locked and Be You, the son of Practical Joke went on to win his next race during the Belmont at Aqueduct meet. He was ambitiously placed in the Remsen (G2) and hated the sloppy conditions but came back with a strong 2024 campaign with a second in the Holy Bull (G2) and winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). He managed to run well in both races despite encountering glacial paces, which made it difficult for this off-the-pace runner. According to trainer Chad Brown, jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who rode both Domestic Product and Sierra Leone, told him that, “This one is not far behind Sierra Leone.” Brown opted not to run him again after the Tampa Bay Derby and this feels like a horse that will fly under a lot of radars. If there is a horse from the bottom half of my list that I think will move up in my final Kentucky Derby rankings, it is this one.
  12. Horse: Dornoch
    Sire: Good Magic
    Trainer: Danny Gargan
    Analysis: The full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage, Dornoch has dealt with lofty expectations since before his debut at Saratoga last year. For the most part, he has managed to live up to them winning the Remsen (G2) where he battled back to defeat Sierra Leone and then coming back in his 2024 debut to win a scratch-riddled Fountain of Youth (G2). However, last time out in the Blue Grass (G1), he ran fourth behind Sierra Leone and Just a Touch. It was the first time he was not put on the lead and the experiment of whether he would rate effectively off the pace was not a success. Therefore, it leaves trainer Danny Gargan with few choices come Kentucky Derby Day. Dornoch is going to have to send hard from the starting gate and try to get to the lead or very close to it. Considering the last two Kentucky Derby’s featured strong paces in which many of the horses that were sucked up into the early pace faded badly, I do not like his chances to reverse that trend. There are a minimum of three other horses that will try to get the lead and several others that will want to stalk the pace. He would also need to improve his Beyer Speed Figures by probably 10 points to win, which is a tall task under the conditions.
  13. Horse: Track Phantom
    Sire: Quality Road
    Trainer: Steve Asmussen
    Analysis: The son of Quality Road might be a horse that has already run his best race. In a three month stretch he won the Gun Runner Stakes at Oaklawn Park and then took the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds before finishing second to Sierra Leone in the Risen Star (G2). Even after his loss in the Risen Star people were still high on his Kentucky Derby chances, but those seemed to fade after a fourth-place effort in the Louisiana Derby behind Catching Freedom and Honor Marie. There are two primary issues with Track Phantom in this race. First, he has largely run the same Beyer Speed Figure for the last five races. He runs between a high-80 and low-90 figure but has not shown the sort of stepwise improvements we are accustomed to seeing major contenders demonstrate leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Second, like Dornoch, he does his best work on the lead, but was afforded some rather soft fractions in his victories and even his runner-up effort to Sierra Leone. When he was pressed on the lead in the Louisiana Derby (G2) he fatigued late. It is hard to imagine that he will get stronger while running faster fractions and going a longer distance at Churchill Downs, particularly for a horse that has not shown that big leap in his previous races.
  14. Horse: Encino
    Sire: Nyquist
    Trainer: Brad Cox
    Analysis: There is still a question of whether Encino will run in the Kentucky Derby. Going back to 2010, only three winners of the Lexington Stakes (G3) have come back to run three weeks later in the Run for the Roses and the best finish was fifth by My Boy Jack in 2018. It is more commonly a prep for the Preakness (G1) that would allow the horse to run back on five weeks’ rest. However, the son of Nyquist is owned by the powerful Godolphin organization, and they might press Brad Cox to enter this rapidly ascending horse in the Kentucky Derby. On the track, Encino has shown great versatility having won in gate-to-wire fashion as well as coming from off the pace. He has shown significant growth in his four career races and has outstanding pedigree for the Triple Crown as he is sired by a Kentucky Derby winner and is out of a dam by Bernardini, who won the Preakness. If he were to run on the first Saturday in May, he would most assuredly be part of the early pace scenario as he has great natural speed. Overall, I believe he has a bright future, but running back on short rest in the Kentucky Derby could be a tall ask, particularly if he gets burned up on the front end.
  15. Horse: West Saratoga
    Sire: Exaggerator
    Trainer: Larry Demeritte
    Analysis: One of the feel-good stories of the Kentucky Derby, trainer Larry Demeritte runs a small operation but in this son of Exaggerator, he found his first ticket to the Kentucky Derby starting gate. However, the horse is hardly a flash in the pan. He showed significant talent as a two-year-old winning the very first Kentucky Derby Prep race for this year in the 2023 Iroquois (G3) over the dirt at Churchill Downs. He ran a disappointing fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and it appeared that Demeritte might cut him back to sprinting as he brought him back in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs where he was blown out by top three-year-old sprinter Book ‘em Danno. However, then he came back to run third in the Sam F. Davis (G2) before capturing second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). He might not win much, but he has managed to finish in the money in four of his five stakes races. That said, keeping up that trend in the Kentucky Derby will be a tall task as he will be facing a much higher level of competition. While he does possess a nice tracking running style, he would need to get significantly faster from his career-best to have a chance at making an impression. After the Kentucky Derby successes of Rich Strike and Two Phil’s the last two years, people are now looking for horses coming out of the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) to be their longshot selection, but I have a hard time seeing that take place.
  16. Horse: Society Man
    Sire: Good Magic
    Trainer: Danny Gargan
    Analysis: Perhaps the most overlooked horse in the field, Society Man came out of nowhere to finish second in the Wood Memorial (G2) at odds of 106/1. Talk about outrunning your odds. He just broke his maiden in the previous race, but trainer Danny Gargan must have seen something in this son of Good Magic as he entered him in the Withers (G3) when he was still a maiden. He has shown very nice progression these last couple of races and has a mid-pack running style that should be perfectly suited for the Kentucky Derby (G1). We know the Good Magic pedigree is a plus as he shares the same sire as Mage (and stablemate Dornoch) and he has some nice pedigree underneath as well as his dam (You Cheated) was an allowance-level dirt route winner who was sired by Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John. He might very well be 106/1 again come the first Saturday in May, but he feels like a horse that might have started figuring things out after breaking his maiden and is rapidly improving. I am hardly suggesting that he is a win candidate, but for a horse I have ranked in the bottom 25% of the field, he would not shock me if he ran as well as sixth.
  17. Horse: Endlessly
    Sire: Oscar Performance
    Trainer: Michael McCarthy
    Analysis: My ranking of Endlessly has very little to do with his overall talent as I believe he could be one of the best three-year-olds in his crop. The problem is that he is on the wrong surface. The winner of five of six career races, the son of Oscar Performance has only run over the turf or synthetic surfaces. He is coming off a dominant victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) where he breezed by the field with relative ease. Again, people might point to Rich Strike or Two Phil’s as evidence of synthetic-to-dirt success, but those horses were bred for dirt and had previous wins on dirt prior to running in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Endlessly’s sire, Oscar Performance, is one of the more versatile young sires we have in the sport, but the dam’s side of Endlessly’s pedigree points to turf as does everything else in his career. Immediately after the Jeff Ruby Steaks, trainer Michael McCarthy said the horse would not run in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and would instead by pointed to the American Turf Classic (G1) taking place on the Kentucky Derby undercard. This seemed like a logical decision as Endlessly had the potential to assert himself as one of the top three-year-old turf horses in the country. However, it appears the owners of the horse caught “Derby Fever” and want to send their horse to the Run for the Roses. The video of Endlessly working out over the Churchill Downs dirt posted last week was not encouraging as the horse just clearly does not like the surface. I still believe there is a chance the horse bows out of the race and goes to the American Turf Classic, where I believe he would be one of the top choices. Love the horse, just not in this race.
  18. Horse: T O Password (JPN)
    Sire: Copano Ricky (JPN)
    Trainer: Daisuke Takayanagi
    Analysis: Over the last several years we have seen an increase in the quality of Japanese contenders coming over to race in the Kentucky Derby. Obviously, his countryman Forever Young gets a lot more attention after his impressive victories in the Saudi Derby (G3) and the UAE Derby (G2). However, T O Password is a bit of an unknown having only raced twice winning both his maiden and the Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse. The horse possesses very good early speed, and he won the stakes race in gate-to-wire fashion. He will be another significant pace presence if he breaks effectively from the gate, which is something that can plague Japanese horses as the starting gates in the United States are decidedly different than what they are accustomed to in Japan. In the Fukuryu Stakes he displayed great agility as he accelerated out of the turn and went from being up by a head to being up by five lengths. However, as the race concluded he was rapidly losing ground and only won by a nose at the end as the horses from the back of the field were flying late. His running style is not as versatile as Forever Young, and he does not have the foundation like last year’s top Japanese contender Derma Sotogake who finished sixth. Expect him to be part of the pace scenario, but I would imagine he will be backing up as they hit the top of the stretch.
  19. Horse: Grand Mo the First
    Sire: Uncle Mo
    Trainer: Victor Barboza Jr.
    Analysis: While Grand Mo the First is technically on the outside of the current Top 20 ranking for Kentucky Derby points, it feels very likely that Deterministic (ranked 16th) will bow out of the race, which would allow for the son of Uncle Mo to draw into the field. The Victor Barboza Jr. trainee has been a consistent performance but has not won a race since last September against allowance company at Gulfstream Park. He has recorded four straight third place finishes in the Zuma Beach (G3 Turf), Swale Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby (G3), and Florida Derby (G1). The Florida Derby (G1) third-place finish might come with a slight asterisk as he finished over 15 lengths behind Fierceness. He is like West Saratoga in that both possess a nice tracking running style but will need to get significantly faster to be a factor in the race. Interestingly, he has continued his training at Gulfstream Park rather than shipping up to Churchill Downs in the hopes that he draws into the race. It would be a surprise if Grand Mo the First hit the board, but he does seem to always hang around and has the sort of running style that could allow him to get the right trip and upset expectations. I just would not bet on it.
  20. Horse: Catalytic
    Sire: Catalina Cruiser
    Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
    Analysis: Someone has to be 20th and unfortunately it is the son of Catalina Cruiser who bested Grand Mo the First last time out when he finished second in the Florida Derby (G1). He only finished 13 ½ lengths behind Fierceness in that race and perhaps if you squint you could see some similarities to the last two Kentucky Derby winners. Like Mage, Catalytic finished second in the Florida Derby (G1) to the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner from the previous year. Like both Mage and 2022 Kentucky Derby winner, Rich Strike, his only win is a maiden victory. Those are the similarities end. The reason I am less bullish on Catalytic compared to Grand Mo the First is his previous race where he finished second against allowance company. The winner that day was a horse named Classic Joke who came back to run ninth in the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct on the Wood Memorial Day undercard. The field he defeated in his maiden victory back in November 2023 has not produced many impressive winners and he will come into the Kentucky Derby in only his fourth career race. Perhaps he simply needed more ground as his pedigree is absolutely built for going long with Uncle Mo up top and a dam by Distorted Humor underneath. Still, it will be a huge effort for him to finish in the top half of the field based upon his previous form and speed figures.

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