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Sierra Leone 'Super' in Penultimate Derby Work

The Blue Grass (G1) winner clocked a half-mile in :48 4/5 at Keeneland April 20.

Sierra Leone (inside) breezes a half-mile April 20 at Keeneland

Sierra Leone (inside) breezes a half-mile April 20 at Keeneland

Rick Samuels

Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner Sierra Leone did not fail to impress with his penultimate breeze before the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Working a half-mile in company April 20 at Keeneland, Sierra Leone, positioned on the inside under regular exercise rider Kriss Bon, clocked the half-mile in :48 4/5. Finishing narrowly ahead of his workmate, recent Keeneland maiden special weight winner White Palomino, the Gun Runner  colt kept on cruising after the wire, galloping out a strong five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 and six furlongs in 1:15 2/5.

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The work was the first for Sierra Leone since his decisive 1 1/2-length tally in the April 6 Blue Grass. Sierra Leone, owned in partnership by Peter Brant, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, and Brook Smith, vaulted to the top of the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard following his Blue Grass victory. The colt, who opened his 3-year-old season with a win in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in February, boasts 155 points toward the first Saturday in May.

"(Sierra Leone) worked super. As you can see, he's barely blowing," trainer Chad Brown said. "The horse is very fit and ready, we're just trying to maintain where we're at with the horse. I was really pleased, it was just what I wanted."

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Brown reported that Sierra Leone would van to Churchill Downs April 21 and likely have his final Derby work April 27, "weather permitting." April 27 is also the date of entries, and the post-position draw.

The colt, who had delayed the start of the Blue Grass when initially refusing to go into the gate, would school a few times at the gate at Churchill in the coming week.

"I already spoke to Scott Jordan, the head starter over there, earlier in the week and have a plan set up to take him to the gate a couple times this week coming up," Brown said. "I really don't anticipate any problems. He's never had much of a problem with the gate. I think it was more a function of the crowd and such but I'm going to let the professionals handle it. Scott is one of the best in the business—I've known him for 25 years."

Brown's Derby Record

Brown, winless in the Kentucky Derby after saddling seven starters, called Sierra Leone his best chance yet to capture the Run for the Roses. His best finishers have been Good Magic , second to Justify  in 2018 , and Zandon , third behind Rich Strike and Epicenter  in 2022.

"It's easier to say in the moment. But we've come with some really good chances," Brown said. "Good Magic was a top prospect, and it took a Triple Crown winner to beat him (in the Derby). And Zandon, the horse worked unbelievable both at Keeneland and at Churchill, and he was actually the morning-line favorite for the Derby based on his Blue Grass win. I had thought he was my best chance. This horse should be undefeated outside of some inexperience in the Remsen, which is the only reason why the horse lost."

Domestic Product Breezes at Payson Park

Klaravich Stables' homebred Domestic Product also worked Saturday morning for Brown at Payson Park Training Center in Florida. A game winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) March 9, Domestic Product recorded a half-mile in :48 2/5.

"My assistants down there were both raving about the work," Brown said. "(Domestic Product) worked :48 and change and went out pretty solid for Payson Park (six furlongs) in 1:13. This horse continues to be very impressive. I'm happy I decided not to run him after the Tampa Bay Derby. He keeps getting stronger and really refilled his tank, so to speak.

"Fresh horses run well for me."

Domestic Product, a son of Practical Joke , is currently the 14th slot on the Derby leaderboard with 60 points.