2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders: JUST A TOUCH

The 150thKentucky Derby (G1) is Saturday, May 4, at Churchill Downs, offering a record $5 million purse. The field is limited to 20 starters based on Derby qualifying points from dozens of prep races.


Just A Touch – Hodges Photo

Unraced as a 2-year-old, and with three races this year, Just a Touch is on a path similar to his sire — 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.

Unlike Justify, who won his first three races by a combined 19 lengths, including the Santa Anita Derby, Just a Touch is 1-for-3 with a maiden win followed by a pair of runner-up finishes in the Gotham Stakes and the Blue Grass Stakes.

Since 1937, Justify and 2023 winner Mage have been the only horses to win the Kentucky Derby without a race as a 2-year-old. Before that, Apollo in 1882 was the only one.

Nonetheless, trainer Brad Cox is feeling fine about the situation.

“It actually gives me confidence that he has another step forward left,” Cox said recently. “He’s going to have to get better in the next four weeks, and oftentimes these colts can do that.”

And oftentimes not.

Purchased for $300,000 at the Ocala breeders’ spring sale for 2-year-olds, Just a Touch won in his debut at the Fair Grounds by 4 ½ lengths on Jan. 27.

He then finished two lengths behind Deterministic in the Gotham Stakes on March 2, and was beaten 1½ lengths by Sierra Leone in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 6 after briefly leading in the stretch.

Since 1900, only four horses have won the Kentucky Derby off three prior races –Regret in 1917, Big Brown in 2008, Justify in 2018, and Mage in 2023.

The upside is he’s in good hands with Cox, who has two other Kentucky Derby horses in Catching Freedom and Encino.

Florent Geroux will be aboard again, and he, too, likes his chances.

“My horse had a good finish to be second. He ran a good race and against really good horses, maybe the Derby favorite (Sierra Leone),’’ Geroux said after the Blue Grass. “But we are in the Derby and he’s a real good horse and I have hope for him. I really think he’s going to blossom and be great.”

2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders Odds and Post Position: Just A Touch

Betting advice: With the “Curse of Apollo’’ broken by Justify and Mage, Just a Touch cannot be eliminated because he didn’t race at 2. A worthwhile play at decent odds.

Post position: 8

Odds: 1o/1

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Qatar Racing, Resolute Racing, Marc Detampel

Career record: 3-1-2-0

Career earnings: $281,700

Most recent race: Blue Grass Stakes, April 6, (2nd)

Top Equibase speed figure: 105

Pedigree: Justify-Touching Beauty, by Tapit

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Cox and Geroux have a Derby victory with Mandaloun (2021), albeit after first-place finisher Medina Spirit was disqualified a week later after testing positive for a race-day medication overage … Just a Touch is one of two sons of Justify set for the Derby; the other is Arkansas Derby runner-up Just Steel.


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