Kentucky Derby Draw: Fierceness 5-2 Favorite in Full Field of 20

Fierceness, the record-setting Florida Derby (G1) winner, was made the slight 5-2 morning-line favorite despite drawing the winless post No. 17 in a full field of 20 3-year-olds for the 150th Kentucky Derby (G1) next Saturday (May 4) at Churchill Downs.

The 2-year-old champion is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner, and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, a three-time Derby winner.

Sierra Leone is second choice at 3-1; all others are 10-1 or higher

Sierra Leone, the Risen Star (G2) and Blue Grass (G1) winner, was the second betting choice at 3-1. The colt trained by Chad Brown — seeking his first Derby win – will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione leaving from post 2.

Catching Freedom, the Louisiana Derby (G2) winner for trainer Brad Cox is the 8-1 third choice – and the rest of the field is 10-1 or higher.

The post-position draw on Saturday night (April 27) did not go well for the two favorites. The No. 17 post has never produced a Derby winner – 0-for-44; the last winner from the No. 2 post (7-for-92) was Affirmed in 1978.

Pletcher was not deterred.

“He needs to break cleanly,’’ Pletcher said of his front-running colt. “And he’s got enough talent to put himself in the right spot.”

He added: “We were kind of hoping for an outside draw. It looks like all the speed is drawn inside of him so it should give Johnny a chance to survey what’s happening.”

Forever Young, the unbeaten UAE Derby (G2) winner, drew post 11 as the colt attempts to give Japan its first Derby win. T O Password, the other entry from Japan, is the only other unbeaten colt (2-for-2) in the field and drew post 10 at 30-1.

Just a Touch, also trained by Cox, is 10-1. The trainer’s third entry, Encino, is 30-1.

West Saratoga, Grand Mo the First, and Society Man are the longest shots at 50-1.

An overflow field of 22 horses was entered, with two also-eligibles – Epic Ride and Mugatu. Epic Ride would be first in with a defection from the field limited to 20 starters.

Churchill Downs underwent a $200 million renovation to the paddock area, including upgrades and additions to a luxury suites, and raised the Derby purse to $5 million, an increase from $3 million, with the winner’s share at $3.1 million.


The No. 5 post has produced the most winners (10), while post 8 and post 10 have each produced nine winners. Last year, Mage won from post 8. Catalytic (30-1), trained by Joseph, drew post 5.

This is the second year in a row the Repole-Pletcher combo has the morning-line favorite. Forte, also a Florida Derby winner, was last year’s early top choice only to be scratched hours before the race with a minor foot issue.

Absent from the field are horses trained by six-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert. He remains banned by Churchill Downs for a third straight year after his 2021 first-place finisher Medina Spirit was disqualified for an overage of a race-day medication.

Baffert would have had at least two Derby contenders in Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Imagination. Both are expected to run in the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico on May 18 in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Fierceness, the 2-year–old champion after his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) win, finished a disappointing third in the Holy Bull (G3) in his 3-year-old debut, but staged a memorable performance in his record-setting 13 ½-length win in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March. 30.

He has been training lights out since, according to Pletcher, and seems primed for another strong race, no matter the post for the 1 ¼-mile Derby.

Last year, the field was reduced to 18 with several scratches for a variety of reasons, including injuries, new safety protocol decisions, and a suspension of Joseph, who had his Derby contender Lord Miles scratched after two other horses he trained were among 12 that died either racing or training in the days leading up to the Derby.

Sierra Leone worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 in company with stablemate Domestic Product on Saturday.

Brown said of Sierra Leone: “He’s super fit and it was just an outstanding work. I’m just trying to get him in there happy and sound. He’s a very rare horse. He’s just everything you want as a trainer.”

The field for the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1), from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:

1 Dornoch (Luis Saez, Danny Gargan), 20-1

2 Sierra Leone (Tyler Gaffalione, Chad Brown), 3-1

3 Mystik Dan (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek), 20-1

4 Catching Freedom (Flavien Prat, Brad Cox), 8-1

5 Catalytic (Jose Ortiz, Saffie Joseph Jr.), 30-1

6 Just Steel (Keith Asmussen, D. Wayne Lukas), 20-1

7 Honor Marie (Ben Curtis, Whit Beckman), 20-1

8 Just a Touch (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox), 10-1

9 Encino (Axel Concepcion, Brad Cox), 20-1

10 T O Password (JPN) (Kazushi Kimura, Daisuke Takayanagi), 30-1

11 Forever Young (JPN) (Ryusei Sakai, Yoshito Yahagi, 10-1

12 Track Phantom (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen), 20-1

13 West Saratoga (Jesus Castanon, Larry Demerritte), 50-1

14 Endlessly (Umberto Rispoli, Michael McCarthy), 30-1

15 Domestic Product (Irad Ortiz Jr., Chad Brown), 30-1

16 Grand Mo the First (Emisael Jaramillo, Victor Barboza Jr.), 50-1

17 Fierceness (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher), 5-2

18 Stronghold (Antonio Fresu, Phil D’Amato), 20-1

19 Resilience (Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott), 20-1

20 Society Man (Frankie Dettori, Danny Gargan), 50-1

Also eligibles: Epic Ride, Mugatu

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