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Road to Kentucky Derby Starts with 4 Prep Races

Several hopefuls hit the road to the Kentucky Derby – except those trained by Bob Baffert – through prep races on Saturday in Florida, California, Arkansas and New York. Fierceness, the favorite in the 2024 Kentucky Derby odds, headlines the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.

The belief that “every owner’s dream is to win the Kentucky Derby” is debunked in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn after a group of owners decided to stay with Baffert rather than Run for The Roses. The Withers Stakes at Aqueduct completes the quartet of preps as Derby dreams develop – for those eligible.

Road to Kentucky Derby Starts with 4 Prep Races
US-Venezuelan Jockey Javier Castellano on Mage | Leandro Lozada / AFP


Baffert’s Owners Support Disgraced Trainer

Baffert has dominated the non-racing Kentucky Derby news since he was suspended for administering an illegal drug to Medina Spirit, who crossed the wire first in the 2021 Derby but was subsequently disqualified. Baffert announced on Jan. 23 that he would drop his appeal, but he still won’t be eligible to enter horses in the Derby until 2025.

Owners such as Amr Zedan and SF Racing ignored the Jan. 29 deadline to transfer their Derby hopefuls out of the Baffert barn, forfeiting the eligibility of those horses. Zedan owned Medina Spirit, while SF Racing won the 2023 Preakness with National Treasure, trained by Baffert.


Saturday’s Preps

  • The Withers will be run at 1⅛ miles, the Holy Bull and Southwest at 1 1/16 and the Robert B. Lewis at one mile. Each race offers a total of 42 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers with the winner receiving 20.


HOLY BULL STAKES, Gulfstream, Race 12, Post Time 5:38 p.m. ET

  • Mage took the Florida route in winning the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Two-year-old champion Fierceness tries to do the same, starting in the Holy Bull Stakes. The City of Light colt is the 3-5 morning-line favorite at the BetUS racebook. Fierceness, last seen winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 3, gives away recency to those who ran in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 1, but lays over this field. Otello, the Mucho Macho Man winner, could spring the upset and offer value in the horse racing odds – especially in horizontal bets – if Fierceness doesn’t come back running.


ROBERT B. LEWIS, Santa Anita, Race 5, Post Time 5:15 ET

  • Nysos is a stickout for Baffert. Coming soon: Preakness future odds. Baffert also sends out Wine Me Up and Coach Prime, who appear in the shadow of their stablemate.


SOUTHWEST STAKES, Oaklawn, Race 11, Post Time 5:50 p.m. ET

  • Wynstock, the 4-1 second choice in the Las Vegas odds, is trained by Baffert for owners Edward Allred and Jack Liebau. Rain is in the forecast, so a wet track could make the frontrunners even tougher. Wynstock has early foot as does 3-1 ML favorite Maycocks Bay. If the race falls apart, Liberal Arts could mow them down.


WITHERS, Aqueduct, Race 9, Post Time 3:55 ET

  • No sign of Baffert here, but 20 Kentucky Derby points could go to a horse previously trained by the embattled conditioner. Mission Beach, who joined the Brittany Russell barn late last year, is among the contenders in a wide-open race.



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 early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby?

Fierceness is the early favorite to win the 2024 Kentucky Derby at the BetUS racebook.

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