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Posted 2024-02-03 07:13:49  
Is Fierceness The Current Horse To Beat In The Kentucky Derby?

Excitement levels are rising ahead of the opening Triple Crown race of the season in 2024, as there are just over three months to go before the world’s best horses aged three compete on the dirt at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby.

The betting for the prestigious race has been open since the end of last year, and there is yet to be a considerable shake up in the market at this early stage. Therefore, would it be easy to presume that Fierceness could be the contender to beat at this very early stage of the Triple Crown season?

Hugely Promising

The Todd Pletcher yard is likely full with potential runners in the Derby this year, but few have been as impressive at this stage as Fierceness. He made a pleasing start to his life on track at Saratoga in late August, landing a dominant win by over eleven lengths from Air of Defiance over six furlongs.

However, it hasn’t always been that easy for the Derby contender, as he was firmly put on his place at Belmont at the Big A in early October when finishing 20 lengths behind Timberlake in the G1 Champagne Stakes.

But, it would be fair to assess that things didn’t go to plan that day, and that was evident when he returned to action at Santa Anita at the start of November in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Dominant Juvenile Success

The Juvenile at the Breeders’ Cup was one of the hottest renewals of the race in recent memory, with no shortage of contenders in with a chance at Santa Anita. However, Fierceness stamped his authority on the two-year-old division with a stunning display in California, keeping on strongly to beat Bob Baffert’s Muth by over six lengths.

The manner in which he stylishly moved clear of the field on that day highlights his clear ability, and his Derby chances draw similarities to those of Forte, who landed success in the same race just 12 months earlier. But, the Juvenile hasn’t been the best Derby prep throughout recent history, with just two winners of both races since 1984.

Big Return To Action Expected

Excitement levels will be high this weekend, as Fierceness will make his return to action for the first time this season. The Pletcher runner will be heavily favoured in the betting to start his three-year-old season with a dominant victory in the G3 Holy Bull, which could put a significant marker down ahead of his run to the Derby this year.

Connections have already teased that his next stop after the race this weekend could come in the G1 Florida Derby. The Holy Bull has been a successful race in terms of producing Derby winners, with Go For Gin and Barbaro among the victors to have claimed victory in both. Fierceness could be a very short selection in the betting to continue that sequence if landing victory at Gulfstream Park this weekend.

Track Phantom Among Likely Dangers

We are only just into the major preps getting underway, but a significant marker has already been put down by Steven Asmussen’s Track Phantom.

You can check the full calendar of the Derby prep races here: twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/road-to-the-derby/

The three-year-old was excellent when stepping into graded company for the first time at Fair Grounds in late January, beating the progressive Nash by nearly three lengths over an extended mile.

He travelled like the winner throughout that race, and the victory now means that his winning sequence has been extended to three. Asmussen is still chasing his first win in the Derby, and he could have a very lively contender in the form of Track Phantom this year.

Timberlake May Bounce Back

The betting at the moment has Timberlake at a massive price, despite having landed a dominant victory over Fierceness in the G1 Champagne Stakes last year. This runner’s season came apart slightly at the Breeders’ Cup, as the race wasn’t run to suit his style. However, he still finished an impressive fourth despite everything going against him.

There will be no room for error when he returns to the track in late February, with connections teasing that we could see him next in the G2 Rebel Stakes. He retains plenty of ability, and there would be little surprise to see him put down a significant marker to make him a leading contender for the Derby.

Locked Another Contender For Pletcher

Pletcher has no shortage of Derby hopefuls, and one that will certainly come on following a defeat in the Juvenile is Locked. This runner was sent off a very short favourite at Santa Anita , but he finished over six lengths behind Fierceness in the Juvenile.

His form before that effort was solid, including a dominant victory of Drum Roll Please in a maiden special weight. That form reads very well at this stage, and he could be one to consider should he line up in the G3 Sam F Davis Stakes in early February.
 

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