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Road to Kentucky Derby: Dornoch Tries to Follow Mage Footsteps

More Kentucky Derby tickets will likely be punched this weekend when prep races are run from coast-to-coast. Fifty points – enough to earn a spot in the Derby starting gate – go to the winners of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Twenty points go to the winner of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway. Kentucky Derby news is expected to be made with horses such as Dornoch trying to prove if they are good enough to Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May, while Bob Baffert trains Nysos toward the Preakness.


Road to Kentucky Derby: Dornoch Tries to Follow Mage Footsteps
Road to Kentucky Derby: Dornoch Tries to Follow Mage Footsteps

Saturday’s Preps

  1. The Gotham is 1 mile around one turn. The other three races go 1 1/16 miles.
  2. Forty-five points were needed to qualify for the 2023 Kentucky Derby before scratches allowed two with 40 to make the race. Several horses running Saturday have already earned Kentucky Derby qualifying points with Locked, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line in the Fountain of Youth, leading the way with 19.
  3. CNBC and FanDuel TV will televise the Fountain of Youth and Gotham on Saturday. FanDuel TV has the John Battaglia on Saturday and the San Felipe on Sunday.
  4. A fast track is forecast at Gulfstream, but it looks like rain at Aqueduct. The San Felipe was postponed to Sunday because of rain.


FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH STAKES, Saturday, Gulfstream, Race 14, Post Time 6:10 p.m. ET

Dornoch, full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage, makes his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth. Also racing for the first time this year is Locked, trained by Todd Pletcher. Locked won the Grade 1 Kentucky Futurity and was third in the Breeders’ Cup juvenile. Dornoch is the co-second choice at +1200 in the Kentucky Derby odds at BetUS while Locked is +1500.

Pletcher has another horse of interest in Speak Easy, who makes his second career start after posting a 100 Beyer speed figure in winning his debut. Two-time reigning Eclipse Award winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Speak Easy. Victory Avenue, second to Speak Easy by 1¼ lengths, also makes his second start and may be dangerous on the lead at a price if allowed to set modest fractions.

Dornoch, Speak Easy and Victory Avenue are all expected to be part of the pace while Locked would be the biggest beneficiary of a speed duel. Frankie’s Empire is a longshot play if the race falls apart. A trip to the BetUS racebook should include a win bet on Frankie’s Empire because, after all, this is a prep race. See Fierceness in the Holy Bull.


GOTHAM STAKES, Aqueduct, Saturday, Race 10, Post 5:36 p.m. ET

Brad Cox trains four horses in the Gotham Stakes. Lightline could be the best. The $600,000 purchase is saddled with post 11, but possesses enough speed for Ramon Vazquez to gain good position before entering the only turn. Lightline (+800) could be a juicy price in the Las Vegas odds, and an attractive use in all horizontals. An off track shouldn’t be an issue


JOHN BATTAGLIA MEMORIAL STAKES, Saturday, Turfway, Race 6, Post 8:25 p.m. ET

Cox trains three horses in Encino, Gettysburg Address and Fidget. Encino should send hard from post 12 and challenge Epic Ride (+2500 to win the Kentucky Derby), who loves Turfway. Blue Eyed George could pick up the pieces, but must make up four lengths on Epic Ride. The horse racing odds on Blue Eyed George and Gettysburg Address to win will be hard to ignore, and an exacta box involving those two could result in a big ticket.


SAN FELIPE STAKES, Santa Anita, Sunday, Race 6, Post 6 p.m. ET

Baffert trains three of five in the San Felipe Stakes with Nysos 1-5 on the morning line. Baffert is ineligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby, so who can realistically gain qualifying points? Scatify finished 8¼ lengths behind Nysos in the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 3, and can outkick the other Baffert horses to pick up an important 25 points. Nysos, the top 3-year-old in training, is the likely odds-on favorite to win the Preakness Stakes on May 18.





Questions Of The Day


When is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is traditionally run on the first Saturday in May. The 150th Kentucky Derby is scheduled for May 4, 2024, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Who is the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby?

Sierra Leone is +700 at the BetUS racebook to win the Kentucky Derby.

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