As of Monday, we are 180 days until the running of the 150th Kentucky Derby, and the first significant prep race for next year’s Run for the Roses took place over the weekend.
Fierceness, a 16-1 shot trained by Todd Pletcher, won Friday’s FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita by six-and-a-quarter lengths. Ridden by John Velazquez, Fierceness was right on the heels of early leader General Partner before taking over in the final turn and pulling away to an impressive win.
It was just the third career start for the 2-year-old colt. Fierceness romped to an 11-and-a-quarter length win in the mud at Saratoga in his debut on Aug. 25. However, a month ago as the heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Aqueduct, he lumbered in the slop, finishing seventh out of eight entrants. Still, Pletcher and owner Mike Repole decided to proceed with the Breeders’ Cup race.
“Look, not everyone would do that,” said Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner, after Friday’s race. “We talked about it. We covered every base after the Champagne. The horse trained awesome all summer. He was a monster since his debut. We took a shot today, and it worked out. He had a beautiful trip, and he showed what he is all about.”
Fierceness Connections Have Been Here Before
Despite the win, Fierceness now finds himself running against history. In the 40 years since the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race, only two of those winners have won the Kentucky Derby six months later. Street Sense was the first to do it, winning the 2007 Derby for trainer Carl Nafzger, and Nyquist copied the feat with the 2016 Derby.
He’s even racing against history in Repole’s stable. The New York-based owner, along with Pletcher and Velazquez, won the Juvenile with Uncle Mo in 2010 and Forte last year. A stomach illness the day before the Derby sidelined Uncle Mo, and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarians had concerns about a bruised right front foot on Forte, leading him to be a controversial scratch the morning of this year’s race.
“They will all tell you to start thinking about the Derby…. I’m not going to think about the Derby with this race,” Repole said.
Pletcher said Fierceness will be shipped to Churchill Downs with some of his other horses and then head to Florida to prepare for his 3-year-old campaign.
Another Pletcher Horse Favored In First Derby Futures Pool
Leading up to Friday’s Juvenile, Churchill Downs offered its first round of pari-mutuel futures wagering on the 2024 Kentucky Derby. The offering included 38 horses, along with field entries for all 3-year-old fillies and all other 3-year-old colts and geldings, with wagering open from last Tuesday to last Thursday. Of the entries, Locked, another Pletcher horse who was the favorite in Friday’s Juvenile and finished third, ended the pool as the 14-1 top choice, taking nearly $7,097 of the $132,033 handle. Dornoch, who did not run in the Juvenile, was the second choice at 19-1. Timberlake, who finished fourth Friday, was the third choice at 29-1, and Fierceness had the fourth-highest handle among individual entries, finishing the pool at 29-1.
Most Kentucky sports betting participants picked the field for other colts and geldings, which will pay off at 4-5 if it’s correct.
The Road To The Kentucky Derby will heat up after the beginning of next year with a series of key prep races designed to produce the field for the May 4 milestone Derby. BetKentucky.com will keep you updated on all the major developments leading up to the Run for the Roses.