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Kentucky Derby 2024 Latest News & Top 20 | Tampa Bay Derby Run Amid Confusion
Tampa Bay Derby finish (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Kentucky Derby 2024 Latest News & Top 20 | Tampa Bay Derby Run Amid Confusion

The 2024 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) was run amid confusion and without anyone able to bet on the weekend’s lone Kentucky Derby (G1) prep. How did the results affect the Derby trail?

Aaron explains in the latest news & updates heading into a weekend without any official prep races.

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1. Sierra Leone

Pros: Tremendous turn of foot; has lots of room to improve

Cons: Running style could be troubling; numbers still low

Outlook: We have a new number one for now after this horse stormed home to win the Risen Star Stakes (G2) despite a slow pace. There is no doubt in my mind that this horse will get better in his next start, as we’ve seen Chad Brown do this in the past. His turn of foot is pretty fun to watch.

2. Track Phantom

Pros: Extremely consistent; solid running style

Cons: Might not be improve at a rapid enough rate, which leads to slow figures

Outlook: He ran well in defeat in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), finish second behind our top-ranked horse. His consistency and running style are going to make him tough to beat no matter who he faces; however, as some point, this horse is going to have to start improving his numbers.

3. Catching Freedom

Pros: Back to back solid prep efforts; solid trainer

Cons: Still runs fairly green down the lane; running style; low numbers

Outlook: He backed up his Smarty Jones Stakes win with a solid effort in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), though he still had trouble running straight down the lane. If they can get that figured out, then he might be ok, but that immaturity will always cost him when he faces top horses.

4. Mystik Dan

Pros: 101 Beyer for winning the Southwest Stakes (G3)

Cons: Inconsistent; best race was in the slop

Outlook: His Southwest Stakes win was among the most impressive that we’ve seen so far from Kentucky Derby-eligible horses. However, it was in the slop at Oaklawn Park – how much did that move him up? He had never run a race even close to that before, but he deserves to be ranked highly until he proves otherwise.

5. Dornoch

Pros: Getting better with each race; solid foundation

Cons: Seems to be a bit green and needs to figure things out

Outlook: We didn’t learn much in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) after all the scratches; however, he got the job done with a win. He needs to improve in his next start, which is likely going to be in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2).

6. Conquest Warrior

Pros: Should get better with longer distances; solid trainer

Cons: Numbers are low; gets one chance to earn any points

Outlook: Despite a horrible trip, he still got the job done at Gulfstream Park in what looked to be a tough maiden special weight, and then came back to dazzle in a recent allowance race. He’ll get one chance to earn points in the Florida Derby (G1), which is a little scary, but this horse has the talent.

7. Forever Young

Pros: Undefeated with 4 straight impressive victories

Cons: International horses are always a mystery

Outlook: The hype on this horse is massive, while he ran good enough to get the job done last time out in the Saudi Derby. We’ll know more about him in his next start, which will be in Dubai in the UAE Derby (G2). The international horses are always a mystery, though, so we’ll see if he is finally the one to break the mold.

8. Timberlake

Pros: Solid class; grade 1 winner; nice 3-year-old debut

Cons: Longer distances are in question

Outlook: He faced a weak group in the Rebel Stakes (G2); however, he beat them fairly easily, which was good to see. This horse seemed to improve a bit off of his 2-year-old races and is trending in the right direction.

9. Fierceness

Pros: 105 Beyer is top amongst this group

Cons: Incredibly inconsistent; can’t pass horses

Outlook: He put up another head-scratcher in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), finishing a well-beaten third. At this point, he looks like a horse that needs the lead to win, which is obviously a problem. This horse just doesn’t want to pass other horses.

10. Deterministic

Pros: Two for two to start his career; great trainer

Cons: Only two races; yet to go around two-turns

Outlook: His Gotham Stakes (G3) win was impressive considering the track was a mess and it was his first race since August. He should be able to handle two-turns, and if he does, he is going to become a major contender.

11. Tuscan Sky

Pros: Two solid wins in a row

Cons: Lightly raced and behind from a timing prospective

Outlook: Even though he only had to beat basically one horse, his allowance win at Fair Grounds was very impressive. He earned a 95 Beyer for the win, which is 5 points higher than the winner of the Risen Star Stakes (G2). He’ll be in a prep race for his next start.

12. Hades

Pros: Undefeated; solid early speed

Cons: Low speed figures

Outlook: He was able to fend off Fierceness to win the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), but it was the slowest running of the Holy Bull ever at the 1 1/16-mile distance. He still needs to take a step forward.

13. Encino

Pros: Two straight wins; getting better with each start

Cons: All races on the synthetic surface; numbers are a tad low

Outlook: This horse is progressing nicely for Brad Cox at Turfway Park and is flying under the radar. That circuit has given us some good horses the last couple of years and this could be the next one to come from that track.

14. Stronghold

Pros: Impressive Sunland Derby (G3) win

Cons: Numbers are still pretty slow

Outlook: His Sunland Derby win should have earned him enough points to make the Kentucky Derby gate. However, he’ll need to keep improving if he hopes to contend.

15. Just a Touch

Pros: Solid trainer, showed solid class in Gotham Stakes (G3)

Cons: Only a maiden winner; win came over the slop

Outlook: This horse looked like a monster in his maiden special weight romp, then ran a good second in his first stakes attempt. He might just be a little behind from a timing standpoint, which is my biggest worry with him at this point.

16. Just Steel

Pros: Consistent; will get several chances to run

Cons: Speed figures our low; lacks finishing kick

Outlook: It seems like he might be this year’s horse that is always around at the end but can’t quite finish the deal in a Derby prep race. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee will keep getting chances, though, and will likely earn his way to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

17. Domestic Product

Pros: Determined win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3)

Cons: Numbers are still fairly low

Outlook: You have to give him credit for closing into a slow pace and winning the Tampa Bay Derby. While the time was slow and the speed figures came back light, at least he seems to be getting better with each start.

18. No More Time

Pros: Won the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) in impressive fashion; second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3)

Cons: Low speed figures; inconsistent

Outlook: He showed improvement to win the Sam F. Davis, but the speed figures came back low. The Tampa Bay Derby was similar: he ran a solid second, but the speed figures once again came back low.

19. Uncle Heavy

Pros: Won the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct

Cons: Speed figures are lacking

Outlook: This horse showed determination to catch El Grande O in the Withers, which puts him on the board when it comes to the Kentucky Derby. We’ll see if he can continue to progress.

20. Honor Marie

Pros: Graded stakes winner; solid distance pedigree

Cons: Beaten badly in his 3-year-old debut at Fair Grounds

Outlook: He was a disappointing 5th in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) after training nicely leading up to the race. We’ll give him a pass, though, as he may have needed the race or just hated the slop.