2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders: JUST STEEL

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 Steel

He’s won at Churchill Downs at 6 ½ furlongs as a 2-year-old, and now that Just Steel is taller, heavier, and more mature, he seems well-suited for the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles.

That’s the way D. Wayne Lukas sizes up his colt as the Hall of Fame trainer prepares to send out his 50th starter in his 30th Kentucky Derby.

“When he won the Ed Brown (the 6 ½-furlong race at Churchill), he was 2, just developing,’’ Lukas said. “And he wasn’t quite as tall, heavy, and mature as he is now.

“He actually has the pedigree that will let him get the 1 ¼-mile distance — more so than a lot of other horses in the race.”

Just Steel is a son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. His dam, Irish Lights, won a Grade 1 race in Australia in 2009.

A look at Just Steel’s resume indicates his runner-up finish to Muth in the Arkansas Derby on March 30 was his best race yet.

“His last race was his best, and if I can move him forward and his next one is better, I think we have a chance to have a special horse,’’ Lukas said.


Let’s remember, though, Just Steel has won just twice in 11 starts. He has a maiden win and the Ed Brown win. He’s 0-for-4 as a 3-year-old with three seconds – the Smarty Jones, the Southwest, and the Arkansas Derby, a race in which he was dismissed at 32-1 odds. He finished seventh in the Rebel Stakes.

2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders Odds and Post Position: Just Steel

Betting advice: Can’t see a win but it might be a good idea to play Lukas in your exotics. Will be a sentimental favorite.

Post position: 6

Odds: 20/1

Jockey: Keith Asmussen

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: BC Stables LLC (John Bellinger, Brian Coelho)

Career record: 11-2-4-1

Career earnings: $725,545

Most recent race: Arkansas Derby, March 30, (2nd)

Top Equibase speed figure: 112

Pedigree: Justify-Irish Lights, by Fastnet Rock

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Lukas, at 88, would be the oldest trainer to win the Derby (Art Sherman was 77 when he won with California Chrome in 2014) … Keith Asmussen is the son of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who trains Derby contender Track Phantom … Lukas Derby winners: Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996), Charismatic (1998) … Lukas last saddled a Derby starter in 2018, when Bravazo finished sixth.

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