Kentucky Derby Preps Betting Previews for 2024

Written by:
Tony Caliente
Published on:

You don’t just saunter into the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. You have to earn your way in with solid performances (and points) in prep races. The last three major “prelims” ahead of Derby 150 at Churchill Downs all go this Saturday afternoon.

Three of horse racing’s marquee venues host the Wood Memorial (Grade II, Aqueduct), Blue Grass (Grade I, Keeneland) and Grade I Santa Anita Derby, respectively. Many of the leading 3-year-olds get one last chance to pad their points and their pocket books before (hopefully) heading to the Derby.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the trio of races four weeks before the 150th Kentucky Derby…


$750,000 Wood Memorial

Named in honor of Eugene Wood, a New York politician and horse-racing enthusiast, this race has been quite the springboard to the Kentucky Derby (11 winners have taken down the Derby). It’s at a mile-and-and-eighth (nine furlongs), with 200 Derby points (100 to winner) on the table.

Leading the overflow field of 13 is Deterministic (Joel Rosario, post No. 4). Already a stakes winner (Gotham) over this oval, he’s the 5-2 (+250) morning-line choice to add the Wood. The son of Liam’s Map, trained by Christophe Clement, has won both of his career races, having broken his maiden at first asking (Saratoga) last summer.

Tuscan Sky (Manny Franco, post No. 9) is a 7-2 (+350) early proposition. This son of Vino Rosso has won both of his career races, including a maiden-breaker here. Trainer Tood Pletcher is a seven-time winner of this race.

Resilience (John Velazquez, post No. 1, 6-1 [+600]) was slow to break his maiden (four starts), but did offer promise with a fourth-place finish in a Fair Grounds stakes, Draw isn’t great with this Bill Mott-trained son of Into Mischief, but is adding blinkers.

El Grande O (Dylan Davis, post No. 2, 8-1 [+800]) has been quite busy (12th start, all in New York). The son of Take Charge Indy, trained by Linda Rice, has 10 board finishes in 11 tries.

Uncle Heavy (Mychel Sanchez, post No. 13, 8-1 [+800]) won Aqueduct’s Withers by a whisker (over El Grande O). The son of Social Inclusion, trained by Butch Reid, is 3-of-4 in his career.

Wood post time (10th of 11 races) is 4:07 PM ET. First post at Aqueduct is 11:30 AM ET.

$1 million Blue Grass

One of the signs of spring is Kentucky’s boutique racing meet at Keeneland in Lexington.

Highlighting is the million-dollar Blue Grass, a field of 11 going a mile-and-an-eighth (nine furlongs). There are 200 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to be had, half to the winner.

Sierra Leone (Tyler Gaffalione, post No. 10) is the 2-1 (+200) morning-line favorite on the strength of his win in the Risen Star (Fair Grounds). The son of Gun Runner, trained by Chad Brown, is 2-of-3 in a lightly-raced career. Brown has three entrants in this race.

Dornoch (Luis Saez, post No. 4), annexing the Fountain of Youth (Gulfstreeam), is the early 3-1 (+300) second choice. The son of Good Magic, trained by Danny Gargan, has three wins (also including Aqueduct’s Remsen) and a pair of seconds in five career outings.
Just a Touch (Florent Geroux, post No. 6) is listed at 7-2 (+350). He finished second in Aqueduct’s Gotham. The son of Justify is trained by Brad Cox.

Others who’ve found their way to Keeneland include Seize the Grey (Nik Juarez, post No. 3, 20-1 [+2000]) and Encino (Flavien Prat, post No, 11, 12-1 [+1200]).  

Current wagering board can be found at Blue Grass Stakes odds.

It’s the 10th of 11 Keeneland races, post time 5:52 PM ET (first post at Keeneland is 1 PM ET).

$750,000 Santa Anita Derby

Seeing what the west coast has to offer, the Santa Anita Derby is another mile-and-an-eighth (nine furlong) event. A field of eight was entered, with two trained by Bob Baffert. Of course, Baffert is banned at the Kentucky Derby (at least through this season, but there’s a lawsuit), so this could potentially deprive other horses of points (see Arkansas Derby champ Muth).

Baffert, by the way, has won this race nine times.

Imagination (Frankie Dettori, post No, 4), stronger of Baffert’s tandem, is the early 8-5 (+160) choice. Winning the San Felipe over this oval in his last try, the son of Into Mischief has a pair of victories and three seconds in five races.

The second choice is Stronghold (Antonio Fresu, post No. 4), listed at 5-2 (+250), Winner of the Sunland Park Derby in his last outing, the son of Ghostzapper, trained by Phil D’Amato, has not been worse than second in five career tries

Tapalo (Umberto Rispoli, post No. 2, 5-1 [+500]) earned his shot off a second-place finish in the El Camino Real (Golden Gate), though he did lead in the lane. The son of Tapiture is trained by John (Flightline) Sadler.

Wynstock (Juan Hernandez, post No. 5, 8-1 [+800]) is Baffert’s “other” horse, winning the Los Alamitos Futurity before a poor effort in the Southwest (Oaklawn).  

As with the Wood and Blue Grass, 200 Derby points (100 to winner) in the Santa Anita Derby.

Santa Anita Derby (race No. 10 of 12) goes at 7:30 PM ET. First post is 3 PM ET.

One horse who is not pointed toward the Derby is Timberlake, a disappointing fourth in the aforementioned Arkansas Derby.

Timberlake’s absence aside, it’s 12-1 (+1200) that a horse sweeps the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and at-Saratoga Belmont Stakes, -2500 it doesn’t happen, as per Triple Crown odds.

- Tony Caliente,

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