Kentucky Derby Day stakes picks

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Mike Repole’s homebred champion Fierceness bids for the 150th Kentucky Derby Saturday at Churchill Downs. Coady Media/Churchill Downs Photo.

Here we go, the 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. America’s oldest continuously run sporting event always packs a punch and the 2024 renewal figures to follow suit with a loaded field featuring nearly all of the major prep winners. The gang is mostly all here, in Louisville, to soak up mint juleps, sing My Old Kentucky Home and make new memories.

We’re hoping to cash some tickets, too, and thankfully our band of nine handicappers from The Saratoga Special and This Is Horse Racing have done their homework well in advance of the big race.

John Shapazian, Charles Bedard and Alec DiConza came away with three winners on Friday’s card to lead the way. DiConza, finishing up his junior year at Shenendehowa High School, tabbed gate-to-wire Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna. Sean Clancy, Tom Law, Rob Whitlock and Joe Clancy picked a pair of winners while Paul Halloran and Jessica Paquette came up with one apiece. Read the TIHR Oaks recap here.

The Derby goes as the 12th of 14 races Saturday, with post time set for 6:57 p.m. ET. It’ll no doubt go off a smidge later than that, with all the pomp and circumstance that precedes it.

The Derby Day card features eight additional stakes, including three Grade 1s led by the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic. Here are the picks for Saturday, May 4 at Churchill Downs, the one everyone will remember as Derby 150. Enjoy and good luck.

Knicks Go presented by L&N Federal Credit Union. $200,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 mile. 12:04 p.m. ET.

Leadoff event draws interesting group of 11 led by Best Actor, Strong Quality and Kupuna. Best Actor brings 2-for-2 mark at Churchill Downs and he’s 3-for-4 at the 1-mile trip, while Strong Quality, a proven performer on the grass, is equally adept on the main track.

  • John Shapazian: Strong Quality, Best Actor, Strava.
  • Rob Whitlock: Oscar Eclipse, Remington, Strong Quality.
  • Jessica Paquette: Best Actor, Oscar Eclipse, Strava.
  • Paul Halloran: Best Actor, Strong Quality, Oscar Eclipse.
  • Joe Clancy: Oscar Eclipse, Best Actor, Strong Quality.
  • Charles Bedard: Strong Quality, U. S. Army, Best Actor.
  • Alec DiConza: Best Actor, Five Star General, Oscar Eclipse.
  • Tom: Law Strong Quality, Best Actor, Strava.
  • Sean Clancy: Oscar Elite, Kapuna, Best Actor.

Twin Spires Turf Sprint presented by Sentient Jet (G2). $600,000, 3-year-olds and up, 5 1/2 furlongs. 12:36.

Potentially big payoff with bulky field of 14, including Motorious in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, Shakertown runner-up Mischief Magic and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Big Invasion. Plenty of potential upsetters drawn to the outside, including Cogburn and Arrest Me Red.

  • John: Motorious, Mischief Magic, Big Invasion.
  • Rob: Big Invasion, Mischief Magic, Motorious.
  • Jessica: Filo di Arianna, Mischief Magic, Candyman Rocket.
  • Paul: Coppola, Mischief Magic, Big Invasion.
  • Joe: Cogburn, Motorious, Mischief Magic.
  • Charles: Big Invasion, Motorious, Eamonn.
  • Alec: Mo Stash, Cogburn, Mischief Magic.
  • Tom: Motorious, Mischief Magic, Cogburn.
  • Sean: Mo Stash, Mischief Magic, Big Invasion.

Derby City Distaff presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery (G1). $1 million, fillies & mares, 4&up, 7 furlongs. 1:14.

Alva Starr and Vahva, 1-2 last time out in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland, meet again. Red Carpet Ready, third in the Madison, also returns with the likes of Sterling Silver, Three Witches and Spirit Wind also in the mix.

  • John: Alva Starr, Red Carpet Ready, Vahva.
  • Rob: Vahva, Red Carpet Ready, Alva Starr.
  • Jessica: Three Witches, Alva Starr, Vahva.
  • Paul: Alva Starr, Vahva, Red Carpet Ready.
  • Joe: Vahva, Red Carpet Ready, Alva Star.
  • Charles: Vahva, Alva Starr, American Band.
  • Alec: Vahva, Alva Starr, Red Carpet Ready.
  • Tom: Vahva, Alva Starr, Sterling Silver.
  • Sean: Alva Starr, Red Carpet Ready, Vahva.

Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2). $750,000, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, 1 mile, turf. 1:56.

Chad Brown sends out the trio of Chili Flag, Delahaye and Coppice in race he’s won three straight times and four of the last seven. Which one stands out? That’s the question. How about Evvie Jets for the Kantarmaci crew? She makes her first start since good third in last fall’s Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland. The mile trip suits her well, with 10 in-the-money finishes from 15 starts.

  • John: Chili Flag, Coppice, Mission Of Joy.
  • Rob: Mission of Joy, Copies, Delahaye.
  • Jessica: Evvie Jets, Delahaye, Mission Of Joy.
  • Paul: Evvie Jets, Coppice, Ag Bullet.
  • Joe: Coppice, Evvie Jets, Mission Of Joy.
  • Charles: Evvie Jets, Cairo Consort, Coppice.
  • Alec: Delahaye, Not So Close, Coppice.
  • Tom: Coppice, Walkathon, Evvie Jets.
  • Sean: Coppice, Delahaye, Chili Flag.

Pat Day Mile presented by SAP (G2). $600,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile. 2:46.

Always a puzzler and this year proves no exception. Brad Cox looks to continue big week with Nash, winner of the Hot Springs Stakes, from his outside post in the field of 12. Son of Medaglia d’Oro broke his maiden by daylight last fall at Churchill and flirted with run at the spring classics this winter at Fair Grounds. He’ll be tough against the likes of Vlahos, recent private purchase turned over to Doug O’Neill, Hutcheson winner Beeline, $1 million juvenile purchase Top Conor and Seize The Grey.

  • John: Nash, Top Conor, Seize The Grey.
  • Rob: Top Conor, Carbone, Nash.
  • Jessica: Seize The Grey, Nash, Top Connor.
  • Paul: Nash, Top Conor, Who Dey.
  • Joe: Who Dey, Top Conor, Nash.
  • Charles: Nash, Top Conor, Northern Flame.
  • Alec: Vlahos, Carbone, Otto the Conqueror.
  • Tom: Nash, Top Conor, Carbone.
  • Sean: Nash, Vlahos, Beeline. 

American Turf presented by TwinSpires (G2). $600,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 3:40.

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby come loaded with Legend Of Time, winner of his last three on the grass in Dubai. The main opposition include the first three from the Grade 3 Transylvania in Neat, Cugino and Lagynos, along with Cutler Bay winner Set and Grade 2 Pilgrim winner Agate Road.

  • John: Legend Of Time, Agate Road, Neat.
  • Rob: Formidable Man, Legend Of Time, Agate Road.
  • Jessica: Twirling Point, Trikari, Legend Of Time.
  • Paul: Legend Of Time, Cugino, Agate Road.
  • Joe: Legend Of Time, Cugino, Set.
  • Charles: Legend Of Time, Set, Can Group.
  • Alec: Can Group, Cugino, Lagynos.
  • Tom: Legend Of Time, Set, Agate Road.
  • Sean: Legend Of Time, Neat, Set.

Churchill Downs presented by Ford (G1). $1 million, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. 4:31.

No Cody’s Wish this year, but a decent group for a seven-figure purse. Zozos, 2-for-3 at Churchill, makes his first start since finishing well behind Cody’s Wish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Mr. Wireless ran big off the bench last time for Bret Calhoun and he’s won in Louisville, while Hoist The Gold seeks return to form that won him the Cigar Mile last year to earn runs in the Pegasus World Cup and Saudi Cup.

  • John: Hoist The Gold, Zozos, Mr. Wireless.
  • Rob: Bo Cruz, Zozos, Mr. Wireless.
  • Jessica: Zozos, Tejano Twist, Hoist The Gold.
  • Paul: Zozos, Tejano Twist, Mr. Wireless.
  • Joe: Bo Cruz, Zozos, Tejano Twist.
  • Charles: Mr. Wireless, Hoist The Gold, Zozos.
  • Alec: Mr. Wireless, Bo Cruz, Tejano Twist.
  • Tom: Zozos, Hoist The Gold, Mr. Wireless.
  • Sean: Gun Pilot, Zozos, Bo Cruz.

Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1). $1 million, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles. 5:27.

Traditional lead-in race to the main event drew its typical strong field with Integration looking to get back form that landed him three straight stakes wins. Son of Quality Road ran well when third in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile, but still finished behind Naval Power, who runs here for Godolphin and Appleby. Chad Brown well represented with I’m Very Busy, winner of the Mervin Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds; and last year’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Program Trading. Webslinger won the American Turf on last year’s Derby Day card and is 2-for-2 at Churchill.

  • John: Naval Power, I’m Very Busy, Integration.
  • Rob: Naval Power, I’m Very Busy, Cellist.
  • Jessica: Integration, Naval Power, Never Explain.
  • Paul: Naval Power, Integration, I’m Very Busy.
  • Joe: I’m Very Busy, Naval Power, Integration.
  • Charles: I’m Very Busy, Siege Of Boston, Webslinger.
  • Alec: I’m Very Busy, Integration, Naval Power.
  • Tom: Integration, Naval Power, Program Trading.
  • Sean: Naval Power, I’m Very Busy, Cellist.

Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). $5 million, 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles. 6:57.

Well, well, well. Here we go again, for the 150th time in case you hadn’t heard. The gang is all here – for the most part – with major players Fierceness, Sierra Leone, Catching Freedom, Resilience and Stronghold all in the mix. They won five of the six major final preps, with Fierceness blasting the field in the Florida Derby and Sierra Leone picking off rivals with a late-running score in the Blue Grass. They’re the two favorites, with unbeaten Japanese star Forever Young earning respect off scores in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Who gets the distance? Who gets the trip? Who handles the crowd? Just three of the major questions facing the field of 20.

  • John: Fierceness, Forever Young, Catching Freedom.
  • Rob: Society Man, Just A Touch, Fierceness.
  • Jessica: Forever Young, Society Man, Sierra Leone.
  • Paul: Sierra Leone, Resilience, Just A Touch.
  • Joe: Domestic Product, Fierceness, Resilience.
  • Charles: Catching Freedom, Fierceness, Forever Young.
  • Alec: Just A Touch, Stronghold, Sierra Leone.
  • Tom: Fierceness, Resilience, Domestic Product.
  • Sean: Fierceness, Resilience, Mystik Dan.