West Saratoga – Kentucky Derby Context

April 16th, 2024

West Saratoga traveled about five wide into the first turn of the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) from his outside post and remained well off the rail most of the way, making a move to take second on the far turn over Turfway’s Tapeta track. The gray colt was no match in the final furlong for Endlessly, but West Saratoga gamely outfinished four other rivals for second, guaranteeing his participation in the 150th Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 4. The early/presser has placed in all three stakes this season, finishing second in the Pasco and third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, and West Saratoga captured the first qualifier in the 2023-24 Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Iroquois (G3) at a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs last September. He’s never won at two turns and will need to run faster to challenge in the Kentucky Derby, but West Saratoga is a hard-trying individual who will try to work himself into a favorable spot turning for home.

Owner: West Saratoga will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Harry Veruchi, who started owning horses in the early 1980s and campaigns a small stable. He’s had horses with Larry Demeritte since the early 2000s.

Trainer: A trainer in his native Bahamas, Larry Demeritte moved to the United States in the mid-1970s and took out his U.S. trainer’s license in 1991. West Saratoga will be his first Kentucky Derby starter. Demeritte is known for purchasing and developing inexpensive horses, selecting West Saratoga for Veruchi on the last day of the 2022 Keeneland September sale, and he’s based at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, Ky. Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1996, Demeritte has admirably battled cancer for nearly 30 years.

Jockey: Jesus Castanon picked up the mount on West Saratoga earlier this year and the gray colt will be his second Kentucky Derby mount, guiding Shackleford to a fourth-place finish in 2011. Castanon rode Shackleford to victory in the Preakness (G1) two weeks later.

Breeder/Sales: Bred in Kentucky by Two Hearts Farm, West Saratoga was purchased for $11,000 as a yearling at the 2022 Keeneland September sale. 

Sire: West Saratoga is from the fourth crop of 2016 Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator, who earned more than $3.5 million and counted wins in the Preakness (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1), and Haskell (G1) among his accomplishments. By Preakness winner and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who finished third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator stands at Elite Thoroughbreds Farm in Louisiana. Hall of Famer Curlin, the only sire to have progeny win four individual Eclipse Awards in the same year and produce three Breeders’ Cup race winners on the same day, has never sired a Kentucky Derby winner, but his son Good Magic, the 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up, is responsible for 2023 victor Mage.

Dam: West Saratoga is the first stakes winner from the unraced mare Mo Wicked, a daughter of Uncle Mo, who was named champion two-year-old male after romping in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs but was forced to miss the Triple Crown the following season. Uncle Mo produced 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in his first crop at stud and counts 2022 Belmont (G1) winner Mo Donegal among his notable offspring. Uncle Mo is a son of Indian Charlie, who finished third as the Kentucky Derby favorite in 1998.

Top Brisnet Speed: 89
Top Brisnet Late Pace: 91