Fierceness in Florida, Forever Young in Japan may be good Kentucky Derby bets

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Reigning 2-year-old champ Fierceness wins Florida Derby, on to Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Gulfstream Park
1 of 2 | Reigning 2-year-old champ Fierceness wins Florida Derby, on to Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Gulfstream Park

April 1 (UPI) -- With fewer than five weeks to go, the Kentucky Derby field started to take some solid shape in weekend racing, as last year's 2-year-old Champ, Fierceness, destroyed the Florida Derby and Japanese star Forever Young remained undefeated while winning the UAE Derby in Dubai.

Muth won the Arkansas Derby impressively, but is not eligible for the Run for the Roses.


The international racing scene featured the Dubai World Cup program, which we detail in our companion global racing roundup, which please see. Meanwhile:

The Road to the Roses

Last year's 2-year-old champ, Fierceness, is back and looking fiercer than ever as he heads to the Kentucky Derby after destroying Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park by 13 1/2 lengths.

Ditto Japanese star Forever Young, who earned his way into the Run for the Roses with an impressive victory in the UAE Derby in Dubai.


Muth would be on the same list after winning Saturday's Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Clearly in the top ranks of this year's 3-year-olds, he's ineligible for the Kentucky Derby because his trainer, Bob Baffert, remains under the Churchill Downs interdict.

That Fierceness! The City of Light colt, trained by Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole, finished a fading third in his 3-year-old debut in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes, tarnishing his Derby credential slightly.

He made up for it, in spades, in the Florida Derby. With John Velazquez along for the ride, Fierceness went right to the front and this time didn't stop. His margin increasing with each stride, he crossed the line 13 1/2 lengths ahead of his closest competitor, Catalytic. Grand Mo the First was third.

Fierceness earned 100 Kentucky Derby points and is set to go. Catalytic, a 29-1 long shot Saturday, got 50 points -- potentially enough to get into the maximum-20 Kentucky Derby field.

"That was a pretty awesome performance," Pletcher said after capturing his eighth Florida Derby win.

"That's what we see in the mornings when we breeze him -- a special talent. That's why it was so perplexing his two races that he didn't run brilliantly. He's three times brilliant and two times has had off days."


At Oaklawn Park, Muth, second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was impressive, too, if not as flashy, in winning the Arkansas Derby by 2 lengths from Just Steel after pressing the early pace. The Good Magic colt backed up a victory in the Grade II San Vicente in his 2024 debut.

Muth has four wins from six starts.

"Muth, he's just ... the only hose that beat him was Fierceness, and we saw what he did today [winning the Florida Derby]," Baffert said. "I'm just happy for everybody. It [the Arkansas Derby] is very important. It's a very prestigious race, winning that. You know how we feel about Oaklawn."

And in Dubai, Forever Young remained undefeated with a stretch-running victory in the Group 2 UAE Derby. Like the other two Saturday races, the Dubai race offered 100 points to the winner, 50 to the runner-up and Forever Young's connections said after the race they're ready to go.

Meanwhile, sources in Japan report the connections of T O Password, the champion of the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby," do plan to exercise their option. So, barring mishaps, there will be two Japanese horses in America's premier race.

In other action:


The Path to the Lilies

Power Squeeze rallied late to win Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks by 1 length over the favorite, Ways and Means. Power Squeeze, a daughter of Union Rags, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.19.

She was a bit of a slow developer for trainer Jorge Delgado, but has won three straight races.

At Oaklawn Park, Thorpedo Anna took command in the stretch run of Saturday's $750,000 Grade II Fantasy Stakes, kicking loose to score by 4 lengths over West Omaha.

Thorpedo Anna, a Fast Anna filly trained by Kenny McPeek, was making her 3-year-old debut after winning two of five last year. She was second in the Grade II Golden Rod, albeit 5 1 1/4 lengths back of Intricate.

Turf / Turf Mile

Kertez, a 6-year-old making his first U.S. start for trainer Christophe Clement, won a three-horse scramble to the finish at the end of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Set pressed the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Cutler Bay Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, took the lead and won by 1 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite.

Smokin' T surged by most of the rest of the field in the stretch run in Saturday's $150,000 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park and kept on to win by a head in a blanket finish that saw six horses finish within 1 length.


Filly & Mare Turf

McKulick rebounded nicely from a last-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf with a 1/2-length victory over Surprisingly in Saturday' $175,000 Grade III Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Vive Veuve outfinished odds-on favorite Ozara in Saturday's $125,000 Sanibel Island Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park, winning by 3/4 length over that one.

Cairo Consort found her best stride in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 Sand Springs Stakes at Gulfstream Park, seized the lead and got clear to a 1 3/4-length victory. The favorite, Marketsegmentation, finished fifth.


Oscar Eclipse got home first in Saturday's $125,000 Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park, edging late-running Dreaming of Kona by a neck. Oscar Eclipse, a 4-year-old Oscar Performance colt, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.23, getting his first stakes win.

Filly & Mare Sprint

American Band found a late burst of speed to catch Daddysruby in the late going and post the 27-1 long shot victory in Saturday's $250,000 Matron Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Nice as Pie circled the field in Saturday's $125,000 Serena's Song Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the Turfway Park all-weather course, then kicked away from eight rivals to win by 6 lengths. The Tapiture filly completed 6 furlongs in 1:09.87.



Masqueparade was along in the final strides of Friday's $200,000 Temperence Hill Stakes at Oaklawn Park, edging Classic Causeway in a 19-1 upset win.

Il Miracolo caught pacesetting Tumbarumba in the closing strides of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Ghostzapper Stakes at Gulfstream Park and won by a neck over that rival.

Frosted Grace chased down Silver Prospector in the late going to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Oaklawn Mile at Oaklawn Park by 1 1/2 lengths.

Laughing Boy was awarded victory in Saturday's $150,000 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct after finishing second behind late-charging Messier. The stewards ruled interference inside the sixteenth pole was sufficient to reverse the order of finish.

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