Fierceness – Kentucky Derby Context

April 22nd, 2024

Based on nearly every metric, Fierceness is the fastest horse entering the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1). The frontrunning colt registered field-topping 112 and 106 Brisnet Speed ratings for respective dominant wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Florida Derby (G1), stylishly drawing off from the competition by the top of the stretch, and Fierceness will look to get into a cruising rhythm in the Kentucky Derby, saving plenty for the key stages while racing on or up close to the lead. Following a 13-length romp in the Florida Derby, he will need to string together wins for the first time in his five-race career, throwing in unexpected clunkers at odds-on following rough starts in the Champagne (G1) and Holy Bull (G3), and the break appears more important for Fierceness than most. He remains a formidable presence and deserves to be favored come post time. 

Owner: Fierceness will be the ninth Kentucky Derby starter for Repole Stable (Mike Repole). A native of Queens, N.Y., 55-year-old Repole developed an interest for Thoroughbred racing as a teen and has owned horses for more than 20 years. Along with Fierceness, Repole has campaigned recent champions Forte, Nest, and Vino Rosso, but Forte unfortunately had to miss last year’s Kentucky Derby due to a foot issue. Repole’s best Kentucky Derby result came in partnership with Mo Donegal, who came back to win the Belmont (G1) after finishing fifth under the Twin Spires. 

Trainer: Todd Pletcher will have a Kentucky Derby starter for the 21st consecutive year, recording wins with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017). After working as an assistant for D. Wayne Lukas, Pletcher won his first race as a trainer in 1996, and the 56-year-old Texas native made his first Kentucky Derby appearance in 2000. Pletcher holds the record for Kentucky Derby starts, compiling a 64-2-2-4 mark, and the Hall of Famer owns a record eight Eclipse Awards for leading trainer. Pletcher has also captured four runnings of the Belmont (2007, 2013, 2017, and 2022). 

Jockey: With victories aboard Animal Kingdom (2011), Always Dreaming (2017), and Authentic (2020), John Velazquez is tied for fourth-most Kentucky Derby wins. The 56-year-old launched his riding career in his native Puerto Rico, moving his tack to New York in the early 1990s, and Velazquez has won more than 6,500 races. Since making his first appearance in 1996, Velazquez has missed only three editions of the Kentucky Derby, and he owns the third-most starts with an overall 25-3-2-0 scorecard. The Hall of Famer completed a personal Triple Crown sweep last year, guiding National Treasure to a Preakness (G1) win, and Velazquez has won the Belmont twice (2007 and 2012). 

Breeder/Sales: Bred in Kentucky by Repole Stable (Mike Repole), Fierceness will be his second Kentucky Derby starter as a breeder, finishing 14th with homebred Outwork in 2016. 

Sire: From the second crop of City of Light, who didn’t make his racing debut until the fall of his three-year-old season and went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1) as an older horse, Fierceness is the first U.S. graded stakes winner from his sire. City of Light is by Quality Road, sire of Preakness winner National Treasure, and Quality Road is by Elusive Quality, sire of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. 

Dam: The first winner from his dam, Fierceness hails from Nonna Bella, a daughter of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Stay Thirsty, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont in 2011. Stay Thirsty, a son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, has a limited sample of runners as a broodmare sire.

Top Brisnet Speed: 112
Top Brisnet Late Pace: 113