Kentucky Derby About Set; Fierceness, Sierra Leone Top Two

We’re oh-so-close to a total field of 20 3-year-olds for the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 4.

Following a huge weekend of major Derby preps, with one minor – but important – one remaining in the Lexington Stakes (G3) on Saturday (April 13), we’re pretty sure Fierceness and Sierra Leone will be the favorites in the Run for the Roses.

The 1¼-mile Derby is limited to 20 starters based on qualifying points, and a handful of horses punched their tickets to Louisville on Saturday (April 6).

Wood: Resilience, Society Man in

In the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, Resilience and Society Man ran 1-2, picking up 100 and 50 qualifying points, respectively, to move into the top 20. Resilience, trained by Bill Mott, is fifth on the leaderboard with 110 points; Society Man is 17th with 50 points.

Blue Grass: Sierra Leone, Just a Touch, Dornoch Derby bound

In the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1), Sierra Leone (155 points) moved to No. 1 on the leaderboard with a victory to go with a win in the Risen Star (G2). Just a Touch was second to move to 75 points and No. 9 on the leaderboard; Dornoch, already with 60 points, picked up 15 for fourth and ranks No. 8 on the leaderboard.

Santa Anita Derby: Stronghold gives D’Amato a Derby chance

In the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1), Stronghold vaulted into the Derby picture with a victory to gain 100 points and move No. 4 on the leaderboard with 125 points.

For all that took place over the weekend, Fierceness, the Florida Derby (G1) winner in recording-setting fashion (13 ½ lengths!), is the presumptive Derby favorite for two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher. Sierra Leone, a $2.5 million purchase, should give Chad Brown his strongest chance yet to win his first Derby.

Jeff Ruby Steaks winner re-routed to Derby

Endlessly, winner of the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) and No. 7 on the leaderboard with 100 points, is now being pointed to the Derby after trainer Michael McCarthy had said he would bypass the race to keep his colt on the turf.

Stronghold in great shape

“He came out of the race in great shape,” trainer Phil D’Amato said the day after Stronghold outdueled Imagination for a neck victory that moved him into the Derby field.

It was the first Santa Anita Derby win for D’Amato and Italian jockey Antonio Fresu.

“It’s very special,” D’Amato said. “Especially to win with a horse I think is one of the top contenders (for the Kentucky Derby).” Stronghold also won the Sunland Park Derby (G3) on Feb. 18.

The son of Ghostzapper is 3-3-0 in six starts.

“Stronghold is a horse that just continues to improve, and I think it’s the further the better with him,” D’Amato said.

Wood winner Resilience Louisville bound sooner than later

Fourth in the Risen Star (G2), the colt was fitted with blinkers in the Wood, and he came through with a 2 ¼-length victory to qualify for Derby.

Leana WIllaford, Mott’s New York-based assistant, said: “We’re very happy and we were hoping for Resilience’s performance. He’ll make his way over to Churchill sooner rather than later.”

Gargan has two Derby contenders: Dornoch, Society Man

Trainer Danny Gargan can only be happier if one of his two horses can pull off a Derby victory.

Society Man ran second in the Wood Memorial to claim his Derby spry, joining stablemate Dornoch, the Gotham (G2) winner who ran fourth in the Blue Grass.

“Everybody is good, cooled out good, and no complaints today,” Gargan said. As for the Derby, he said: We’ll enjoy the Derby and hopefully he can lay up close and run big. We think we’ll bring a tougher, fitter horse who’s learned a lot to the Derby.”

Hades to make last-ditch Derby pitch in Lexington Stakes

With 30 Derby points and No. 24 on the leaderboard, Hades is set to run in the Lexington (G3) on Saturday at Keeneland – the race offers 20-10-6-4-2 qualifying points to the top five finishers. The 3-year-old gelding would need to win or run second for a chance to make the Derby field. He defeated Fierceness in the Holy Bull (G3).

“We’re going all out to get into the Derby,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “If he wins, he’s in.”

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