Mucciolo’s Early Top 5 Kentucky Derby Horses

March 15th, 2024

We are less than two months away from the 150th Kentucky Derby! With the seven major prep races still yet to be run (Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Louisiana Derby, Blue Grass, Wood Memorial, Jeff Ruby), it’s difficult to narrow down my top selection or handful of selections for the May 4 feature at Churchill Downs. But, as of now, the following handful of sophomores are the ones that I am most keen on.

Deterministic – Christophe Clement trainee is short on seasoning but long on talent. The son of the rising Liam’s Map is 2-for-2 to date, led by a visually impressive showing off the long layoff in the Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct. I think that the colt will thrive with more ground going forward, and he’s my top gun at the moment. 

Catching Freedom Brad Cox pupil impressed me during his debut score at Churchill Downs in October, and he seems like a colt who is ready to get to the next level at the right time of the season. His third-place run in the Risen Star (G2) was a fine stepping stone for his next prep race, where I envision him being a formidable foe. The Albaugh Stables were third in the Derby with Angel of Empire in 2023 and could go better this campaign. 

Sierra Leone – I feel that it would be difficult not to have the $2.3 million yearling purchase on any list at this juncture for conditioner Chad Brown. The Risen Star (G2) victor possesses a dynamic turn of foot and he only has room to improve being so lightly raced. By prolific young sire Gun Runner, Sierra Leone did show a bit more early interest with blinkers on most recently which will leave him with less to do in the stretch in the future. 

Timberlake – Cox trainee was a facile winner of the Rebel S. (G2) in his three-year-old debut and belongs on most or all lists right now, as well. The son of Into Mischief has a great foundation under him following a five-race juvenile campaign, and he has earned hefty Brisnet Late Pace figures in each of his route races to date. He didn’t defeat the strongest field ever assembled at Oaklawn Park last time, but he did so in a convincing manner. 

Resilience – Going back to the Risen Star, I was encouraged by the effort from the Bill Mott trainee who stayed on for fourth at Fair Grounds. The colt has clearly moved forward as a sophomore. He was a professional maiden winner at nine furlongs at Gulfstream Park two back, and he got the worst of it chasing Track Phantom in the Risen Star when ultimately tiring late. He is displaying more early interest, his pedigree speaks for itself, and the colt is an intriguing dark horse in my view.