Happy Derby Day!   

With the Baffert trainees ineligible to run, the Derby would appear to be a two horse race between Sierra Leone and Fierceness. However, in a twenty horse field plenty of things can go awry. The Turf Classic features a Euro vs. American match-up with a Charlie Appleby trainee taking on an uncoupled Chad Brown entry with a strong Shug runner. 

Race 11 The Turf Classic – Grade I 

One Mile and One Furlong on the Turf for Four Year Olds and Upward  

  1. Integration: In the Makers Mark Mile he couldn’t run down Master of the Seas as he was wide on the far turn (100 Beyer). Two back in the Pegasus Turf he was bottled up and couldn’t get into the open to make a clear run (98 Beyer).  Should be able to gain position and save ground from the inside post. Using.
  2. Anglophile: Has run OK in two starts this year including a close up third in the Mac Diarmida (97 Beyer).  Mid-pack runner turns back to nine furlongs after two longer terms attempts – but his best running has come when running long. Lean against.
  3. Cellist: Runs here off a nice win on the synthetic at Turfway Park in the Kentucky Cup Classic (101 Beyer).  That was his first win in almost two years. Two back in the McKnight he pressed the pace and stayed on well enough but did not have a finishing kick. The all-weather might be his preferred surface. Possible piece.
  4. Far Bridge: Has never been off the board in eight career starts and handled elders in optional claiming company in his first start for the Clement barn.  Last year his best performance was in the Belmont Derby (95 Beyer) where he saved ground and tipped out to get the win. Will need to step forward in the second start of the form cycle. Small chance.
  5. Program Trading: Makes his seasonal debut for Chad Brown having last run in December in the Hollywood Derby (94 Beyer) and takes on some serious ones in his first attempt against older stakes runners. The “Other Chad”, minor award possibility.
  6. I’m Very Busy: Promising four year old for Chad Brown earned his first stakes win in the Muniz Memorial (103 Beyer) last month. It was an excellent performance from the thirteen hole as he got to the rail but was expertly handled by Irad to get clear running in the stretch.  That followed a good second in the Pegasus Turf (100 Beyer) where he was coming late but was a stride or two from getting the win. Win candidate.
  7. Webslinger: Hasn’t won in almost a year but there were a couple of recent close calls including a narrow loss in the Hollywood Derby to Program Trading.  Last out in the Muniz Memorial he made up ground in the stretch but was no threat. Two for two over the Churchill turf course. Piece of the pie.
  8. Never Surprised: Has run twice this year after missing all of 2023. Last out in the Appleton he was in a good position turning for home but was one paced going a mile (93 Beyer). Gets additional ground today, but is that what he wants? Should set the pace. Know him early. 
  9. Never Explain: Shug trainee won his seasonal debut in the Tampa Bay Stakes as he was spun four wide turning for home but outsprinted his competition (96 Beyer). Likes to sit in the second flight and then kick on in the stretch. He’ll be running late and his best puts in him in the picture. Underneath in exotics.
  10. Siege Of Boston: Off the pace type has gotten slices of the pie but was unable to get the top prize in two Grade 3 events this year.  Takes on Grade 1 company today. Water is too deep.
  11. Naval Power: 104 Beyer in his first North American start while finishing behind stablemate Master of the Seas in the Makers Mark Mile. Charlie Appleby indicates that this one will prefer today’s nine furlongs. Six for eight in his career with only one poor performance, which was in a race where he bled. Dettori will have to work a trip from the outside but no worries with Frankie in the saddle. All over this one if the 7/2 morning line holds up. The Pick.

Picks 11-6-1-7 


Race 12 The Kentucky Derby – Grade I 

One Mile and a Quarter on the Dirt For Three Year Olds 

  1. Dornoch: He was OK fourth in the Blue Grass (88 Beyer) but had trouble changing leads in the stretch. His Fountain of Youth win was impressive, taking the field the whole way. In the Remsen (91 Beyer) he was passed by Sierra Leone, but battled back from the inside to win. Grinder type. Could fill out a super. 
  2. Sierra Leone: Impressive Chad Brown trainee comes from off the pace and is three for four in his career with his only loss by a nose in the Remsen. Steady improvement in his Beyer figs with a 98 last out in the Blue Grass.  He’s won at three different tracks and can thrive on wet or dry track surfaces.  Breeding and running style indicate that ten furlongs should be right up his alley. Pace should be hot up front and set it up for him. Will need to navigate a big field. The Pick.
  3. Mystik Dan: Best performance came over a muddy sealed track in the Southwest where he got an excellent ride and was a assisted by a rail bias (101 Beyer). Didn’t get the best trip in the Arkansas Derby where he was wide but still picked up the pieces to hit the board. Wet track specialist? Lean against.
  4. Catching Freedom: Came from last to win the Louisiana Derby (97 Beyer). Had a bit of a troubled trip in the Risen Star (87 Beyer) but was a decent third.  Can close or stalk. If he can gain position early he is dangerous as he will be running in the lane. Win candidate.
  5. Catalytic: Saffie Joseph stretched out this colt in the Florida Derby where he was wide and was left chasing a dominate Fierceness.  He ran decently in the lane as he finished a distant second (90 Beyer). This is a lot to ask in a fourth career start. Passing.
  6. Just Steel: At 88 years young D. Wayne Lukas has a Derby starter again. The Dean of American trainers has won this race four times but can he do it again with a horse that hasn’t even won a graded stakes race? If anyone can – it’s Lukas. In the Arkansas Derby Just Steel ran well but couldn’t chase down Muth who got the jump on him (95 Beyer).  Expect this one to be forwardly placed. Outside chance.
  7. Honor Marie: Nice performance to finish second in the Louisiana Derby where he came from well off the pace (97 Beyer). Two back he didn’t show much in the Risen Star (80 Beyer), but that was first off a layoff and it was a sloppy sealed track. Third race of the form cycle. Two wins over the track.  Possible at a price.
  8. Just A Touch: Only has a maiden win but he has strong seconds in both the Gotham and the Blue Grass. In the Blue Grass, this Brad Cox runner pressed the pace and had the lead at eighth pole only for Sierra Leone to run him down (96 Beyer). Should be up close to the pace. Eligible for an improvement in his fourth career start. Dangerous.
  9. Encino: SCRATCHED
  10. T O Password: Qualified via the “Japanese Route” to make this field. He has only raced twice with wins in a maiden race and the Fukurya Stakes. Hard to judge these overseas runners, and this is a lot to take on in his third career start. Passing.
  11. Forever Young: Japanese runner is undefeated in five career starts including a win in the UAE Derby. Randy Moss stated that he estimates the Beyer for UAE Derby win was 101 and that the Saudi Cup win was in a similar range. If he repeats that kind of Beyer then he is right there. A Japanese horse will do it at some point, is this the one? Possible – but I’ll pass.
  12. Track Phantom: Ran in all four Fair Grounds prep races winning both the Gun Runner and the Lecomte from the front end. In the Risen Star he had the lead but couldn’t handle Sierra Leone (94 Beyer). Similarly in the Louisiana Derby (94 Beyer) he got the lead but faded. Does he want longer? Seems more like a miler then a ten furlong horse. Blinkers go ON. Passing.
  13. West Saratoga: Longshot runner won the Iroquois Stakes last September over this track, but hasn’t won since.  He makes the field via a placing in the Jeff Ruby (85 Beyer) on the synthetic and a third in the Sam F. Davis (70 Beyer). Would need to be much faster. Don’t see it.
  14. Endlessly: Has won five of six career starts but three of those wins are on turf and the two others were on the all-weather. This will be his first dirt start. Trainer Mike McCarthy was aiming for a turf stakes race off the most recent Jeff Ruby win – but ownership had different ideas and therefore Endlessly is entered here. Looking elsewhere.
  15. Domestic Product: Last ran two months ago when he narrowly won the Tampa Bay Derby (82 Beyer) with a good stalking trip. Ran a strong second in the Holy Bull where he was inside, then outside, then back inside, then back outside and still got up for second. Irad/ Chad/ Klaravich. Working well in advance of this. I am squinting, but just can’t quite see it.
  16. Grand Mo the First:  Just missed in the Tampa Bay Derby then came back in the Florida Derby and was left chasing Fierceness along with the rest of the field – finishing 3rd but beaten by sixteen lengths.  A step below.
  17. Fierceness: Pletcher trainee crushed the Florida Derby field (110 Beyer). That followed a subpar effort in the Holy Bull where he was flat (84 Beyer). He has been an in and out performer. His two best races lay over the field and being forwardly placed is generally the right place to be in this race. But can he follow up that Florida Derby performance with another top effort today? If he runs his race … he wins, but I don’t trust him especially in a big field where we tend to get chaos at the start and on the first turn. Play against.
  18. Stronghold: Phil D’Amato trainee won the Santa Anita Derby where he stalked the leaders and batted to win by a nose (89 Beyer). Previously won the Sunland Derby with a pace pressing trip (89 Beyer). Hmmm…. I don’t think so.
  19. Resilience: Won the Wood Memorial (90 Beyer) with a great inside out trip where he stalked and then got clear in the stretch. First tried stakes company in the Risen Star where he loomed at the eighth pole but was passed by closers (90 Beyer). Not sure he beat much in the Wood – but it’s Mott. Don’t dismiss.
  20. Society Man: Ran a strong second in the Wood Memorial (87 Beyer) at 106-1 and was game all the way to the wire but couldn’t catch Resilience. Two back he broke his maiden for Danny Gargan going the flat mile. Not fast enough. Passing.
  21. Epic Ride: Drew in with the scratch of Encino. Won the John Battaglia on the Tapeta two back and followed that up with a decent third in the Blue Grass (90 Beyer) in his first dirt race. Will be sent from this outside post. Should be part of the early pace, but would be a big surprise.
  22. Mugatu: Also Eligible. Came from off the pace in the Blue Grass and made some headway to get fifth in his first dirt stakes race (87 Beyer) at 181-1. Has thirteen career starts but only three on the dirt. Not fast enough.

Picks 24-78