Fierceness, Sierra Leone will be in front at Kentucky Derby


Here we are on the morning of the 150th Kentucky Derby, and there seems to be enough different choices for who might win this race, or who might hit the board, to fill half the starting gate early Saturday evening.

Fierceness was the morning line favorite at 5-2, and the horse trained by Todd Pletcher picked up support in the first couple of days of the week to be the favorite at 3-1.

Eight members of the horse racing media picked Fierceness to win the first Kentucky Derby for Mike Repole, who along with Pletcher had to scratch Uncle Mo (2011) and Forte just last year in late in the week. That listing was done by the Herald-Leader in Lexington.

Sierra Leone has had some strong training at Churchill Downs in the morning works, and that led 11 of the racing media to put the Chad Brown trained horse as the first to cross the finish line in front of 150,000 screaming fans.

Sierra Leone was bought for a huge $2.3 million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale after being bred by Debby Oxley.

Bred by Debby Oxley, Sierra Leone was the highest-priced yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. He is owned by Coolmore principal racing owners Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Westerberg Racing, along with Peter Brant and Brook Smith.

I always talk to a couple of local racing followers-experts who have usually strong advice on who to look at for the Derby.

Folks in general who like Sierra Leone — and there are a lot of them who I respect their opinions — think the horse that runs off the pace, and was dead last in the Bluegrass Stakes before charging through for a 1 1/2 length victory. Some might argue that the race Sierra Leone ran at Keeneland is the one he will need to run in the Derby.

Some feel that Fierceness’ speed could doom the rest of the field, even though he’s coming out of the No. 16 hole which hasn’t produced a Derby winner in 44 tries.

The Mike Repole owned-Todd Pletcher trained Fierceness had a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in the Florida Derby, where he won by 13 lengths. Fierceness is expected to be the pace setter or one of them.

With this Derby, Fierceness is in a position where he has no excuse. If jockey John Velazquez decides to let Fierceness roll out of the first turn, the rest of the field could be looking at the horse hind quarters the rest of the way.

Trainer Brad Cox has Just a Touch as probably his best horse in this race, and he could roll if Fierceness doesn’t fire for some reason.

Mystik Dan is a horse that has gotten more and more attention as this week has gone on, and the Kenny McPeek trainee could be on the back end of a lot of exacta box or trifecta box tickets.

How my trifecta ticket will look is this: Fierceness wins to help ease the disappointment of last year’s Derby morning scratch of Forte. Sierra Leone is second and Mystik Dan charges in for third. Of course, always box exacta or trifecta bets.

As always, Happy Derby.