Byron King’s Derby Dozen for March 27

BloodHorse information editor Byron King presents his Derby Dozen with a take a look at his main contenders for the Kentucky Derby Introduced by Woodford Reserve on Could 4.

Final week, Catching Freedom received the Louisiana Derby at Honest Grounds and Endlessly took the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, a pair of races every distributing 200 whole qualifying factors for the 150th Kentucky Derby to the highest 5 finishers. This Saturday, March 30, three extra 200-point preps are on the schedule: the Curlin Florida Derby Introduced by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa at Gulfstream Park, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, and the United Arab Emirates Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Take a look at America’s Finest Racing’s Triple Crown web page to maintain updated with tales and statistics on the Street to the Kentucky Derby.

1. Dornoch 

A rematch of the Dec. 2 Remsen Stakes, when Dornoch defeated Sierra Leone by a nostril at Aqueduct, is about to happen April 6 within the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Moreover the attract of Keeneland’s signature race of the spring, the Blue Grass has the additional advantage of being solely 70 miles down the street from Churchill Downs, the house of the Kentucky Derby. Dornoch, a full brother to 2023 Derby winner Mage, is confirmed over the Keeneland strip, having rolled to a 6 ½-length maiden victory there in his first check past a mile final fall. Victories adopted within the Remsen and by 1 ¾ lengths over a depleted area within the March 2 Coolmore Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

2. Fierceness

Anticipating a return to kind within the March 30 Florida Derby after his disappointing third within the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream. He had excuses for that defeat (layoff, gradual begin, and rushed up), and he has educated lights out since, although he has all the time been a sharp-breezing horse. This colt is sensible when he runs to his potential and will get the suitable journey, as he confirmed in successful the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Introduced by TAA in blazing time final fall. Corridor of Fame coach Todd Pletcher additionally means enterprise within the Florida Derby, yr after yr. Seven instances he has received the race, with six of these victories coming since 2014.

3. Sierra Leone

His victory within the Feb. 17 Risen Star Stakes at Honest Grounds over a sloppy monitor was in an atypical time of 1:52.13 for 1 1/8 miles, although the race gave the impression to be a high-quality Derby prep. The shape from the race was validated when Catching Freedom, third within the Risen Star, triumphed within the March 23 Louisiana Derby. Different high finishers from the Risen Star, runner-up Observe Phantom and fifth-place Honor Marie, additionally ran properly to be respectively fourth and second within the Louisiana Derby. Excited for Sierra Leone’s showdown with Dornoch in Blue Grass. That race ought to give observers a line on who has developed probably the most since. Each have been inexperienced within the Remsen final fall.

4. Endlessly Younger

There may be the potential for a number of Japanese runners on this yr’s first leg of the Triple Crown. T O Password certified for the race through the Japan Street to the Kentucky Derby, and this unbeaten colt – who’s extensively thought to be the very best from the Land of the Rising Solar – can punch his ticket with a top-two end within the Saturday’s UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The Saudi Derby winner can be closely favored in worldwide wagering swimming pools. UAE Derby runners have struggled mightily within the Derby via the years, with not certainly one of its 19 members ending higher than fifth. However it’s perilous to miss Japanese runners on the worldwide stage.

5. Catching Freedom

Having rallied from final to win Saturday’s Louisiana Derby, the longest home prep at 1 3/16 miles, he seems to be properly suited to dealing with the Derby’s basic distance of 1 ¼ miles. Though closers ran 1-2 within the race (with this victorious colt joined by Honor Marie), the half-mile and six-furlong splits for the race have been truly a bit on the gradual aspect. Since Honest Grounds prolonged the Louisiana Derby to 1 3/16 miles in 2020, solely final yr’s race unfolded with slower splits at these calls. It’s a promising signal when a late runner can prevail with out the advantage of a tempo meltdown.

6. Timberlake

The 2023 Champagne Stakes winner, profitable in his unveiling at 3 within the Feb. 24 Insurgent Stakes at Oaklawn Park, returns there for the March 30 Arkansas Derby. He’ll face opposition led by Mystik Dan, Liberal Arts, Time for Fact, and Muth – although the latter is ineligible for the Kentucky Derby. Although Timberlake was visually spectacular in successful the Insurgent, the 2-3-4 finishers didn’t flatter the shape from the race in follow-up begins. Insurgent runner-up Widespread Protection ran fifth within the Louisiana Derby; present finisher Northern Flame was eighth within the Jeff Ruby Steaks; and fourth-place Insurgent runner Woodcourt was sixth there.

7. Mystik Dan

After skipping to victory over a muddy monitor within the Feb. 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, he’s prone to catch a quick monitor in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. Dry situations are forecast main as much as the race. He broke his maiden on a quick monitor in fast time at Churchill Downs within the fall, however his two fast-track routes resulted in a pair of fifths. The Arkansas Derby ought to present solutions to a few of these kind questions. Along with liking the mud, he could have additionally improved within the Southwest as a result of a change in ways. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. introduced him from farther off the tempo, and he responded with a a lot stronger end.

8. Deterministic 

After transport north to win the March 2 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, he returned to Christophe Clement’s winter base at Payson Park in South Florida, the place he labored 5 furlongs March 21 in 1:03.60. His connections are preserving open their choices for the subsequent race for this 2-for-2 colt, with the April 6 Wooden Memorial Stakes Introduced by Resorts World On line casino at Aqueduct being one of many extra enticing choices. His subsequent race, anticipated to come back round two turns, ought to be telling about his distance potential. He finishes like a horse who ought to deal with added floor, although his dam was a turf sprinter.

9. Conquest Warrior 

Corridor of Fame coach Shug McGaughey has taken a affected person method with this colt’s improvement, giving him a confidence-boosting allowance non-obligatory claiming race at Gulfstream after a maiden win there. Now Conquest Warrior ventures into a lot deeper waters in Saturday’s Florida Derby, the place he faces Fierceness and Hades, amongst others. McGaughey received the 2013 Florida Derby with Orb, who would win the Kentucky Derby later that spring. The 1 1/8-mile distance just isn’t a difficulty for this colt, who pulled away down the stretch over the journey final out.

10. Hades

Issues went his manner when he captured the Holy Bull. He was capable of set a snug tempo, and Fierceness was off poorly and racing after a layoff. Nonetheless, observers have to love how he saved discovering extra after being requested on the second flip, when it regarded like Fierceness may blow previous him. Holy Bull runner-up Home Product, whom Hades defeated by two lengths, returned to win the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. This gelding is properly drawn to make the most of his velocity from put up 2 with a brief run to the primary flip within the Florida Derby.

11. Honor Marie 

Having a race behind him when fifth within the Risen Star and catching a quick monitor appeared to make a big distinction within the Louisiana Derby. He completed with vitality to be a high quality second however was merely outkicked by Catching Freedom, who completed a size forward of him. Honor Marie earned a 97 Equibase Velocity Determine, almost matching his high from final fall when he received the Kentucky Jockey Membership Stakes at Churchill Downs with a 98 ESF. That race, together with a maiden victory beneath the Twin Spires, offers him enchantment as a “horse for the course.”

12. Liberal Arts

The fade from Observe Phantom within the Louisiana Derby, his second defeat since stretched out past 1 1/16 miles, leads to his departure from the Dozen and presents a gap for this 2023 Road Sense Stakes winner to affix. (Observe Phantom remains to be pointed to the Derby however doesn’t seem as suited to the 1 ¼-mile distance as others.) As for this colt, he appears able to take a leap ahead within the Arkansas Derby after a comeback third within the Southwest. Nobody was beating a mud-loving Mystik Dan within the Southwest, however this colt caught the attention along with his decided cost to be third. He would have caught runner-up Simply Metal in one other few strides.

Notice: With Churchill Downs Inc.’s continued ban of Bob Baffert from racing at its tracks and of his horses from incomes Kentucky Derby qualifying factors, none of his high 3-year-olds are within the Derby Dozen, together with Arkansas Derby entrant Muth. Search for Baffert within the Triple Crown beginning with the Could 18 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

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