Under-the-radar Kentucky Derby contenders, volume 11

April 6th, 2020

A weekly look at under-the-radar 3-year-olds who could step up and make an impact on the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

Finnick the Fierce

The runner-up in a strong renewal of the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) as a juvenile, Finick the Fierce was a bit dull in his first two starts of 2020, when he finished out of the top three in the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds.

But a drop in class for a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming allowance Saturday at Oaklawn Park helped Finnick the Fierce return to the winner’s circle.

Racing over a sloppy track, the gelded son of Dialed In saved ground throughout, while he tracked the pace, then battled his way into contention along the rail down the homestretch. Racing in tight quarters made it challenging for Finnick the Fierce to advance, and he ultimately crossed the wire second, behind the wide-rallying Winning Impression. But when the latter was disqualified for interfering with another runner, Finnick the Fierce was promoted to victory.

Trained by Rey Hernandez, who co-owns the colt with Arnaldo Monge, Finnick the Fierce figures to rejoin the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the near future. With a strong effort at Oaklawn under his belt, the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) could be next on the agenda.


After he lost his first two starts sprinting at Saratoga over the summer, Sonneman tackled a mile Oct. 19 at Belmont Park and completed his juvenile season with a gritty, half-length victory.

It wasn’t surprising to see the Mark Hennig-trained colt thrive while stretching out in distance. As a son of Curlin, out of Zardana (a Grade 2 winner going 1 1/16 miles), Sonneman is bred to be at his best running long.

Following a six-month layoff, Sonneman returned to action in a 7-furlong optional-claiming allowance Saturday at Gulfstream Park. With Joel Rosario in the saddle, Sonneman failed to flash early speed and trailed the field by 11 lengths in the early going, but fast fractions of :22.66 and :44.82 allowed him to gobble up ground in the homestretch. He gained 4 1/2 lengths in the final furlong alone to score by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:23.70.

The quick pace was certainly beneficial to Sonneman, a $375,000 yearling purchase owned by Courtlandt Farms. But favorable setup or not, Sonneman ran well off the layoff and should only improve when stretching back out in distance.