150th KENTUCKY DERBY: Derby Top 10 Contenders

In the runup to the 150th Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 4, usracing.com continues with our Derby Top 10 contenders. Rankings will be updated periodically as Derby preps with qualifying points are contested.

Sierra Leone

Cool, comfortable, and closing with authority for a victory in the Risen Star (G2), Sierra Leone established himself as a top contender on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The win over a sloppy, sealed track at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 17 catapulted the 3-year-old Gun Runner colt into the usracing.com Derby Top 10 for the first time at No. 3.

 Sierra Leone Soars to No. 3 in Derby Top 10 Contenders

Sierra Leone, purchased for $2.3 million, may just be the right horse to give high-profile trainer Chad Brown and jockey Tyler Gaffalione their first Derby win on May 4.

“Given the track conditions and slow pace and that he hasn’t run since the Remsen (Dec. 2), I thought he showed a lot to run down a pretty good horse (Track Phantom) who was in form and fit and didn’t have to ship. This proved a lot to me.”

Gaffalione had nothing but praise for Sierra Leone.

“The blinkers really helped (Sierra Leone) focus today … When he took the lead in the stretch, I could feel beneath me he is only going to want to go longer after this. He is an incredible horse … You always keep dreaming of the big races like the Derby and horses like this help you keep the dream alive.”

Kentucky Derby Top 10 Contenders


1 Locked (Todd Pletcher, Jose Ortiz)

Back on the work tab, and ready for his delayed-by-a-fever 3-year-old debut … Worked 4 furlongs in 49.48 at Palm Beach Downs on Feb. 16 (with Jose Ortiz aboard), first workout since Jan. 26 … Broke maiden at second asking by 7 1 /4 lengths; then won Breeders’ Futurity and ran third in the BC Juvenile on Nov. 3 in most recent race … Missed Sam F. Davis on Feb. 10 with slight fever … Next start: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park, March 2 …  No. 10 on Derby points leaderboard (19) … Derby future wager odds (pool 4): 16-1.

2 Dornoch (Danny Gargan, Luis Saez)

Nosed out Sierra Leone in Remsen (Dec. 2) … Working well at Palm Meadows, most recently going 4 furlongs in 48.80 o Feb. 12, second fastest of 33 at distance … Full brother to 2023 Derby winner Mage … Next start: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park, March 2 … No. 20 on Derby points leaderboard (10) … Derby future wager odds: 9-1.

3 Sierra Leone (Chad Brown, Tyler Gaffalione)

Rally to remember in Risen Star to beat strong field of Derby prospects … Addition of blinkers worked … Of 346 3-year-olds nominated to Triple Crown, colt was most expensive auction purchase at $2.3 million … Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, Brooke Smith and Peter Brant … Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland, April 6 … No. 1 on Derby points leaderboard (55) … Derby future wager odds: 6-1.

 4 Fierceness (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez)

Win, seventh, big win, third place … What to make of this colt will be decided with one more prep … Champion 2-year-old ran third in Holy Bull, and remains mystery but BC Juvenile win, top trainer and jockey keep him in top 10 … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park, March 30 … No. 3 on Derby points leaderboard (36) … Derby future wager odds: 16-1.

5 Track Phantom (Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario)

Nearly held off Sierra Leone in Risen Star, losing by a half-length in the slop … Son of Quality Road won Gun Runner and Lecomte before narrow defeat …  1 ¼ miles in Derby might be asking too much, but Asmussen trainee has been consistent every race … Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, March 23 … No. 2 on Derby points leaderboard (55) … Derby future wager odds: 20-1.


6 Timberlake (Brad Cox, John Velazquez)

Another talented 2-year-old ready for 3-year-old debut following fifth workout at the Fair Grounds … Worked 5 furlongs 1:00.20 on Feb. 16 … Won Champagne and ran fourth in BC Classic … Cox: “He got a good blow out and he’s set up for a big run.” … Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn Park, Feb. 24 … No. 13 on Derby points leaderboard (16) … Derby future wager odds: 15-1.

7 Tuscan Sky (Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez)

Moves into contention after defeating two-time stakes placed Nash in 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17 … Now 2-for-2 and Derby preps seem inevitable … Owned by Spendthrift Farm, purchased for $200,000 … Son Vino Rosso-South Andros, by Sky Mesa … Next start: TBD … Derby qualifying points (0) … Derby future wager: 31-1.

8 Catching Freedom (Brad Cox, Cristian Torres)

Smarty Jones winner closed with a rush to gain third in Risen Star, picking up 15 Derby qualifying points to stay in contention … Next start: TBD … No. 5 on Derby points leaderboard (25) … Derby future wager odds: 31-1.


9 Hades (Joe Orseno, Paco Lopez)

Winner over Fierceness in Holy Bull has given connections Derby fever … Nominated to Fountain of Youth, but could opt for Florida Derby … Gelding is 3-for-3 … worked 4 furlongs in 48.41 at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 17 …  Next start: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park, March 2 … No. 7 on Derby points leaderboard (20 points) … Derby future wager odds: 32-1.

10 Mystik Dan (Ken McPeek, Brian Hernandez, Jr.)

11-1 winner in Southwest – by eight lengths – over muddy Oaklawn track on Feb. 3 … McPeek has Derby win in sights with this bay colt … Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, March 30 … No. 6 on Derby points leaderboard (21) … Derby future wager odds: 21-1.

Derby bubble: Just Steel, Stronghold, Uncle Heavy.


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