2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders: STRONGHOLD

The 150th Kentucky 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.



California-based Stronghold has been to Churchill Downs before, successfully annexing his maiden victory in his second start back in October. Since then, the Kentucky-bred son of Ghostzapper has traveled quite a bit, back to California for a pair of seconds in graded stakes company, New Mexico for his impressive score in the Sunland Derby (G3) and then back to the Golden State for his win in Santa Anita’s premier Derby prep, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) a month ago.

Trainer Phil D’Amato has always been high on this colt and taken great pains to spread his races out and give him ample time to recover, so the short-for-him, one-month break between his last start and the Derby will be a slight switch. Not to worry, making the gate on the first Saturday in May has always been the goal so D’Amato strategically spaced his races for maximum benefit.

Stronghold has his last California work at Santa Anita on Saturday, posting a bullet half-mile 46.60.

“I think the track was a little fast today, but he did it the right way,” D’Amato said. “He was in hand and we gave him a little target to help stretch him out on the gallop out. Antonio was very happy with him.”

“He was cooling out like it was just a trot in the park for him. So far so good.”

Regular jockey Antonio Fresu, who was aboard for the move, said the final time was faster than he expected.

“He did it so easy,” Fresu said. “I was actually expecting about :48 the way he was going. The track was a little fast today. I didn’t ask him for anything.”


2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders Odds and Post Position: Stronghold

Betting advice:  Santa Anita has produced a significant number of Kentucky Derby winners over the years, most recently Authentic in the rescheduled 2020 Derby and Triple Crown winner Justify in 2018 so this one certainly deserves a long look. He has a stalking running style that will be useful sitting behind a hot pace, should one develop. His speed figures seem a bit below some of the other top contenders in here, but he has the pedigree to get the distance and a desired running style. He’s also the oldest in the bunch as a late January foal, the added maturity only a bonus in front of more than 150,000 spectators.

Post Position: 17

Odds: 20/1

Jockey: Antonio Fresu

Trainer: Phil D’Amato

Owners: Eric M. and Sharon Waller

Career record: 6-3-3-0

Career earnings: $827,200

Most recent race: Santa Anita Derby, April 6 (1st)

Top Equibase speed figure: 99

Pedigree: Ghostzapper—Spectator, by Jimmy Creed

Color: Bay

Running Style: stalker

Notes: This will be a first Kentucky Derby for all of this colt’s connections, owner/breeder Eric and Sharon Waller, Phil D’Amato and Antonio Fresu… this will be the colt’s sixth racetrack in his seventh start, his only repeat appearance is at Churchill Downs… D’Amato and the Wallers also partnered with Stronghold’s dam, Spectator, who won the 2017 Sorrento S. (G3) at Del Mar and finished second behind superstar Midnight Bisou in that Year’s Del Mar Debutante (G1)…



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