May 25, 2024

Get to know the 2024 Kentucky Derby contenders

The 150th Kentucky Derby trophy features specially jeweled embellishments (Photo by Coady Media)

***Updated after the scratch of Encino; post position draw with morning-line odds

The Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard is now complete, and the top 20 set, pending defections in the build-up to the May 4 Run for the Roses. The field will be drawn during the opening night of racing at Churchill Downs on April 27, exactly one week ahead of the 150th Kentucky Derby (G1).

Topping the list with 155 points is Sierra Leone, arguably the best chance in the Kentucky Derby so far for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown.

Next comes champion Fierceness (136 points), the 5-2 favorite in the final Pool 6 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, who will try to give Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher a third Derby trophy. His Hall of Fame mentor, four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, is back in the picture at the age of 88 with Just Steel.

Brad Cox, who won the 2021 Derby belatedly via disqualification, has three qualifiers in Catching Freedom, Just a Touch, and Encino. April 30 update: Encino has scratched, allowing the also-eligible Epic Ride to draw in.

Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott, likewise a Derby winner via disqualification in 2019, will send out Resilience, a sentimental rooting interest after the recent passing of co-breeder Marty Wygod.

Dornoch will try to emulate brother Mage, the 2023 Derby winner. If he can wear the roses too, their mother, Puca, would become the first mare ever to produce two Derby winners.

A pair of unbeaten colts from Japan hope to score an historic breakthrough for their homeland in Derby 150. Budding superstar Forever Young has impressed in his Mideast ventures, while T O Password arrives by way of the Japan Road.

Here’s the 20-horse Derby field, plus two also-eligibles:

150th Kentucky Derby

Sierra Leone (155 points), post 2, 3-1

After rallying from well off the pace to win the Blue Grass (G1) and Risen Star (G2), the $2.3 million yearling purchase hopes to get the right trip in a bulky field.

Owners: Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, Brook T. Smith & Peter Brant; Trainer: Chad Brown; Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Pedigree: Gun Runner-Heavenly Love, by Malibu Moon

Kentucky Derby Context: Sierra Leone

Fierceness (136 points), post 17, 5-2

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion was back to his brilliant best in a Florida Derby (G1) romp, but the start is make-or-break for the on-pace runner, who hasn’t coped with trouble out of the gate.

Owner: Repole Stable; Trainer: Todd Pletcher; Jockey: John Velazquez

Pedigree: City of Light-Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty

Kentucky Derby Context: Fierceness

Catching Freedom (125 points), post 4, 8-1

Deep closer put it all together in the Louisiana Derby (G2), growing more professional since looking immature in both his Smarty Jones S. score and his Risen Star third.

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables; Trainer: Brad Cox; Jockey: Flavien Prat

Pedigree: Constitution-Catch My Drift, by Pioneerof the Nile

Kentucky Derby Context: Catching Freedom

Stronghold (125 points), post 18, 20-1

Ultra-consistent colt raised his profile with a determined victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), where he upped his game from an easier tally in the Sunland Park Derby (G3).

Owners: Eric & Sharon Waller; Trainer: Phil D’Amato; Jockey: Antonio Fresu

Pedigree: Ghostzapper-Spectator, by Jimmy Creed

Kentucky Derby Context: Stronghold

Resilience (110 points), post 19, 20-1

Sneaky fourth-placer in the Risen Star took a leap forward with the addition of blinkers in the Wood Memorial (G2).

Owners: Emily Bushnell & Ric Waldman; Trainer: Bill Mott; Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Pedigree: Into Mischief-Meadowsweet, by Smart Strike

Kentucky Derby Context: Resilience

Forever Young (100 points), post 11, 10-1

Punching his ticket in the UAE Derby (G2), the undefeated Japanese star must defy the historical trends against international shippers.

Owner: Susumu Fujita; Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi; Jockey: Ryusei Sakai

Pedigree: Real Steel-Forever Darling, by Congrats

Kentucky Derby Context: Forever Young

Endlessly (100 points), post 14, 30-1

Turf/synthetic performer maintained his winning habit in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on the Turfway Park Tapeta, prompting connections to mull a dirt experiment in the Derby instead of reverting to turf.

Owner: Amerman Racing; Trainer: Michael McCarthy; Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

Pedigree: Oscar Performance-Dream Fuhrever, by Langfuhr

Kentucky Derby Context: Endlessly

Dornoch (75 points), post 1, 20-1

Dornoch wins The Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park

Full brother to 2023 Derby winner Mage was a flat fourth when reserved off the pace in the Blue Grass, but figures to return to the aggressive tactics that prevailed in the Remsen (G2) and Fountain of Youth (G2).

Owners: West Paces Racing, R.A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing & Pine Racing Stables; Trainer: Danny Gargan; Jockey: Luis Saez

Pedigree: Good Magic-Puca, by Big Brown

Kentucky Derby Context: Dornoch

Just a Touch (75 points), post 8, 10-1

Runner-up in both the Blue Grass and Gotham (G3) straight off a Jan. 27 debut score, the rapid improver will try to emulate sire Justify by winning the Derby after going unraced at two.

Owners: Qatar Racing, Resolute Racing & Marc Detampel; Trainer: Brad Cox; Jockey: Florent Geroux

Pedigree: Justify-Touching Beauty, by Tapit

Kentucky Derby Context: Just a Touch

Track Phantom (70 points), post 12, 20-1

Track Phantom wins the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds

Front-running Lecomte (G3) and Gun Runner S. winner hasn’t carried his speed farther when second in the Risen Star and fourth in the Louisiana Derby, but hopes that adding blinkers is the answer.

Owners: L and N Racing, Clark Brewster, Jerry Caroom & Breeze Easy; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Joel Rosario

Pedigree: Quality Road-Miss Sunset, by Into Mischief

Kentucky Derby Context: Track Phantom

West Saratoga (67 points), post 13, 50-1

West Saratoga in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs

Winless since the Iroquois (G3) at the beginning of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, hard-trying colt has earned his way in with a runner-up effort in the Jeff Ruby Steaks.

Owner: Harry Veruchi; Trainer: Larry Demeritte; Jockey: Jesus Castanon

Pedigree: Exaggerator-Mo Wicked, by Uncle Mo

Kentucky Derby Context: West Saratoga

Just Steel (65 points), post 6, 20-1

Exiting a second in the Arkansas Derby (G1), battle-tested veteran is coming around at the right time for a legendary horseman.

Owner: BC Stables; Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas; Jockey: Keith Asmussen

Pedigree: Justify-Irish Lights, by Fastnet Rock

Kentucky Derby Context: Just Steel

Honor Marie (65 points), post 7, 20-1

Last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) victor could be cycling up to a peak effort following a useful fifth in the Risen Star and an improving second in the Louisiana Derby.

Owner: Ribble Farms, Michael Eiserman, Earl Silver, Kenneth Fishbein & Dave Fishbein; Trainer: Whit Beckman; Jockey: Ben Curtis

Pedigree: Honor Code-Dame Marie, by Smart Strike

Kentucky Derby Context: Honor Marie

Domestic Product (60 points), post 15, 30-1

Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner is training up to the Kentucky Derby, where he will try to deploy his strong late kick off the 56-day break.

Owner: Klaravich Stables; Trainer: Chad Brown; Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Pedigree: Practical Joke-Goods and Services, by Paynter

Kentucky Derby Context: Domestic Product

Catalytic (50 points), post 5, 30-1

Remote runner-up in the Florida Derby was a 29-1 shot in that stakes and two-turn debut.

Owners: Tami Bobo, Julie Davies & George Isaacs; Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.; Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Pedigree: Catalina Cruiser-One Show Only, by Distorted Humor

Kentucky Derby Context: Catalytic

Society Man (50 points), post 20, 50-1

106-1 longshot in the Wood exceeded expectations to finish second.

Owners: Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, West Paces Racing, GMP Stables & Carl & Yurie Pascarella; Trainer: Danny Gargan; Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Pedigree: Good Magic-You Cheated, by Colonel John

Kentucky Derby Context: Society Man

Mystik Dan (46 points), post 3, 20-1

Troubled third in the Arkansas Derby previously romped in a muddy Southwest (G3).

Owners: Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing & Daniel Hamby III; Trainer: Ken McPeek; Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Pedigree: Goldencents-Ma’am, by Colonel John

Kentucky Derby Context: Mystik Dan

Encino (40 points), post 9 – SCR

Winner of Turfway’s John Battaglia S. successfully switched to dirt in the Lexington (G3) in his last chance for Derby points, if connections decide to take up the challenge.

Owner: Godolphin; Trainer: Brad Cox; Jockey: Axel Concepcion

Pedigree: Nyquist-Glittering Jewel, by Bernardini

Grand Mo the First (40 points), post 16, 50-1

Near-miss third in the Tampa Bay Derby was much farther back when third again in the Florida Derby.

Owner: Granpollo Stables; Trainer: Victor Barboza Jr.; Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo

Pedigree: Uncle Mo-Lilies So Fair, by Giant’s Causeway

T O Password (Japan Road invitee), post 10, 30-1

2-for-2 colt is short on experience, but victory in the final Japan Road scoring event earned him the invitation.

Owner: Tomoya Ozasa; Trainer: Daisuke Takayanagi; Jockey: Kazushi Kimura

Pedigree: Copano Rickey-T O Rachel, by King Kamehameha

Kentucky Derby Context: T O Password

Epic Ride (35 points), 50-1

Blue Grass third had been prominent on the trail at Turfway, romping in the Leonatus S. and finishing second in the Battaglia.

Owner: Welch Racing; Trainer: John Ennis; Jockey: Adam Beschizza

Pedigree: Blame-Pick a Time, by Gio Ponti

Also-eligible

With Epic Ride now in the field, Mugatu is the remaining also-eligible in need of a defection.

Mugatu (14 points), 50-1

Blue Grass fifth, whose best stakes result was a fourth in the John Battaglia, has moved up in the rankings following defections.

Owners: Average Joe Racing Stables & Dan Wells; Trainer: Jeff Engler; Jockey: Joe Talamo

Pedigree: Blofeld-Union Way, by Union Rags